__MAIN_TEXT__
feature-image

Page 34

IZIKO MUSEUMS

...one of the most attractive things about Iziko Museums; we have these disciplines – natural history, social history, art – and we try and bring them together to tell a holistic story. And I think you can see this in some of the galleries,

Ms Rooksana Omar, CEO, Iziko Museums of South Africa

hugely creative. I was really attracted to that – to that ethos, to that business practice and how they were able to position themselves within the artistic, cultural and natural landscape in the country, and not just one little corner of South Africa.” This year, the Iziko South African National Gallery celebrates its 175th year, and in 2025, the Iziko South African Museum will turn 200-years-old. While these institutions have certainly stood the test of time, the 21st century – and especially the year 2020 – has brought with it many changes and challenges; the cultural sector is among the most affected, with serious economic, social and psychological repercussions in the short and long-term alike. However, this crisis, specifically that of Covid-19, has also served as a catalyst for crucial innovations that were already underway. “We are continuously recognising that we’ve got to adapt. We’ve got to adapt, we’ve got to change, we’ve got to react,” says Ms Omar. “Museums are a reminder of the fact that we are on a continuous path of learning.” “You don’t always want to be the institution that has answers. We are learning from each other, from other practises, from other leaders, from other

32

Municipal Focus

museum workers, from exchanges. And I think that’s the plus about working at Iziko Museums; we know that we’ve got a heritage to look after, and it has relevance to South Africa, Africa and the world – but we don’t claim we always have the answers. And that is something very valuable in an institution, not to have an arrogance.” Throughout her time leading Iziko, Omar has endeavoured to break down barriers between the Museums and communities, by making Iziko more inviting, open and accessible. Since her appointment, Omar has sought to develop the foundation for critical exchanges, build collections to speak to and represent South Africa’s collective past, and to recognise the inequities of the past – reclaiming powerful histories and working for social inclusion, knowledge creation and community participation. “We say that we want to foster social cohesion, and we’ve got to accept that one of the world’s biggest challenges is the issue of social cohesion. It’s a challenge and there is no overnight solution – yet it’s important to bring people together, to work together, to find common ground, and to appreciate our differences. “That is one of the most attractive things

about Iziko Museums; we have these disciplines – natural history, social history, art – and we try and bring them together to tell a holistic story. And I think you can see this in some of the galleries, where they are working with other collections and seeing the beauty of these vast collections coming together and taking on different meanings, and becoming more meaningful. By adding those elements – it actually gives one a far fuller understanding of ourselves as human beings. “Visiting Iziko will really open your eyes to different narratives of the world in which we live. There are some fantastic exhibitions at each one of our museums, and they just bring a totally different narrative for different people.” As spaces of heritage, Iziko Museums are an important social conduit for educating people about societal issues, stimulating active citizenship, and acting as catalysts for social change. Now, perhaps more than ever before, Iziko can offer a sense of community; through exhibitions, research, and educational and public programmes – museums are able to cast an eye on the resilience of the human spirit, and come to be a space where we feel connected to each other. While the world is no longer what it once was, Iziko is still a place for all South Africans to gather – be it virtually, or within our physically-distance-friendly museums. “Our heritage has very important meaning for the world, and for learning, and for understanding the world. And that is something that we have to Text by Ellen Agnew treasure always.”

Profile for kwedamedia

Municipal Focus Volume 52  

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded