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IZIKO MUSEUMS OF SOUTH AFRICA AND THE FUTURE OF MUSEUMS:

RECOVER AND REIMAGINE WITH MS ROOKSANA OMAR

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ziko Museums of South Africa, or affectionately known as ‘Iziko’, is the mother city’s premier public cultural attraction, and operates eleven national museums, a planetarium, a social history archive, three collectionspecific libraries, as well as the wreck site of the São José Paquete Africa. Iziko, an isiXhosa word meaning ‘hearth’, embodies the spirit of a transformed institution and the vision of ‘African Museums of Excellence’. The hearth is traditionally and symbolically the social centre of the home; a place associated with warmth, kinship and the spirits of ancestors. Iziko was thus envisaged as a space for all South Africans to gather, nourish body and soul, and share stories and knowledge passed from one generation to the next. Iziko seeks to celebrate our heritage whilst generating new cultural legacies for future generations, and a society that has moved beyond the shackles of the past. In considering the 2021 theme for the upcoming International Museum Day, The Future of Museums: Recover and Reimagine, it’s important to recognise that – while museums such as Iziko seek to generate a sense of community and foreground heritage – there is much work to be done in addressing South Africa’s painful past, and navigating our contemporaneity of a pandemic, economic hardship, the on-set of global warming, and the ever-increasing growth in Artificial Intelligence, social media and technological advancements. “Iziko Museums has a very deep history, legacy, practise – and it’s something that one is proud to learn from and be

associated with,” says Ms Rooksana Omar, CEO, Iziko Museums of South Africa. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Iziko Museums is perfect.” “Because the Museums, the collections, are old – there is a huge need for these museums to engage in an introspection. We need to introspect in terms of our collections, in terms of our practises, in terms of what we are collecting and why we are collecting. And this introspection can be path-breaking; we have to look inside to be able to do things right outside.” Ms Omar joined Iziko as Chief Executive Officer in 2010, the first woman at the helm of the establishment, and spearheaded Iziko’s institutional transformation process. Under Omar’s leadership, Iziko was renamed the Iziko Museums of South Africa – marking a turning point within the institution and affirming Iziko’s national status. Like South Africa’s anthem and flag, Iziko Museums is an integral part of our national identity. “I think what really made me want to join the Iziko Museums of South Africa, and lead it, is that I’ve always perceived it as being iconic museums in the country. As we know, Iziko is one of the two flagships within South Africa – and I’ve always stood afar and admired the collections they’ve had, the people who work here, and the programmes they’ve done. “It all seemed so fantastic, interesting, path-breaking; it just seemed so right and appealing to be a part of this team of people who were doing everything so right in terms of bringing the museums alive, bringing it to the people, and being

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Municipal Focus Volume 52  

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