June 14: Apartheid Museum

Today we visited the Apartheid Museum, which provoked deep thinking about apartheid and its legacy. I found that the museum’s ability to interweave stories of life under apartheid — the experience of solitary confinement for a political prisoner, the feeling of walking under a sign marked nie-blankes (non-whites), the intensity of the streets of Soweto filled with children’s visions for justice, and more — encouraged its guests to probe their understandings of racial injustice and ask difficult questions.

As an example, rhetoric of “safety” was a theme which was traceable throughout the museum. Since the first arrival of the Dutch, whites in South Africa have used dislocation and dispossession as instruments of control, and countless personal narratives shared throughout the museum reaffirmed this. In the twentieth century, this strategy remained central. From the demolition of slums in the 1930s to the eviction of black South Africans from vibrant neighborhoods like Sophiatown, the government suppressed the power and autonomy of black South Africans  by controlling where they could and could not live. In addition to generating rootlessness, the government ensured that each emergent black community would remain poor by depriving its residents of equal economic opportunity. And yet, slums and informal settlements were (and sometimes still are) condemned as being unsafe in an endemic way, one that blames family structure or moral degeneracy rather than addressing the structural causes that have created inequality. When Henrik Verwoed justified his plans for apartheid before a massive white audience as shown via video clip in the museum, he declared that his ideas would preserve safety for future generations. I was left thinking: in what ways do leaders today both generate and condemn the crime that accompanies inequality? How else does rhetoric about safety divide us?

Screen Shot 2018-06-17 at 9.31.54 AM

(photo from https://www.apartheidmuseum.org/about-museum-0)

This is only one of many concepts that the museum probed. The hours we spent in the museum raised questions about the purpose of retributive justice, the power of propaganda, the nature of activism, and more. As we had lunch in the cafe after our visit, we had much to discuss and learned from one another’s observations. Without a doubt, the museum laid an original and thought-provoking groundwork for the rest of our time in Johannesburg and beyond.

Advertisements

Constitution Hill

 

mandela ghandi

After visiting the Apartheid Museum, we all went to Constitution Hill which was once a prison for the men and women of South Africa as well as a military fort. Today, it functions as a historical museum and it is home to the supreme court of South Africa where people are able to come and visit freely. Some of the areas have been rebuilt for different purposes but they reuse the old bricks that once made up the prison. By keeping the majority of this prison standing, visitors can be educated and South Africans can be reminded of the history that goes along with this building. When walking through the actual prison, people can see this monument as an emotional and symbolic reminder to not make the same mistakes that have been made in the past.

One of the most notable things within the prison was the row of solitary confinement cells. Famous freedom fighters such as Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Joe Slovo, Albertina Sisulu, and Fatima Meer have been imprisoned here and many would have been held in these solitary confinement cells for days at a time. Some could have been held in solitary confinement for up to a year. It was an emotional experience to be able to walk inside them, to actually realize how small they were, and to try to realize just how terrible of a thing it is for humans to be forced to spend twenty-three hours a day in here by themselves with very little food or water.

While at Constitution Hill, we also walked through where the women’s prison and courtyard used to be. There, and in other places on the site, we could see evidence and stories of the unjust and inhumane treatment that both women and men were made to endure while imprisoned here. Freedom fighters like Nelson Mandela expressed the inhumane conditions of South Africa’s’ prisons at the time. He said in his autobiography that “no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones — and South Africa treated its imprisoned African citizens like animals”.

We saw in the women’s prison how the showers were set up: outside with cold water and no privacy. We also learned about the racial disparities between black, white, and coloured prisoners in South Africa which affected everything from how they dressed to what they ate and who they spent time with.

printmaking.PNG

Constitution Hill also has a gallery space which we were able to spend some time in. We sketched patterns which related to the works we saw. As a nice ending to an emotional day, we used these patterns to do printmaking! We put our handmade prints onto little booklets which we can give as gifts to people who teach us and help us throughout our trip.

Three cities, thirty hours

Flight one

6/11

Flight one was pretty easy. Got to the airport at ~1:00. Mom and dad dropped me off and got a little weepy. Bag check took a little while. Had to wait for the attendant for about half an hour but it gave enough time for Brittany to get there. Security was easy as pie and the guards were really chill and nice. Waiting for ~3 hours was not bad but it was a while. Boarding went pretty easy too but there was a little discrepancy with some people’s seats and i had to valet check by backpack. I got a great seat though window in a single seat asile and the flight was smooooottttthhhhhh such a quick flight didn’t even finish my podcast. 

