The Nelson Mandela Museum stands as evidence of the love and respect that this awesome statesman inspired in people all over the world, from rural schoolchildren to royalty. The many gifts Mandela received through his life say more about the givers than the receiver, and the exhibitions display the political and personal journey of this beloved politician. In addition to the building in Mthatha, there are three other sites. Qunu, the area where Mandela spent part of his childhood, was also the site of his family residence in the years prior to his death; the house can be seen from the N2, 32 km (20 miles) south of Mthatha, as can his grave on the hill inside the property behind the house. On another hill on the opposite side of the road is the Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage centre, a beautifully designed building that combines natural stone and unfinished wattle branches to create an interesting pattern of light and shade that complements the black-and-white photographs documenting
Mandela's early life and his period of activism and incarceration. There's also a reconstruction of his prison cell on Robben Island. Huge glass windows overlook the fields where Madiba (an affectionate sobriquet for Mandela) herded cattle as a boy, and you can also take a short walk to a smooth rock face that he and his young friends used to use as a slide, and maybe even have a go at it yourself. Mvezo was the birthplace of Mandela. Although the foundations of the house in which Mandela was born are visible and there is a small open-air museum, Mvezo is more a place of pilgrimage than a museum (since there isn't very much to see here). It's best to visit Mvezo as part of a tour—both because it's hard to find and because you'll get much more out of it with a knowledgeable guide—which you can arrange through the museum, or with Imonti Tours. But you can get directions from the museum in Mthatha if you want to go on your own. You'll need to travel down a 19 km (12 miles) gravel road, but a 4x4 is not required. You can take a similar gravel road north of the N2 to Mqhekezwen i, which is where Mandela went to live with his cousin under the guardianship of Jongintaba Dalindyebo, regent of the Tembu people, and where he began his education. The rondavel he and his cousin shared remains exactly as it would have been then, as does the great tree where Mandela used to sneak up and secretly listen to the elders during their meetings. It's possible to visit the Nelson Mandela Museum on Saturday afternoons and Sundays if you make an arrangement in advance.