Cape Town: Week 3 & Interview

This past Saturday, we experienced our first Rugby game at Newlands stadium (go Stormers!). On Sunday, we visited Cape Point and a few places on the way (Hout Bay, Kalk Bay, and Muizenberg).

On Monday (Mandela Day), we went to DuNoon, a township near Cape Town, to show kids objects from the Iziko museums and do some arts and crafts.

Alexa and I interviewed a few people from the Social History Centre. Here is the interview with Bradley who is a Preventative Conservator (my Iziko supervisor):

How did you get to this job? (What are the experiences you had before this job or educational requirements).

Bradley: “I got this job by default, Iziko wanted me. I was working for the provincial government, we serviced about forty museums as a conservator for the whole entire province. Coming to this job, I had about 11 years experience prior. I was busy with a masters in Material Science, understanding the behavior of materials and how they react to climate and other materials.” 

What is your favorite part about this job?

Bradley: “No two days are the same. Constantly demanding. Constantly thinking of new innovative ways. Every problem is different. Every exhibition is different. So you’re constantly evolved. Working, thinking, trying to be creative.”

What advice would you give to young people who want to become conservators?

Bradley: “It’s actually an exciting degree. It is very rewarding. I would advise young people, because it’s a good career.”

What would you like to be doing 5-10 years from now?

Bradley: “Probably teaching and empowering other South Africans in terms of conservation.”

What did you want to do when you were younger, did you ever think museums as a possibility?

Bradley: “I knew there would be a need for Science and Math teachers, so that was my initial root. But when I came to Cape Town, kids didn’t want to go to school, so I decided no, I’m just going to be wasting my time trying to help people that don’t want to be helped.”

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My interview

My interview is with my colleague Lumanyano. He is from an North Link College located in Belleville, Western Cape. His major is tourism, and he is currently a senior. He started the intern with I, and Yentl two weeks ago and now he loves it just a much as me. We have all grown so close that we go to lunch everyday together! I asked him a few questions to get his take on his experience.

Annetta: ‘What have you learn here at Iziko Museums?”

Lumanyano: “I learned that when you looking at a picture it is more than what you see. It is actually a message behind the picture that you see.”

Annetta: “Do you feel that this experience will help you in the future?”

Lumanyano: “Yes, it will help a lot, working with people of all ages, and cultures you get the feel of what they like and do not like, and what exciting things you can add to make tourism of South Africa great!”

Annetta: “How would you describe Iziko Museums after working from the inside?”

Lumanyano: “Fun, exciting, and lots to learn, and it is a very good place to be at.”

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Excuse the hair, long day 

Cape Town: Week 2 & Objects

This is my third week in Cape Town and my second week of the Iziko internship; it’s going by way too fast.

This past Sunday we hiked table mountain and witnessed a helicopter rescue the first twenty minutes on the trail… but luckily we made it safely to the top! During the week we visited the Waterfront to browse and Camp’s Bay to watch the sunset.

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Internship & object study:

For the first half of the work week, Alexa and I worked with conservation of wooden vessels in storage. We wrote up condition reports for previously insect-infested objects. We went through many of the objects and checked if there was any visible damage from the infestation. Afterwards, we polished and filled in insect holes with sealant wax.

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For the last half of the work week, we worked with boxes of documents donated from Lynn Carneson (daughter of apartheid political prisoner, Fred Carneson). It was amazing to see the story of the Carneson family unfold while looking through the hundreds of documents: court orders, letters, cards, photographs, ect. The documents opened my eyes to a different story of anti-apartheid fighters, and the role that this specific white family played in history. I think it is important and special for the Iziko museums to collect a diverse story like this one; It is a viewpoint that is rarely told in apartheid history.

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Object Study

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Today I spent almost my entire work day in the library, finding books on photographers who are a part of the collection at the South African National Gallery. Just the day before my supervisor, Ingrid, and I had been cataloging the images by David Goldblatt that the Gallery had accessioned. I didn’t really know anything about Goldblatt, but the library had tons of books about him. I spent all day reading one book in particular called David Goldblatt (55) by Leslie Lawson. While Marit and Nate would probably want me to pick a photograph I saw as my object, this book was what really intrigued me because it contextualized everything I had been seeing.

When we had been going through the photographs, there was one of an Afrikaans family building a coffin for a neighbors servant. In the book it discussed how photographs like this showcased “the generous spirit of the Afrikaners side by side with a deep fear and rabid hatred of black people” These people had devoted an entire afternoon to help a neighbor, yet had been joking about what parts of woman’s body they would cut off if she didn’t fit.  It really intrigued me how Goldblatt was able to have a compassion for these people, while also distain for their racist tendencies. Similarly to how Nelson Mandela wanted to join both black, white, indian, colored, and Afrikaans together, Goldblatt wanted to highlight the complexities of humanity, and join South Africans rather than divide them.

