As South Africa celebrates Heritage Month in September, a special focus is placed on museums and other cultural institutions whose mandate is to act as custodians of our collective artistic heritage.
The University of Pretoria (UP) Museums are no different, with them working proactively to provide a comprehensive offering to their patrons within the UP community as well as the broader public, focusing primarily on digitisation and the finalisation of re-opening plans for January 2021.
“We have completed a post COVID-19 re-opening strategy for when the UP Museums' doors will once again be open to our community and the public, most probably in January 2021. We are also working closely with our art partner Javett-UP on an initiative which is a joint-tiered membership offer that will provide for deeper engagement and enjoyment of the collections of the University of Pretoria,” Dr Sian Tiley-Nel, Head of the UP Museums, said in their online newsletter.
The UP Museums have also enhanced their online offering, enabling them to give virtual tours. Herzlia Weizmann Primary School in Cape Town, through its educator Donovan Henry, contacted the UP Museums with a request for an online lesson. The Museums’ Interpretive Officer, Nicole Hoffman, was on hand to provide a lesson tailored to the Mapungubwe Grade 6 school curriculum.
“Thank you for teaching us about Mapungubwe. I found your talk very interesting and I learnt a lot from it,” said one of the 36 students who each emailed the Museums after the virtual tour. Schools are welcome to contact the UP Museums ([email protected]) to take advantage of this unique online learning experience which provides an interesting educational opportunity.
As part of the annual active art acquisition programme, the UP Museums have managed to acquire two new pieces of artwork which will eventually be publicly exhibited within the sculpture galleries. The artworks are by Philiswa Lila and Johannes Maswanganyi.
Simangele by Philiswa Lila (left) and Leopard attacking a man by Johannes Maswanganyi (right).
The first artwork, Simangele (2019) by Lila, is a work made entirely of beads and is displayed suspended from the ceiling. The second artwork, Leopard attacking a man by Maswanganyi (ca 1990), depicts a landscape carved out of wood and features a tree, insects, night owls and a leopard eating a man. These works have been permanently accessioned into UP’s art collection.
For the remainder of this Heritage Month, the UP Museums have added exciting new online heritage puzzles and will be also be marking International Rhino Day on 22 September.
Additional activities include a series of talks. A recent public programme webinar featured Dr Tiley-Nel and Director of Javett-UP Christopher Till as speakers and Siseko Khumalo, editor of the Journal of Decolonising Discipline, as moderator. It focused on African gold and highlighted cultural appropriations and misappropriations, showcasing the National Treasures: Mapungubwe Gold Exhibition.
Two more talks for Heritage Month have been lined up, the first with LeadUP Alumni and the second a webinar on heritage management practices during the pandemic hosted by the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies in association with the South African Heritage Resources Agency.
Looking ahead, the UP Museums have exciting prospects with the Google Cultural Institute bringing their collections, archives and virtual exhibitions onto Google Arts & Culture. “Phase one of our upgrades to a more modern sculpture gallery is near completion. We have recently signed off the museum marketing strategy (2020-2025) and an exciting partnership with UP Alumni and other parties will be launched soon. Our strategic plan is detailed and courageous. It reflects and reframes our mission and vision to be more socially responsive university museums,” Dr Tiley-Nel said, sharing the UP Museums’ future plans.
To receive the UP Museums Newsletter please send an email to: [email protected].