Internship – Week 4

The weekend before our last week of internship was an exciting one! On Sunday, we conquered (and I say that literally) Table Mountain. One thing I have learned about most South Africans is they don’t give too many directions, and this was one example where we did not know that we were getting ourselves into. We were told the trail we were taking was the “easy/beginner” trail, but I think they meant “easy/beginner if you’ve trained for 5 months ahead of time”. We started up the hill, and of course, took a wrong turn which added some time onto our hike. The views all the way up were absolutely stunning, which made it a little easier on the fact that my legs were about to give out. But despite the challenge, we persisted up the mountain and made it to the top just in time for sunset. It was fun experiencing something like that with the girls 🙂

Although we were scared we weren’t going to be able to walk for the rest of the internship, we made it on Monday. This day we were assigned to a different department, so we went to the Museum of Natural History. It was very interesting because we got to handle extremely old marine biological specimens. Our task was to top off all the containers with 70% ethanol and put them back in their exact spots. After that we had to sort jars of the specimens into their proper categories, which was a little harder but very intriguing.

The rest of the week Kitty, Isadora, and I worked with Janene and Bradley in conservation, which Kiana worked at the National Gallery. In conservation, we were tasked with a storage full of items that had been put on display in the Slave Lodge once. We had to first take a photo of its condition, write a condition report, clean it, and then take a picture of its new condition. We created an assembly line so Isadora was on photography duty, I wrote the condition reports, and Kitty cleaned the objects. It was very interesting to learn and be hands on with what goes on in conservation.

Friday was our last day and our group presentation about what we’ve learned throughout our internship. We all did not know that much about museums before this trip and gained a lot of knowledge and interest those 7 weeks. We focused on four main components on what contributes to museums: collection, conservation, education, and research. We each picked a topic to present on, mine being conservation. Conservation was a huge portion of what we learned in the internship, especially with our supervisors being Bradley and Janene who are conservationists for the Iziko Museums. I learned how much work goes into preserving the items collected for museums and was lucky to contribute myself.

After presenting we had to say our goodbyes, which was really hard for me because I had grown an attachment and appreciation for the wonderful people I had worked with. I learned so much from them and will hold this experience with me for the rest of my life. That also goes for the whole trip and everyone I had met along the way, especially Kitty, Kiana, Isadora, Marit, and Nate (and Desi of course). This was the best way to end my college career that I could’ve asked for and I thank everyone who contributed to that. Now, on to the next chapter of my life! (Which hopefully will include more of South Africa 🙂 )


Internship – Week 3

This week we started off working at The Castle of Good Hope, another Iziko Museum. We helped organize and clean for an exhibition which consisted of mainly colonial artwork and artifacts. It was interesting to see a different side of the Iziko Museums, because this focused mainly on colonial times and the people that contributed to the Apartheid Era, whereas the National Gallery held items and artwork of people affected by the Apartheid Era.

Tuesday was Mandela Day, so we accompanied the Mobile Museum to a Children’s Home outside Cape Town. We had to come up with our own project for the kids, so we used our printmaking skills to make a short activity. Each child would get a piece of styrofoam and engrave something on it with the theme “what does freedom mean to you?”. They would then come to us and we would roll a paint color of their choice over the drawing and they would stamp it on a piece of paper. The kids seemed to really enjoy it and it made my day to see a smile on their face. It felt really good to give back, especially on a day like Mandela Day.

Wednesday was my 22nd Birthday, and we went on another Mobile Museum. It was also really special to work with kids in need on my birthday. Thursday we went with Stella as well on the Mobile Museum and ended the day with a potluck lunch to say goodbye to our coworkers from Reunion Island, Leyya and Sandrine.

Internship – Week 2

The second week of our internship was a busy one. We continued working at the South African National Gallery for Carol’s African Art exhibition. This included padding a rectangular pole and sewing it for a textile, making shoulder pads for the traditional shirt, and sewed padding on multiple poles for textiles.

This was the first week we got to go on a Mobile Museum with our supervision Stella. The Mobile Museum is a way to educate children about museums in the surrounding townships, especially those who cannot afford to attend the museum themselves. When we got to the township, we helped Stella assemble his presentation, which was full of dead animals preserved by the Taxidermist named Nelson. He taught the children about the animals and what they have to do with museums. After, we helped organize a beading project for the kids where they make bracelets with different colored beads. I love working with kids so I especially enjoyed going on the Mobile Museum.

