Mabafokeng Hoeane joins the Smithsonian Institution’s African Museology International Exchange Program

Posted on March 21, 2023

In February 2023, Ms Mabafokeng Hoeane, a doctoral student at the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship was accepted into the into the African Museology International Exchange program hosted by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) and Office of International Relations (OIR), and the US Department of State’s Cultural Heritage Center (CHC). 

As an African art museum, with a large collection of historical and contemporary work from throughout the African continent, the NMAfA is seeking to redress the historical reliance on Western knowledge frameworks and academic expertise to conserve, document, frame, and interpret our collection, at the near exclusion of the expertise of those from whom and where the collection originates (i.e., Africa and the African diaspora).  

The exchange programme engages with cultural heritage practitioners from Africa to work on a series of projects that contribute to generating new and informed approaches to Afro-museology. In 2023, the programme only recruited eight practitioners, who are recruited based on their demonstrated innovative approaches to their practice and a commitment to creative and regenerative museum practices that positively contribute to ongoing individual, community, and social well-being.

Ms Hoeane's project in the programme will explore the Curation and Conservation methods used on African Sacred/Spiritual artefacts in the Smithsonian collection, with the aim to help the Smithsonian identify and separate African Sacred/Spiritual artefacts from other African artefacts in their collection. Ms Hoeane will travel to the originating communities of the identified sacred/spiritual artefacts, and collaborate with these communities on the appropriate methods of curation and conservation of their sacred/spiritual artefacts when in museum collections.

Ms Hoeane is part of the Centre's Mellon Foundation funded project on “Entanglements, Mobility and Improvisation: Culture and the Arts in Contemporary African Urbanism and its Hinterlands”. She holds an MA in Tangible Heritage Conservation from the University of Pretoria, and her research focused on the curation and conservation of sacred/spiritual ceramic vessels of the Basotho and Batswana of Southern Africa known as ‘Dinkho tsa Badimo’ (ancestral vessels). She is currently pursuing her PHD in Visual Cultural Studies also at the University of Pretoria. Her PHD research explores Zulu ceremonial beads paying attention to beaded aprons worn by married women during traditional and cultural ceremonies.

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