Saturday 26 April 2014

Ethekwini Municipality The Local History Museums'

museums in a democratic society

ARROWSA management and CCMS, UKZN students attended the above seminar on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 at the KwaMuhle Museum.

ARROWSA management included the Heritage Portfolio leader Nomusa Mabaso, chair Mary Lange as well as ARROWSA media portfolio leader Sana Ebrahim, (who is also a CCMS, UKZN student).  
The presenters and their relevant topics were:
Ms. Dolly Khumalo
Senior Manager:
KZNDAC: Museum Services
“Museums and their Role in Nation Building and
Social Cohesion”

Mr. Vusi Buthelezi
HoD and Senior Museologist:
Campbell Collections of UKZN
“Museums: A contested Space in South Africa’s

Prof. Juliette Leeb-du Toit
Senior Research Associate:
University of KwaZulu Natal
“Transformation in South African Museums”

Mr. Desmond Makhanya
Community Developer:
eThekwini Living Legend

“Museums and Cultural Heritage in South Africa”

                           From left to right:  Leeb-du Toit, Buthelezi, Makhanya & Khumalo. 

The seminar was run efficiently and opinions of the seminar expressed afterwards by attendees included that it had covered difficult concepts but that such debate and reflection is necessary to assess if progress has been made. It was refreshing that the papers presented were not used for leading party election campaigning by merely smoothing over difficulties and shortcomings but rather provoked and requested critical thinking on present challenges whilst also reflecting on what progress had been made to achieve greater inclusivity by museums. There was a strong call for a participatory, inclusive approach that reflected multi voices.  An emphasis was also made on a move to a community bottom-up embracement and initiation of museums whereby the municipality, province or state were no longer just looked up to dictate and provide regarding museums content and role in society.

The question and comment time included the voices of audience members across the various sectors.  The structure of taking four questions at one time before they were answered did however result in some feeling that their questions had not being answered fully.  Nevertheless questions and comments from the floor were thought provoking e.g. Have, and if so how have, intangible heritage and indigenous knowledge been included in post apartheid museums? With whom should museums be working besides communities?  Should separate museums exist for different cultural perspectives of the same event of should they be integrated? Museums need to be more experiential.

It was gratifying to note that Bergtheil Museum and Palmiet Nature Reserve with ARROWSA are working very much within the recommended participatory and inclusive approach whilst providing experiential programmes. This is supported by the recently completed portable Palmiet Nature Reserve archaeological display researched by ARROWSA as well as the incorporation of our hands-on programmes at the Bergtheil Museum and Palmiet Nature Reserve in the Passbook Competition.  There is still however much room for discussion and debate as to how greater inclusivity of all educational sectors, tourism, cultures and economic groups can be achieved.

Knowledge was therefore gained and critical thinking provoked by the seminar. The generous tea and lunch spread was a very pleasant surprise and provided time for networking and reconnecting with The Local History Museums' staff and CCMS, UKZN students. It is hoped that The Local History Museums will make the seminar a yearly, if not more frequent, event.

     Nomusa Mabaso, ARROWSA, with Mohau Qalaza, The Local History Museums Curator.

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