A long wait

Sitting in the Chicago airport was a lengthy boring process. We had 4 hours of just sitting at the gate. We ate McDonald’s and just chilled 

Flight 2

6/11: Boarding process was another smooth and easy process but surprise surprise the seat was the first row of economy class so no seat in front and more leg room butttt no place to tuck personal bag or water bottle. One neat thing though Is the tv screen flips up. I got the middle seat on the right side of the plane. Hopefully I’ll be able to sleep for most of the flight. Okay 25 min after we were supposed to leave and we’re still at the gate. Apparently there’s some issue with the water system but the pilot hopes it’ll be fixed in five minutes. It never seems good when the maintenance hopes about something. Also the guy sitting next to me looks kinda like Zane Ballard. Finally taxi-ing to the runway at 8:08… we were supposed to leave at 7:30~ two hours in and I’m no closer to sleep and my joints are killing me. ibuprofen!~about midnight(Chicago time) i was able to sleep for about an hour. I hope the sunrise is pretty ~ the last bit of the flight was fairly unremarkable gentle landing and easy un boarding.

London: 6/12

Getting out of Heathrow was odd lots of twists and turns but we got through the boarder really quite easily. Once out, Brittany and I were planning on just buying a train ticket to paddington station and then going from there but instead with the advice from the salesman just took the underground to Picadilly Circus. That was a bit of an experience,getting the passes a little bit of a tricky kiosk but we got it followed the signs for the underground with mild confusion and off into London we went.

IMG_8713

Underground stop for our London Adventure

The salesman had said that we would be going to the Chinatown area but we found ourselves wandering around amongst higher end shops and buzzing traffic and pedestrians. Took a bit for me to remember that both cars and pedestrians keep to the left. With a bit of fairly aimless wandering and photos Brittany decided we needed a goal and we decided to find some coffee and breakfast. We found a chocolate shop that had a little sign advertising cappuccino and a croissant for four euro. It was delicious! We sat and enjoyed that at a little window bar watching people walk by. Once finished we returned to our wandering and then decided that with the daunting rumors of how confusing the airport would be we headed back. Once again an easy tube ride. This is where Brittany and I became befuddled. We didn’t have any idea of what terminal our flight would be in and ended up getting off the underground at the third terminal where with some sleuthing discovered we were in terminal 5. We were going to just get back on the underground but there were signs for a free shuttle to the terminal. With slight difficulty we found our way in the right direction and got to terminal five. Once there we tried fruitlessly to find out where our flight would be but being that we had more than 4 hours before it arrived couldn’t find any definite information. A stop at the bathroom for freshening up was the only thing we could think to do. With sleep-numbed brains we went through security and there was some issue with my boarding pass so I had to go and get a new one. This left Brittany and I separated without a communication method. The lack of sleep paired with the disorienting separation from my travel partner left me to make some silly mistakes at security. I tried to go through with a watch, bracelet, hat, necklace and shoes on. Both of my bins had to be checked over and while I waited Brittany and I teamed back up. She tried to uncover where we were supposed to go while I waited to have my belongings looked through. In the end it was a silly mistake, I had left the mini water from the first flight in my bag. With that quickly sorted, Brittany and I headed down to where the gates and shops seemed to be. After picking some things up at a little shop and WiFi in hand Brittany went off to go put on makeup and feel more human and I just poked around some shops. I found wine gums, a favorite fruit snack, at a duty free store and went to find a seat by the agreed meeting area. When Brittany came back I went to go change out of my leggings into my “sleep clothes” and give myself a little pampering. New socks and some lotion on my dehydrated tired skin was lovely. I added a Starbucks coffee on the way back and my return to human form was complete. A few hours of sitting and wandering and we found that the flight would be in gate c somewhere but we wouldn’t know till 5:50 what gate and until we had a gate we were supposed to stay in the gate a area. I bought a thing of gyoza vegetable udon and munched on that till we went to our flight. Down an escalator on another train and an elevator and we were at the gate. A little wait due to some door maintenance that made time for an interesting conversation with some people from a well project out of Malawi. I almost wished I could go on their trip too. With the maintenance taking a bit longer than expected they boarded the upper deck of the plane. Yeah there were two floors! A bit more chatter and we boarded.

Flight 3

6/12 This time I ended up in the middle of the plane but with nobody on my left or behind me!!! Fell right off to sleep when we took off it was so smooth if I hadn’t gotten my little bit of vertigo I wouldn’t have realized. I woke up when the drink service began and dinner followed soon after. I got chicken curry and it wasn’t bad but I wasn’t terribly hungry after the udon I ate not too long ago. I really enjoyed the tea with milk and sugar it was quite relaxing.