Since we had finished working on Carol’s exhibition, we helped our colleagues Melanie and Stacy in the Social History Museum. We started off by sorting documents in numerical order and then were tasked with laminating documents from the Apartheid Era. It was very interesting to read the personal letters written by a well-known editor at the time of Apartheid.

Internship – Week 1

The first day of our internship we met Wandile, our top internship supervisor and the Public Programs Coordinator for the Iziko Museums. He showed us around the different museums in the area, including the Planetarium in the South African Natural History Museum and the Bo-Kaap Museum. We ended our day meeting our other supervisors, Bradley and Janene.

The rest of the week we worked with Bradley and Janene at the South African National Gallery to help put up an African art exhibition, curated by a woman named Carol. Throughout the week we did things like pin sleeves for a dress stand, hand sewed a mannequin for a skirt, put sand in support sleeves and sewed them shut, made a large cross stand for a traditional African shirt, sewed padding on poles for textiles, and helped decide where items should go in the exhibition.

I learned to sew in middle school but had not done it since, so it was really interesting to do so much of it at once. We were lucky to have Kitty because she knew what she was doing and could help us when we needed it. Overall, I enjoyed being able to be apart of an exhibition in the South African National Gallery and it was a great first week of the internship!

On Friday, we got the chance to go to the West Coast Fossil park with our supervisors Wandile and Stella. It was an awesome experience because I had never seen fossils outside of a museum. It was very interesting to learn about the area because the whole park used to be a river and had very rich vegetation.


Last day before internship

Today was our last day of adventures before our internship starts, and also the last day with our favorite professors, Marit and Nate. We started off our day driving along the coast toward Groot Constantia Vineyard and Museum, which is one of the Iziko Museums who we are interning for. We stopped at Camps Bay along the way and got out of the car to walk on the beach. There were artists on the beach constructing sand sculptures that were very beautiful. The mountains behind us and the waves crashing toward us with the sand between our toes was truly surreal.

After dusting off our feet, we got back in the van and continued on to Groot Constantia. When we got there we started off doing a wine cellar tour. There, we were taught about the wine making process, the difference between making red and white wine, and the fermentation process. After, we walked through the Iziko Museum part of the vineyard which is located in a manor house that had been there since the vineyard originated. We finished our Groot Constantia experience with a delicious dinner. I had the mussels and ravioli and I would definitely go back for more.

Once we finished dinner, we drove to Boulders Beach where a penguin sanctuary is located. I had never seen a penguin in person before, besides at the zoo, so it was really awesome to see them in their natural habitat.


Cape Town Day 3

Today we started off our day in a township outside of Cape Town called Khayelitsha. We visited an organization called Philani, that aims at raising healthy children in the townships. The program trains already successful mothers in the community to become Mentor Mothers for other families. They also have a shop to sell items made with weaving and printmaking skills by artist Mentor Mothers. Their platform says, “To ‘intervene,’ may be defined as ‘taking part in something so as to prevent or alter a result or course of events.’ At Philani, that is exactly what we aim to do – to actively take part in the lives of women and children in the communities we serve, to actively prevent ill health during pregnancy, infancy and childhood and, as a result, actively improve the health outcomes of entire households.” The Philani building also has classrooms for childcare programs so we went to visit those after making purchases at the store and getting a tour of the area.

After visiting Philani, we drove to another township called Lwandle and visited the Migrant Labour Museum. Lwandle was founded as a site for dormitories to house male migrant workers in the 1950’s. Today, it is home to people all over Africa but the museum is there to commemorate what the area used to be. We visited Hostel 33, which is the last remaining migrant labour hostel and walked around the areas of the township that used to be apart of the migrant’s daily lives. It was very interesting to learn how these workers were treated and how the area has been preserved over the years.

Most of us fell asleep in the car on the way home because we hit heavy traffic and were tired after a long, exciting day. We stopped at the grocery store before arriving back at our apartment and then made some delicious food for dinner.

Kruger National Park pt 2

After a nice morning of sleeping in, having breakfast, and watching cartoons, we were lucky enough to go back in the park and complete our search for the “Big Five”. The “Big Five” consist of elephants, lions, cape buffalo, leopards, and rhinoceros. One of the first animals we saw once we entered was a leopard, but even though it was far away we still got to cross it off our list.

That night we had a traditional Boma dinner outside at the Crocodile Kruger Safari Lodge. The food was served buffet style with the starches first and then the meat was served in a stew in a cauldron-like pot. The dinner also included a Zulu dance and song performance by the staff, where they would bring some of the audience up to dance. Kitty was lucky enough to be chosen 😉 The last surprise that was given was the option to try a Mopani Worm (a fried caterpillar). I was the first one to try it, and since it really was not that bad, I convinced Kiana to try it as well.

