Driving just past the roller coaster of Gold Reef City, we arrived at the Apartheid Museum this morning. With tickets assigning us identities, we entered the impressive building for an emotional and immersive experience. Noelene Bhyat, the museum’s Operations Manager, met us for a conversation about the
challenges of engaging a local audience in the museum. She spoke passionately about the nature of education in South Africa today and the role the Apartheid Museum plays in teaching youth about South African history. As she sent us off into the museum, she urged us to take time to debrief as the museum would “leave us in another world.” She couldn’t have described it better.
Through text and material-rich exhibitions about the rise and fall of apartheid, we each found resonance in different elements–the quotes, videos, objects, and stories on display in the museum. Over sandwiches we shared fragments of our reflections:
– how we create our own memories through imagery
– sense of duty
– “take care not to be romantic or unrealistic” (advice given to Mandela)
– Is it an act of survival?
– growing up privileged
– psychological feelings of inferiority
– what humans are capable of
– how museums try to push our thinking into other worlds
With thoughts swirling in our heads, we rushed over to the Artist Proof Studio where we were warmly welcomed by the staff and students hard at work in the print studio. Janet shared with us the history of this innovative community arts organization and introduced us to Lukas, Robyn, and Bampo who shared their own experiences with us. Nkosana, a 2nd year student, walked us through printing a collagraph and drypoint print. We all gasped in excitement as he pulled the print off the press.
Robyn and Bampo then escorted us to the Johannesburg Art Gallery to view the Coming of Age
exhibition about the Artist Proof Studio. Hundreds of stunning prints filled the two floors of the downtown gallery. Each one seemed to stop us in our tracks.
We left the Gallery and meandered through the crowded market streets of downtown Johannesburg and then past the stately homes in Parkwood as the sunset. A fitting end to a day of contrasts.