IMG_8725

plane curry

A quick trip to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth followed the dimming of the lights. I decided to take out a face mask I had brought to help my skin which looked rough from lack of sleep and probably dehydration. Some more lotion to keep from being a crusty hoe and it was off to snooze-ville. About an hour after I fell asleep Brittany woke me up because she had broken out in a rash since after dinner it wasn’t serious but she just wanted somebody else to know. I returned to my seat and went back to sleep for an hour. I was tired but uncomfortable so I just watched documentaries from National Geographic. A few hours later at about 2am Chicago there was a good amount of turbulence to roll my stomach. The air smoothed our and I was able to steal another hour or so of sleep and I must have looked a sight as I had fallen asleep hugging my box of wine gums to my chest. We got breakfast with about an hour left in the flight. It was a full English and it wasn’t bad. Unfortunately the fruit was pineapple so I couldn’t eat that and I’m still not too fond of raw tomatoes on their own or sausage, the egg and mushrooms were good. Thank heavens for tea though. I was able to go to the bathroom before our decent.

IMG_8731

Almost there!!

The landing wasn’t bad but it took a while to get off the plane. Passport check was easy and Brittany and my bag was one of the first off the belt when we walked up. A winding hallway some sliding doors and there was Marit and Nate.

Week 4

Ah so much happened.  Sunday we climbed Table Mountain. That was hands down the most difficult thing I have ver done in my life. The views were worth it though.IMG_4615 2

This week we were moving around a bit at work. The first day was spent in the marine biology lab of the South African Museum. We met Wayne one of the marine biology curators at the Iziko. He asked use some hard questions about the role of museums and collections within a museum. According to him the most important part of a museum is the collection. Since his collection is scientific instead of art works the collection takes on a role beyond the exhibition as an archive for scientific research. South Africa is the third most biodiverse country in the world. The collection at the Iziko has about 5 million specimens documenting thousands of animal species. Of course when he spit out those numbers I was in awe, but it also made me think of museum collections in a new light. We are usually focused on the values to humans but the collections at a natural history museum can help use understand evolution, the environment, and the impact we have on the environment. It could probably also help influence environmental decisions moving forward.

The rest of the week I was with Amy, the exhibition designer for the Iziko. This was a totally new experience for me. Her job was to come up with the idea of how an exhibition would look and what the experience would be for visitors. with her I created mood boards, met with collections managers to discuss what would be displayed, met with the carpenters building the exhibitions, and held 200 million year old fossils!!!  This week was super dope and I’m definitely considering this as a possible job option.

Friday we did out final presentations and said our goodbyes. It was bittersweet but i had a great experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Cape Town: Week 4

I cant believe that I’ve made it to this point already. It feels like just last week we were just arriving in Cape Town, unsure of what the city had in store for us. Now the journey has become clear, being that its reaching the end, and we’re going out with a bang. We got tattoos! Group tattoos! This experience has effected all 4 of us immensely, so we collaboratively decided to document this pivotal moment in our lives.

This was also our last week of work. Saying goodbye to our supervisors and coworkers was hard, but at I’m grateful to have met Janine, Bradley, Stacy, Melanie, Wandile and everyone else that I crossed paths with along the way. Their presences’ made my South African experience unreal. I’m going to miss South Africa but I have a feeling that I’ll be back fairly soon, so my feels haven’t set in yet.

 

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 🙂 )

Final Week in Cape Town!

To start the week off strong we went and climbed Table Mountain on Sunday! We did a little research and decided Platteklip Gorge was the best trail for us to take. Our timing was not so great so we started a little later in the day which resulted in us having to race against the sun to get to the top so we wouldn’t be climbing in the dark or so we would not miss the cable car back down! Otherwise we would be stuck climbing back down in the dark! We made it thankfully, but it definitely was no cake walk. It was pretty rough and I think we all at one point were reconsidering our decision to climb this mountain, especially since it felt like it was never-ending! We took a wrong turn at one point which led us to a cool waterfall which was actually worth the wasted time. We struggled sometimes but when we all finally made it to the top it was such an amazing feeling. At the top we had a group bonding moment because it was seriously such an accomplishment for us all. I think it was probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do and I have never felt more accomplished and proud. Once at the top it was an easy walk to the cable car which we took back down instead of climbing.

The rest of the week went by so fast it was crazy! On Monday we switched things up a bit by working in the marine biology collections area of the museum. We worked with the small specimens of coral and all other weird sea life. It was pretty cool to see this other side of museums since up till now we have been working with just the art and social history side of museums. It was really cool to experience this aspect of museums and see how this department functions.