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One photograph in the book also really showcased this for me. I’m not sure if its one the gallery owns, but it shows a Plot-holder with one of the young girls who is the daughter of a servant. Often in rural communities Goldblatt found that there was a certain intimacy between the black and white that would have been unthinkable in cities. This concept reminded me of our talk with Steven Hobbs and when he described hearts beating in sync when people lay together in bed. Spending time with and especially living with others creates a sort of camaraderie that can easily be forgotten when living in isolation behind large walled homes in the city.

1.) Object Study

The art object that I find most intriguing is the “FuckWhitePeople board, chair, and golden dean boots”. The reason I find this project interesting is because of the reasoning behind the project. Dean Hutton, a photojournalist whom practices moves beyond still imagery, and also practices as a visual artist in video, installation, intervention and performance art.

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In this particular art work, Dean emphasizes on how a black young man walked around with the words”Fuck White People” on his shirt and was threatened a court case. But what made this incident more intensifying is that the people who was threatening him never said anything about the writing on the front of his shirt which read “Being Black is Shit”. Is not the first thing you see on a persons shirt is the front of it? That goes to tell you when whites feel disrespected they make a big fuss about it, and want to draw attention to the issue, but when blacks get disrespect it does not occur to be a big problem, it’s natural.

I recently sat in the room where the art work is located and watched visitors of the art gallery as they walked in to see their reaction to the piece. Of course most visitors were of white color, and also very uncomfortable looking at it. The artwork is located on your right, soon as you walk through the gallery. I like the fact that the creative director of the gallery put in on the right side because most people are right handed, so they automatically will look right. Some visitors would walk in first look right, turn left, quickly glance back to right to make sure the piece is what what they see, and walk the opposite way. I think that was my favorite reactions, but there were one in particular set of visitors. They were two women, could be best friends or sisters. They both were very displeased with the art work, and even shared their blatant opinions with me. I was applaud and curious as to why.

So then I asked them why not, knowing that they did not even bother by reading the information provided to explain the artwork. The just said “It is racist and it makes them feel some type of way”.I, myself have read the information multiple times, so when they stated their statements little did they know the artwork was about them. Hutton also acknowledged that if someone of any race feels some type of way about this piece they have some inter issues that should be worked on. At the end of the day it is just art containing some words, a chair, and some shoes. So I then showed the two women the artwork of the different governments spraying protestors, identifying them with colored water so that when it is time to attack them or take them to jail they can identify who they are. I also showed them the artwork directly across from the “FuckWhitePeople” work; which contained western people feasting while being entertained holding a black mans head in a bird’s cage. I then asked them are you still dissatisfied with the artworks, and do you still feel uncomfortable? Both women looked at me speechless. The looks on their face was priceless, that is when I knew I got my point across.They exited the museum quieter than when they entered.

Hopefully those young ladies realized there is no such thing as black disrespect, and white disrespect; disrespect is disrespect just as if you swear, and the another person steal. In Gods eyes a sin is a sin. They were not the only visitors to act as such, there were others who did the same; look at every other artwork but that one, and just be so upset that they forget they are in an art gallery, and each artwork contains a description to why they invented the piece.

Beginning our Internships/Why Museums

The first day of our internship was probably the strangest first day of work I have ever had. We started the day meeting with Wandile, the education and public programs coordinator at Iziko, but our conversation lasted until lunchtime and wasn’t strictly business.

Talking about art outside the National Gallery

Wandile is currently has “about three masters” and is working on his PhD in museum studies, so everything he had to say was really interesting, passionate, and insightful. One of the biggest things that I think he wanted to convey to us is the importance that museums play 21st century society, not only in South Africa, but democratic societies across the world.

After hearing from Wandile, I think that in places like South Africa and America where people are free to do what they choose, we have an immense power and responsibility to stand up for what we believe in and fight for the change we want to see in the world. It is easy to say that both nations have problems that need to be fixed. However, sometimes people don’t feel that they have a safe place in their community where they can express their opinions and beliefs, which is why museums today really need to take on that role.

I think that it can be easily stated that, as future museum professionals in democratic nations, all of us want museums to become places where people can learn about themselves, their histories, and think critically about their futures, instead of perpetuating the colonial ideals that early museums were associated with. We don’t want to perpetuate the stereotypes, half-truths, and racist ideas found in museums of the past, but to create a better world through dialogue and engagement. It is interesting to me that so many museums in South Africa are so focused on stepping up to play this role.

