//hapo at Freedom Park is the largest project to date that The Library has worked on. Begun in 2010, //hapo is an interactive exhibition space on a highly ambitious scale. The exhibition aims to tell the story of Southern Africa from the earliest beginnings 3.6 billion years ago to the present from an African perspective, freeing us from pervasive colonial narratives.
Freedom Park itself is a dedicated precinct celebrating South Africa's heritage: a centre of knowledge aimed at creating a deeper understanding of the country and its people. Comprising many diverse elements, Freedom Park will strive to accommodate all of the country's unfolding experience and symbols to tell one coherent story of humanity's struggle for freedom in South Africa - the struggle for survival, land and resources and how this shaped the social, economic, political, cultural and historical landscape of the country. It will address gaps, distortions and biases to provide new perspectives on South Africa's heritage, challenging traditional narratives through a re-interpretation of the country's existing heritage sites. //hapo forms a crucial phase in the development of Freedom Park, situated at the entrance to the park and providing visitors with a fully interactive experience to enrich their understanding of the park's nature and purpose.
The Library is responsible for specialist production management of the internal fitout for //hapo. We manage research teams, artists, designers and artisans, working together to develop content, conceptualise exhibits, prepare construction methodologies, create various exhibition elements and install all elements including appropriate lighting design and associated fittings. This includes monitoring of service providers; quality control; budget management; on-site testing and close management of more fragile object installations. There are various artworks in different formats; museum objects; and media in written, film and sound form incorporated into the exhibition. In addition, fittings such as carpeting, signage; object stands; labels; audio-visual and lighting equipment; carpentry and cabinetry and floor engravings have to be provided and installed.
The exhibition is designed to follow a clear, flowing narrative, divided into seven ‘epochs': the Earth; Ancestors; Peopling; Resistance and Colonisation; Industrialisation and Urbanisation; Nationalisms and Struggle; and Nation Building and Continent Building. Content for each of these is developed largely from indigenous knowledge systems, involving long hours of research into indigenous stories and oral histories. This has been a challenge for the project, as the sheer number of hours involved in collecting these stories has been immense. The culmination, however, will be an exhibition that truly speaks with an African voice of African experience.
//hapo means ‘dream', and is drawn from the Khoi proverb "//hapo ge //hapo tama /haohasib dis tamas ka i bo": "A dream is not a dream until it is shared by the entire community." The message delivered at //hapo is an inspirational one of resilience, community, a shared history and a shared future. Despite the immense scope of the project and the challenges encountered in ensuring that it is a living, lasting tribute to the values embodied in Freedom Park, working on //hapo has had a profound effect on the work and methodology of The Library, and continues to inspire us.