The Stellenbosch University (SU) Museum, housed in a building that was originally built in 1907 as a girl's school for children to receive a learning experience, is still a place of transformative learning experiences today. Nowadays the museum has become a “safe space for everyone, doesn't matter from what race, age or gender they are" while living out the University's aspirations of social inclusion, providing a world class environment, transformation and social impact in the Stellenbosch community and beyond.
Judging by the visitor numbers, the year 2019 was a great year for the museum in fulfilling its mission with the theme of Forward? Forward! Forward … Based on this theme, activities at the museum aimed to be thought promoting, stimulate communication about the future and to enhance the transformative experience for people to have a brighter future.
Almost 14 000 persons visited the museum between February and September this year. Of these, more than 500 were learners from surrounding schools. More than 14 thought-leaders participated in a series of conversations and debates on topics ranging from the future of higher education, radical change of the institutional curriculum and youth in crisis to alternative African futures and the future of teaching in higher education.
According to Mr Bongani Mgijima, Director: SU Museum, “the museum is increasingly becoming a safe inclusive space for conversations about the past, the present and the future."
According to Mr Ricky Brecht, Education and Public Programmes Officer: SU Museum, the museum has become a place of engagement, memory, heritage, debate and creativity. “The broad diversity of the museum's programmes, ranging from film screenings, debates and African drumming to exhibitions and young people reciting their poems, bear testament to what the museum and its staff members are aspiring to," Brecht said.
Some of the SU Museum's highlights in 2019 were:
Thought-leaders who participated in conversations and debates during 2019 at the Museum, were Dr Morne Mostert (Institute for Futures Research [IFR]), Dr Njeri Mwagiru (IFR), Deidre Samson (IFR), Ashley Walters (IFR), Liza Grobler (artist), Strijdom van der Merwe (artist), Prof Nuraan Davids (Education); Prof Ronelle Carolissen (Educational Psychology), Doris Viljoen (Senior Futurist), Prof Jonathan Jansen (Education), Prof André Roux (IFR) and Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela (Historical Trauma and Transformation).
Nelson Mandela Colloquium
SU Museum, in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Museum, hosted the annual Nelson Mandela colloquium in July and 55 persons attended.
Access to visual arts
This programme is the flagship of the museum to bring learners – especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds – to the museum. The aim of the programme is to increase learners' access to the Museum and introduce them to visual arts.
“History has taught us that because of economic reasons, few learners from disadvantaged backgrounds get an opportunity to visit museums. The Museum goes out of its way to address some of the challenges experienced by schools by covering the travelling costs of these learners and by treating them to lunch packs," said Brecht.
The Open Mic Poetry events
The Museum collaborated with local businessperson Paul Khambule, the Lokxion Foundation and Kayamandi Arts and Cultural Festival (KACF) to celebrate life in the townships near Stellenbosch through poetry. “Our vision is to create opportunities for the township youth to discover their talent and to give them a platform to share their poetry with people. We believe that through performing arts like poetry vulnerable young people are given essential life skills, self-confidence, leadership opportunities, respect for themselves and others and a sense of purpose," Brecht said.
African Drumming Tuesdays
Almost 100 staff, students and community members attended the African drumming sessions presented by Vuyo Mgijima, an experienced African drummer from Kayamandi. These weekly sessions were fully booked in advance. “There is a great demand for the drumming as it is highly relaxing and therapeutic, relieving stress and nurturing creativity. It is also very good for increasing performance in the workplace and building team spirit and social cohesion," Brecht said.
One of the exhibitions, The 100 Artefacts for 100 Years, forms part of the SU's Centenary commemorations. This exhibition, initiated by Prof Wim de Villiers, SU's Rector and Vice-Chancellor, represents the 100 years of SU's existence through the presentation of 100 objects of cultural-historical interest. Prof Matilda Burden, senior researcher in cultural history at the Museum, presented several walkabouts of the artefacts exhibition.
Some of the other art exhibitions hosted at the SU Museum, as part of the Wednesday Art Walkabouts by Art curator, Ulrich Wolff, included the works of Maggie Laubser, Irma Stern, Solomon Caesar Malan, John Muafangejo, Willie Bester, William Kentridge, Christo Coetzee and Auguste Rodin.
Training and general outreach to the public
The SU Museum is in the unique position that it is the only museum in South Africa offering training in museology. Accredited three-day-long short courses are presented all over the country for museum staff as an introduction to museology. These courses, presented by Burden, are in high demand and are often followed by courses in heritage conservation. At the same time, lectures on cultural history, heritage and heritage conservation are also presented to numerous historical, heritage and other local societies, as well as to government and provincial departments. As part of this outreach, schools in the Western Cape are also visited to expose learners of different cultures to the concept of heritage and assist them in understanding their own culture.