Museum Teen Summit offers the opportunity for teens to talk about their role in museums

Forums are a great way that museums can work to engage the public. When we met with Steven Hobbes, he told us about a time when he attended a forum about art where the people came, took the mic, and only discussed the social issues they had in their community because they had no other outlet to express their frustrations. Sometimes, that’s all people need. Although forums tend to have specific topics, the beauty in them lies in the fact that they can turn into anything by the end. In just the past five weeks, Constitution Hill, the Apartheid Museum, and the South Africa Museum have hosted forums for citizens to come together and talk about current events as well as learn from each other’s differing perspectives on the nation.

As we ended our conversation with Wandile on that first day of work  and transitioned to meeting our supervisors at our internships, he left us with the question we all need to ask ourselves, “What kind of museum would you like to produce in the future?”. I think my entire experience in South Africa is helping me answer that question.

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Cape Town from the Robben Island Ferry 

Cape Town: Week 1 & museums

In the past four weeks, I have noticed the important role that museums play in supporting democratic societies. Now that I have started working as an intern at the Iziko Museums (Social History Centre), I have noticed even more about the support these centers play in South Africa’s community.

As South Africa’s society evolves and changes, so do the representing museums. The museums can and have faced controversies over certain exhibits that present misleading or offensive representation of different races/ethnicities. As society changes, the museums must change and alter their perspectives as well. With racism and poverty still at the forefront of South Africa’s society, the museums must handle the history in a way that properly reflects the society’s past and present issues.

During the course of the trip, my group and other community leaders have spoke about the importance of the museum-society connection. I have heard many young individuals speak about their want to learn about their ancestors and their history; the museums are trying to break down the boring stereotype and attract the hardest audience to the centers: the youth.

The Iziko staff is extremely passionate for South African history and they want that knowledge to be spread to all communities. Iziko is determined to bring history to the people, since many people cannot come to see it themselves. The staff takes the mobile museum to impoverished communities to share artifacts that explores South Africa’s history. These types of community outreach programs spread knowledge and awareness of history and art, bringing about social change. The museums are useful places for social change through their brilliant exhibits, community events, and public/youth programming. Spreading knowledge and history to the community will inspire individuals to learn and connect with South Africa.

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Event to bring awareness to youth about the importance of museums

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Day at Kirstenbosch Gardens

 

 

 

Why Museums

After speaking to many South Africans I have found that Museums are not seen as approachable places where anyone can walk in a learn about their history and art. While museums can keep track so much important cultural history it seems that this information is not benefiting the people it should benefit most. Many South African museums have noticed this problem and are making strides to better connect to the general public.

We saw this at work at the Apartheid Museum on Youth Day when it hosted a panel of learners and allowed them to debate on topics important to them. This gave young people the opportunity to share their opinions in a safe place, and to hear what other students had to say. It was clear that they all understood the value education, and were dissatisfied with the current roll government in their lives. It was great to see younger kids getting to think about solutions to the problems they face in their lives.

We also saw more youth involvement when visiting the Hector Pietersen Museum. We spoke to Mpho Khumeke, who told us about the Hector Pietersen  Book Club, which reaches out to kids in Soweto to give the the opportunity to have access to a library, and education skills for the future. Recently they had just had a debate conference where students learned how to debate and then were able to debate with other students. Mpho saw that Museums could not have a positive impact on their communities if they did not give back and reach out to those in need.

Reaching out to the Youth was also very apparent during our day with Museum Teen Summit Africa. As we had previously seen at the Apartheid Museum and Hector Pietersen, the youth is very important in creating social movements in South Africa. MTSA’s goal was to take the decision making of museum programming out of the hands of adults and into the hands of teens who know what they want and what will engage their peers. Its clear that the several of the museums we visited are all making strides to make programming that appeals to those in the community and engages them. Hopefully this emphasis can help museums connect  better to people and help them engage with their own histories.

 

6/27/16 Waves & Robben Island

 

Learning about history you realize that there are so many things that certain people try to erase for the future to learn. On Monday for the first time I heard the name Robert Sobukwe. In my history class you learn about every other country history but you do not learn about Africa’s story. Being here you learn that there are so many others besides Martin Luther King who sacrificed their own freedom so that we can utilize ours today. Before entering in Robben island, all I heard about was Mandela in Africa, but never Sobukwe.

Before I enter  into talking about ‘Devils camp’ we first had to take a nice rocky boat trip just to get to Robben island. Of course there were some who was not feeling the waves, and the tilting of our boat, *cough cough”

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Nate’s “Im Ok” Cover Look, notice his arm

I myself got the joy of riding with the captain, I wish I could post videos. I was with the captain until we reached the island. I was delighted it was my first boat ride!

