Farzanah, Cultural Heritage, and More…

Today we met Farzanah, the daughter of the South African photographer, Omar Badsha. She discussed the process of helping her father curate his photography exhibit at the National Gallery, which apparently was quite difficult as her father is very set in his ways and is not a very diplomatic person. It made me consider my own interests in curating and how I will definitely have to work with people who might not share my vision. We also discussed the idea of cultural heritage and how it might be shaped by tourism. Farzanah mentioned that this new trend of craft heritage and craft objects being sold in South Africa are not necessarily heritage objects. Many of the people who create these objects have to relearn them, or reinterpret them, as this tradition has not been practiced for many generations due to urbanization. This reminded me of the Cuban cigars and rum that are sold in Miami, which are actually manufactured in Jamaica and Puerto Rico. These objects are more symbolic than they are authentic.

We later visited the Mayibuye Centre at the University of Western Cape. This museum houses the archives of apartheid propaganda and photographs of the struggle. It was interesting to see the photographs of some of the most important moments in South African history. We were not able to look through the archives, however, since the archivist was out to lunch. Still, the space was very impressive.

We ended the day at the Philani Emplyment Project in the Cape Flats. Women are appointed by their neighborhoods to weave, sew, print, and paint objects for sale. The women must be mothers, have a loving character, and be approved by their neighborhood. They also have sister projects in other parts of Southern Africa. I have noticed that many of the gifts I will be bringing home were bought at these sorts of businesses. Knowing that your money will be providing an income for people who have no other means of supporting themselves is a great feeling, and it makes the gift far more meaningful.

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