Then the rest of the week we were back with Janine and Bradley working on documenting and cleaning a bunch of old artifacts that had just come back from the Slave Lodge after having been there for almost 20 years! It was pretty interesting work and it was nice being able to see and experience for myself how these artifacts are handled. This week we definitely did and saw a lot of new stuff that goes along with working in museums and handling the various collections of the museum.

On Friday, our final day (insert sad face), we gave a presentation about all we have learned and experienced here at the Iziko museums. Afterwards we gave little going away gifts to everyone there and said our goodbyes to Janine, Bradley, Wandile, and a couple other people that we worked with along the way. I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be to say goodbye to all these amazing people I had met and worked with here. I know we will for sure miss Cape Town and South Africa and all the cool and amazing people we met here. It was such an amazing experience and I can say for sure that I will never forget this crazy journey!

Week 3

We started off the week with a day in the castle of Good Hope. We were helping the staff there prepare to open again for the the first time in years. We spent the morning dust busting! It was fun to be in a castle and the grounds were beautiful. We also got to see a mock key ceremony and a man fire a canon a few times. The castle was also a stark representation of a concept we spoke about a lot during our time so far. Decolonizing museums comes up often in conversation and I think this place is a prime example of the issues of colonialism in museums. Most of the artwork in the castle are paintings of grand Dutch ships on the sea. The artwork, mock presentations, and castle itself ring of colonial times. That being said they are still a part of South African history and heritage. The question for curators now is how to make this space more accessible to local visitors. It could be through dissecting the problematic history behind certain portraits or, making labels in Xhosa as well as English and Afrikaans.

We spent rest of this week on the mobile museum. . Using some of the printmaking techniques we learned in Johannesburg we led a workshop with the children on printmaking. Using styrofoam and pens the children created their own stamps and printed on paper. The other mobile museum days we went to libraries in different communities. It was interesting to see how museums functioned in Cape Town versus at home. Many of the places we visited had full day programs for children during the school holiday led by volunteers. At home we have programs at libraries that may last an hour or two but not something as intensive. I think the way they do it in South Africa is good though because it helps keep the kids out of trouble. At work this week was also bittersweet since the interns from Reunion Island who started the same time as us were leaving. On Thursday we had a potluck as a group with our supervisors. There was great food and wonderful company. Carol could not be there but she sent over cake and cookies for us which was sweet.

 

Cape Town: Week 3

The highlight of week 3 in Capetown for me was Mandela Day, a national holiday in South Africa. On this holiday we took the moble museum bus out to Wellington, a township about 30 minutes away from Capetown. There, our supervisors performed their usual revelation of taxidermy animals and facts about the diffrent aspects of museums. However, afterwards Isadora, Kiana, Liz and I were specifically granted the opportunity to teach the children of the orphanage a printmaking technique that we were taught by our own instructors; Nate and Marit. We wanted the children to express what freedom meant to them through printmaking. Although some children stuck to the theme more than others, I was just excited to see them all enthused take on the styrofoam printing technique that I was also new to.

Third Week of Internships!

During our third week here at the Iziko museums we started Monday off by cleaning the new exhibit in the Castle of Good Hope. This exhibit had been closed for over a year and it’s reopening was this week so we helped clean and prepare the space. Tuesday was Mandela Day so we went with Sthembele on the mobile museum to an area called Wellington where we facilitated an activity for the kids at the children’s home that we visited. We took our former printmaking experience and did a small activity using the Styrofoam method and had the kids make their own prints on pieces of paper. It was really successful and I think the kids had a good time!

This week was Lizz’s birthday week so we spent time celebrating with her doing various activities. On Wednesday we went to a really really fancy dinner on her birthday that served a 6 course meal with wine pairings. The highlight was the dessert, it was absolutely delicious! We all had a really good time and I especially enjoyed experiencing something a little different from what we have been doing here in Cape Town so far. On Friday we went back to Camps Bay beach and enjoyed the sand and the sun since it was such a beautiful day. Afterwards we went on the Ferris wheel at the Waterfront and enjoyed the views of Cape Town.

Over the weekend we made the trip to Stellenbosch to some wine tasting; we had dinner at one winery and did tastings at two others, one of which had a chocolate and wine pairing! It was interesting seeing this area of Cape Town because it was still very similar but had such a different vibe. It has been really interesting hearing people’s opinions of these different areas of South Africa and then being able to see it for myself.