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The Queen Riding Like A Boss

As I was riding with the captain he told me stories about him meeting Mandela, and Ahmed. he shared with me how Mandela actual did not enjoy visiting the island he only came back when he was asked to do a personal tour, Ahmed on the other hand loved to, he took it as an overcoming adventure. When we arrived it was cold, the waves were getting bigger and the island was drenched. It made the experience even more amazing, and personal because just imagine when the prisoners were there, and some with shorts on. We took a bus tour where we learned about the living conditions, and how the island came about. Robben Island name originated from the Dutch; Robben means seals. As we drove through the island we stopped at Robert Sobukwe’s house. We learned that the Apartheid feared his knowledge so much that they completely isolated him from the world when he encourage people to burn their passbooks, and march to the police station to turn themselves in. That day 69 people died, the police reacted with guns after the non-armed citizens walked away peacefully, they were shot while their backs were turned. They then put Sobukwe to jail. He was only suppose to be gone for 3 years, that later changed and they secretly sent him off to Robben Island,and forced his family to live there. They give him privileges to wear regular clothing, and to have his own space but he was not allowed to talk to anyone, and none was not allowed to talk to him plus not allowed to go outside the gated fence. He was a highly feared man, he was very intelligent, some of the prisoners said when they were told their leader was on the island they would walk past to see if he was really there, and he would put his hand in the sand and rise his hand up to let the sand flow through his fingers to let them know they are the soil of Africa, and he is still there for them. His best friend which is a white man once said he was there so long, and they had him so isolated from speaking that he was forgetting how to speak.

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Robert Sobukwe House

After spending a long time on the island he was then released but put on serious house arrest, his story ended sad because he later died due to lung cancer but many including myself believed that the government poisoned him that is why they let him go. They did not want him to die under their protection because then it would have been a riot, the same thing with Mandela and the others. If the government would have let them died under their eyes, Africa would have been the biggest riot throughout the entire world, everything would be burnt.

As we continued the tour we met a lovely ex prisoner who currently stays on Robben Island who showed us the way to the sections, and Mandelas cell. He taught us how the blacks were treated worse then the Indians, and Colored’s. Blacks had to wear shorts, others get to wear pants, the blacks get no bread, others get bread, their food was worse , and they were treated like animals, and children. I assume that that is part of why Mandela could not stand to go back. He explained to us that they had to go on hunger strikes to demand to be treated better. Then he showed us section A, where Mandela and the other main political leaders were kept.

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Nelson Mandela Cell

As you see there is one bucket, a mat, and 2 blankets. The bucket was his toilet, the mat was his bed, and he was allowed one coffee a day. I hate to look at this picture because it makes me angry but yet it motivates me to become the greatest that ever lived. I am not an African native but I know somewhere down my history I come from this great country. And to see that this man has suffered so harsh just so there can be freedom, peace, and justice it has inspired me in so many different ways, including other leaders like Sobukwe.

After our trip home we decided to go shopping for food, and whatever else we needed. I went to H&M of course, it was a great deal !

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One of the jackets I brought, by the way I am on top of  Table Mountain!

Museum Teen Summit Africa

Today we really didn’t know what to expect. Marit and Nate told us to just go with the flow of whatever happened, so we did. The morning began with an attempt to walk to the Blue Café which is about two blocks from our house, but when we got halfway down the street, we decided it was too cold, too windy, and too close to raining, so Nate drove us there in the van instead before heading out for the day.

We spent the day at Museum Africa, for an all-day
program called Museum Teen Summit Africa. Marit is too humble and didn’t tell us ahead of time that she was the founder of Museum Teen Summit (New York), which is a program that allows teens to get involved with museum outreach and education programs in New York City. The teens mostly run the program themselves, and do a wide variety of tasks that help to make museums more accessible and applicable to them, which is great because then other teens will actually be excited to go to a museum or be a part of a program happening in one.

The morning was full of speeches from various people involved with the program’s initiation in South Africa along with some speakers who were there to inspire the teens. Marit was one of the speakers, so of course we cheered the loudest for her.

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Our fearless leader

In a truly South African way, all of the speakers focused a lot on how young people can make a difference in the future of the nation because of the power within them. Some of the speeches reminded me a bit of the youth panel we attended at the Apartheid Museum on Youth Day, and it was cool to see that happening again.

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Each square was decorated before we put them together to make the bigger picture

In the afternoon, we made art with the teens, and had a fun time working with them to create a big mural all together. When it was time to go, we took a million pictures all together and said goodbye.
Overall, the day was a powerful reminder that both museums and youth can make a difference in the world, and it was really great for all of us to see a museum education program kick off. Moving forward, it would be amazing if all these kids continued to work together with MTSA because their collective voice would be so powerful.

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One of the many group photos