June 17, 2017

Today was one of the more relaxed days that would prepare us for our upcoming days full of adventure. For starters we visited the Johannesbug Art Museum, and  witnesed, first hand, the effects the current economic state of Johannesburg was taking on the Museum itself. However, the museum still was the home to many interesting installations and pieces of art work. We then went for a stroll through downtown Johannesburg and had brunch at Eat Your Heart Out cafe (which was amazing).

After brunch we headed back out in search of a couple locations we had planned to visit but, most of the locations we went to ended up being closed temporarily. So in the midst of looking for our new destination we ran into the Bambanani Brass Band again for the second time in a row. We were immediatly hypnotized and pulled in by their melodies, I could stand there and watch/listen to them perform all day.

Later on that night we went to go see a play by the name of Isithunzi, which was a reaction to the “Reitz Four Video” in which the mother of two young men was humiliated along with a few other African women and men. The play was very powerful, and although half of it was unexpectedly in Zulu, the amazing performance by the actors made it easy to understand. After the play Isadora, Kiana, Liz and I all went out to Liquid Blue, where we met the most amazing people and had some really deep, intellectual conversations. These types of interactions continue to help us understand the everyday lives of South Africans and reveal how similar their battles are to some of the ones we fight in America.

Day 3!

Today was another jam packed one. We started bright and early with a trip to the Origins Center at Wits University, followed by a lovely lunch at Luv Food and a stop at the David Krut studio space.

The Origins Center was pretty cool. Filled with artifacts and videos, the museum tells the story of humankind from prehistory to the present. South Africa is the birthplace of humankind and this museum makes a point of telling this story. We took an in depth look at the San People who live across Southern Africa. The exhibitions touched on their way of life, spirituality, and contemporary challenges.

After the museum visit we took a nice little stroll through Wits University. It’s a beautiful campus with many plants I had never seen before. After a few tries we were finally able to exit and head over to Luv Food. Let’s just say I loved the food at Luv Food! With options ranging from lasagna and chicken to french toast with Nutella. It was all delicious!

After lunch we headed to the David Krut studio where we met with two young printmakers Chad and Sbongiseni. We had a thorough vocabulary lesson with examples of  many of the terms mentioned. I had many questions which the guys were more than happy to answer. I learned a great deal and it was wonderful to talk to people who were extremely passionate about their work. I’m sure we could’ve gone on all evening if given the opportunity. The print shop also has gallery at the back showcasing artworks by artists the printshop collaborates with.

We stopped in the Iwasshot shop after leaving David Krut. Iwasshot is an organization that works with youth in Johannesburg. They teach the youth photography and then turn the images into different items that can be purchased like pillows and shirts. All in all it was a wonderful day!

Second Arrivals

Isadora and I arrived a day after Marit, Nate, Kiana and Liz. While Kiana and Liz were sleeping in Marit and Nate greeted us at the airport and escorted us back to our new living space for the next two weeks, the Space Guest House.

After Isadora and I got settled in we headed grocery store (the first of many trips soon to come) to get the items that we either were missing or needed for the next couple days. Later on that evening we attended Stephen Hobbs’ gallery opening in Johannesburg. In the midst of mixing and mingling with the other artists and visitors in the gallery, I came upon 2 Americans from my hometown Kalamazoo, Michigan that had been living in Johannesburg for the past 3 months and were on their way home the following day. Upon speaking with them I also found out that they had met another person in Johannesburg that was also from Kalamazoo. It was such a grand coincidence and an interaction that immediately made me feel more at home and welcomed.

To end the day we headed to a delicious pizza place just around the corner from The Space Guest House. A Perfect way to end our first day!

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 :).

Second Day in Johannesburg!

Our second day in Johannesburg started off at the Apartheid Museum where we first met with Wayde Davy. We sat down with Wayde and learned about the museum and its role within society and educating the youth about their history. We also discussed how they keep the museum relevant especially considering the current political struggle. The museum also collaborates with other exhibitions and people to tell their stories and perspectives that are contextually relevant. It was really interesting hearing what Wayde had to say about the youth in South Africa and how many of them struggle with getting jobs even if they are educated because of disparities that are still evident.

After talking with Wayde we went through the actual museum and got an even better look into the evolution of South Africa’s history and how apartheid was introduced. While I had a superficial understanding of apartheid, the museum definitely gave me better insight to all the events that happened leading up to and during apartheid. I found the personal stories and accounts as well as the videos and pictures interesting because it gave me more understanding of how life was during those times.

We then had a quick lunch at the café at the museum where I had delicious pasta, and we had some time to look through the gift shop where I bought a CD called “The Great South African Trip” which I am really excited to listen to!

After that we went to Constitution Hill where we went through the men and women’s prisons where Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Winnie Mandela, among others were all held at some point. Seeing the conditions that the prisoners (especially the men) were subjected to were awful, but reading about the prisoners’ experiences and seeing the different cells they were kept in was startling. Afterwards we walked around the ramparts surrounding the Old Fort just as the sun was about to set; being up there gave us a beautiful view of Johannesburg so we definitely had to take the opportunity to get a cool squad picture!

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We then went into the Constitutional Court which was literally right next door. I was surprised by just how much art they had, from permanent installation art to art on display through out the rest of the building; it almost felt like an art gallery instead of a court. Afterwards we came back to the guest house and learned how to do basic printmaking using rubber blocks that we carved out to create patterns that we found at the Constitutional Court.

For dinner we went to the IT Café where I had a (mushy) chickpea burger and iced mint tea (just a chunk of straight up mint leaves in water). It took us four some time to figure out how to successfully split the bill using cash, but we eventually figured it out thanks to Kiana!