Once the dinner was over, Kiana, Kitty, Isadora, and I went back to our house and laid on the walkway of our lookout and watched the stars. The African sky was absolutely beautiful.

Soweto – Kliptown

In the morning, our team visited the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Soweto, which is a memorial to commemorate the Soweto uprisings on June 16, 1976, now known as Youth Day. We learned about the events leading up to and what caused the youth to come together and march. Hector Pieterson was one of the first children shot during the uprising and his story along with many others were told in this museum.

After we had lunch in Soweto and then made our way to Kliptown, a township in Soweto. Today opened my eyes in a way I never though possible. Our team met up with Father Bob, founder of a youth group called Soweto Kliptown Youth (SKY). He toured us through the ‘ghetto’ of Kliptown and gave us the history and current state of the area. The moment we arrived, a little boy came over and hugged me, and then stayed next to me and held my hand. The little boy, probably around 3 years old, had sores on his feet and back. I was told this was the cause of playing in and near the dirty water in the town. He is not in school and desperately needs to see a doctor. It broke my heart that in the moment, there was nothing I could do.

As we walked around, on two separate occasions a woman came up to me asking for 3 rand for bread for her child, and a young boy asked for just 1 rand. 1 rand is only 8 cents in America, which shows the heavy poverty these people live in. As Bob took us on  a tour of the township, he took us to a woman’s house who was clearly wealthier than the people living there. He explained to us that she comes from a royal South African family but stays in the township to help people and give them a place to stay when they need it. There we met a young man named Gordon who is working for the owner of the house and we had to the opportunity to hear his story. His mother was murdered by his step father when he was 12 years old and after went down the wrong path by doing drugs. He told us that he could have gone to jail and thought about suicide but Father Bob helped him get back on his feet and now the woman who owns the house has taken him in. Overall, the experience we had in Kliptown was life changing.

Youth Day!

Today was Youth Day, a holiday which celebrates the youth uprising against apartheid of 1976 in the township of Soweto. We started our morning off with a nature walk in the Koppies, including a breathtaking view of Johannesburg and the province of Gauteng. After, we checked out Kim Sack’s Gallery downtown where Kitty bought a beautiful necklace molded from an endangered flower. Down the road, our team had lunch at Munch Cafe, a cool little restaurant located in the back of a garden shop. Here, some of us tried our first Frulatta, which is basically a milkshake made with fresh fruit (SO YUMMY!). 

Following lunch, we attended a youth panel at the Apartheid Museum. This was an intense, emotional, and amazing experience to say the least. The panel was set up with four South African Black women high school students and a mediator who was also a radio talk show host. The point of this panel was for these women to talk about any issue that was important to them and then have discussions with and get feedback from the audience. The issues that were discussed included gender problems and women’s rights, concerning the violence against women that is currently very prominent in the country. An interesting an important point made was that there are free condoms offered all over the country but not free sanitary pads for women. Some women can’t even attend school when it is that time of the month because they can’t afford the proper protection. Other issues discussed was the strike problem, which affects education, jobs, and everyday society, traditional vs. non-traditional values, and race. 

After the panel we visited an exhibit on Nelson Mandela in the Apartheid Museum. This exhibit had the history of his life from start to finish and was very interesting, especially the items put on display. At nighttime we went to a 30 minute performance inspired by famous printmaker William Kentridge at The Center For The Less Good Idea. Although it was difficult to interpret, the show was powerful, emotion filled, conceptual and entertaining. To end the night, Kitty, Kiana, Isadora, and I continued our printmaking project to give as gifts to people we have met along the way. 

Online Class and arrival

In the weeks leading up our arrival in Johannesburg, we had 4 online Skype classes, including multiple readings and videos to watch. During those weeks we had a crash course on apartheid and the history of South Africa. From watching Amandala to Invictus, we received an immense amount of knowledge before arriving to the country. Kiana and I traveled together via KLM airlines, flying from New York City to Montreal to Amsterdam, and then arriving in South Africa on June 12th around 9pm. Kitty and Isadora flew from Chicago to Doha, and then arrived in Johannesburg on June 13th around 10am. During our stop in Amsterdam, Kiana THANKFULLY introduced me to a Dutch food called poffertjes, which definitely made our layover worth while. After, we met up with Marit, Nate, Desi, Marsha, and Kurt and completed our trip to South Africa, which included some prime plane food :).