Human rights are the moral compass that has been guiding and nurturing human civilisation for centuries. They exist to encourage freedom of expression, ensure that people have access to basic necessities and protect us from all kinds of injustices.

On 21 March, South Africans celebrated Human Rights Day by reflecting on the sacrifices and legacies of many of our fellow countrymen. Maropeng has witnessed some momentous occasions and hosted some special undertakings over the years.

Here’s a list of memorable Maropeng events and activities to reflect on:

We’ve invested in education

Education is a fundamental human right that ultimately leads to the acquisition of knowledge and skills needed to participate in the various economic, social and political activities that influence our daily lives.

For this reason, Maropeng continues to play a critical role in the education of students who visit the site on school trips.

The Maropeng Visitor Centre has assisted hundreds of learners to practically apply their academic skills with guided tours taking them on various class adventures through time – fun, interactive learning experiences that offer insight into the Earth’s history, from the time of the early Pangaea supercontinent to the current information age.

We’re home to the footprints of human rights activists

Human rights activists always leave their mark on history. But Maropeng has also given many of them an opportunity to leave a physical mark on the ground they have walked on.

Famous footprints of former statesmen, Nobel laureates and world-renowned scientists have joined the exclusive club of incredible individuals who have inspired change through their philanthropic deeds and contributions to human civilisation.

The footprints mounted on the walls of Maropeng’s walkways include those of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu; former South African president Thabo Mbeki; former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan; and South African biologist Sydney Brenner, who won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology.

We’ve played a role in protecting the environment

Part of protecting the human right to dignity is also to protect and conserve the environment in which humans reside.

Maropeng has made an exemplary contribution to the preservation of our natural habitat by becoming a Fair Trade Tourism-certified destination in 2013. We are now recognised as an attraction that empowers local businesses and encourages surrounding communities to be environmentally responsible.

We’ve hosted the bronze statues of liberation-struggle icons

Was it enough for South Africans to celebrate 25 years of democracy by honouring historical figures with simple social gatherings or raising the national flag in their memory? Maropeng’s answer to this question was a steel-solid “no”.

For this reason, we hosted the wondrous Long March to Freedom exhibition, a chronological display of lifelike bronze statues of the heroes who played a vital role in our country’s liberation.

Between January and October 2019, visitors to Maropeng got to walk in the footsteps of liberation giants such as Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Helen Suzman.

While the exhibition has since moved on, the lessons for visitors will forever remain, allowing them to reflect on our country’s complex history and to be inspired by the efforts these great men and women made to ensure that the human rights of all people living in South African are recognised and respected.

Reflecting on these iconic figures and their sacrifices gives an opportunity to learn about the importance of civil rights, so the current generation can avoid the choices that led to the atrocities committed by our forebears.