 

Our Last Week

It’s so crazy to think that our time in South Africa is nearing a close. I think that I will look back on my time here for many years as some of the best days ever. For the end of our internship, Wandile asked us to create a project to present to many of the Iziko staff, including our supervisors, the Education and Public Programming department, and the director of the museums. We decided to create a booklet that would help Iziko advertise the many careers people can have within a museum because we noticed that not many youth know that working in a museum is an option. We worked really hard on it for a few days, and are really happy with how everything turned out.

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Our final presentation. Saying goodbye was so hard!

Reflecting on my time spent with Bradley, Janene, and Hannah at the Social History Center in the conservation department, I think I have grown a lot as a person as well as a future museum professional. It may seem obvious, but the thing I have really learned the most during my internship so far is what conservators really do. Up until now the field of conservation has always been really obscure to me since it is such a small and exclusive field. In most of my museum classes and experience interning at and visiting museums, conservation is definitely the least talked about topic, and the department that I really had the least understanding of.

Knowing that I want to work in a department like collections management or

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Here we are with Jackie, another Iziko intern and friend

curatorial, it is good to have the knowledge of certain conservation skills because many of the preventative conservation techniques overlap with those of other departments. It is also very insightful to know what a day looks like for a conservator and all the different kinds of work that they do. I’ve learned these past few weeks that Bradley does not just sit in the lab repairing objects all day, but works with the curators to be sure objects are suitable for display, regulates the temperatures and humidity in the storage rooms, and takes appropriate measures when infestations occur. And that’s just what he’s done in in the past two weeks! I have really gained a greater understanding and appreciation for conservators that I would not have had without working in the conservation department.

This week, Wandile also took us on a field trip to the West Coast Fossil Park, which was about two hours north of Cape Town. We all piled into a nice big van and Strombile drove us all out there. When we first arrived, we saw a whole tree full of yellow African weaver birds making nests, and they were the coolest

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Wandile took our photo while watching the birds

things. We watched them for a while before meeting a woman named Wendy, who was an educator at the site. We learned about fossils found on the site and the many different types of now-extinct wildlife. At the fossil park, a new museum is currently being built and should be opening in December if all continues well. It’s a little disappointing that we couldn’t see it, but it just means that we’ll all have to come back someday! Overall, this little vacation was a really cool and fun way to spend the day.

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Checking out the fossils!

Why Museums & Iziko Collaborative

Cape Town was a beautiful city to adventure. Having the opportunity to work in the space was tremendous to me and I am glad to say I worked in South Africa. It was an additional bonus that my job was apart of one of the finest museums around the world, Iziko Museums of South Africa! It is very sad that it is my time to leave but the experience will never bee forgotten. I have gotten he opportunity to work with some of the brightest people who believe in advancing education for our future generations, and love their job more than for the money. I have grown very close to my supervisor, and we plan to spend time together when she come to America for my graduation.

I have also spent time with other interns from around the world, and we have made a connection as well. His name was Imaniyono, and he taught me more of the xhosa language, and he life that he lives. The job that I took upon which was Education and Public Programming was not just an experience it was part of life. Learning the differences of how we live, things such as their ‘hot chips’ are considered our french fries, while American ‘hot chips’ are potato chips that are covered in paprika.

I really enjoyed finishing my final project for Iziko as well. My project consist of me putting together a collage of things that I adventured working with Iziko Museums. I included videos of young children, and even coleus showing their personal sides rather than just them working.I have worked in different departments that pertained to me traveling to different townships, and museums around South Africa. I went on one particular trip that was by the Iziko Mobile Museum, where they travel to townships and teach the children more about life, art, and history. They have displays to show the children such as dissected animals. We also had an opportunity to play on the drums and make me music and much more.

Working in this environment you learn that museums play a very important part of students. Museums teaches everyone about their history, why countries are build in their own way, and many more. Having art galleries are exciting for children. They get to be creative exploring their own minds no matter what mental issues that a child can have they still have a mind of their own. I feel sad not being able to see the finish product of the exhibition that Iziko will be hosting. The exhibition will consist of them showing off all the artworks from the students that come in and use their minds. I have worked with one year olds all the way to seniors in high school and it was a pleasure! These children give you hope, and they make your day just being there for an hour. I am very happy I came on this trip, and can not wait to further my education with art, and plan management.

Cape Town: Last Week & Article

Sadly, I only have a few days left in beautiful Cape Town :(. Our last weekend was really fun, but we also experienced some bad luck on the way. Friday we tried to take the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain and got destroyed in a freezing storm cloud. On Saturday, we tried to hike up Skeleton Gorge and again didn’t win against the rain. Instead, we decided to hike up Lions Head for sunset, not realizing how dark the way down would be; Alexa tumbled down off the trail, but luckily she lived. On Sunday, we went horseback riding on Noordhoek beach. It was a funny last weekend and made for some great memories.

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My last week of work has gone by really fast. I’m very appreciative of this opportunity as an intern at Iziko Social History Centre. One of the more important aspects I have learned about museums through my internship is how important these centers are for education of South Africa’s history and culture heritage. The biggest problem these centers face are due to the “boring” stereotype museums are given, specifically by the youth. The staff is extremely passionate about reaching to different audiences for education about South Africa’s history.

 

I really knew nothing about the jobs within a museum context before I started working at Iziko. I wasn’t aware of all the details and work that is put into each exhibit and its’ objects. I’ve learned about the importance of conservation and how much work is put into keeping historical objects maintained. Whether it be sorting through documents or helping preserve infested objects, I understand the process of taking care of history.

 

What made this experience enjoyable were the individuals I have met in the Iziko staff. My supervisors have been amazing at making me feel welcome and engaged. Although I’ve only been here a short four weeks, they have allowed me to learn many aspects about conservation work. I’m very thankful for my experience and the wonderful individuals at the Iziko Social History Centre.

 

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