Seminar: Exhibiting Apartheid, 18 June

ICCHS Research Seminar,  1-2pm, Room 1.06, 18 Windsor Terrace

Speaker: Aron Mazel

Exhibiting Apartheid: the first displays of the South African Cultural History Museum

Display from the 1960s at the South African Cultural History Museum.

Display from the 1960s at the South African Cultural History Museum.

The South African Cultural History Museum (SACHM) was opened in Cape Town on 6 April 1966. Then known as Van Riebeeck’s Day, this date carried deep symbolic significance in the Afrikaner psyche wherein Van Riebeeck, who was the first colonial governor of the Dutch settlement at the Cape, was seen as the founding father of the white South African nation. It has already been argued that during the 1950s and 1960s the National Party and Afrikaner Broederbond supporting ideologues increasingly dominated the South African Museum (SAM) Board that enabled and led to the creation of the SACHM as an offshoot of the SAM (Mazel 2013). Furthermore, it is believed that their aspirations changed from initially the display of cultural history material, within the auspices of the SAM, into the establishment an independent museum committed to the presentation and housing of white South African and European material and history. Acknowledging these perspectives, this seminar paper will investigate (i) the messages conveyed by the SACHM exhibits when it was opened to the public on Van Riebeeck’s Day in 1966 and (ii) the processes leading to the creation of the displays.

All welcome. No need to book. Please just come along!

POSTER_ICCHS Research Seminar 18 June 2014

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Museums and Apartheid

Aron Mazel has recently published an extensive paper about the creation of the South African Cultural History Museum in the 1950 and 1960s that focuses on (i) the role that several apartheid ideologues played in this and (ii) the different phases leading to its establishment and the ‘twists and turns’ associated with them.

Nationalist Party Senator, DH van Zyl

Nationalist Party Senator, DH van Zyl, was a key figure in the creation of the South African Cultural History Museum.

‘In the 1950s and 1960s, white National Party (NP) and Afrikaner Broederbond (AB) ideologues and functionaries, who came to power in 1948, recast and realigned South African museums, to strengthen the ideological underpinning of Apartheid. Investigation of an extensive range of documentary sources housed in South African archives has led to the suggestion that the splitting of the South African Museum (SAM) in Cape Town, which led to the creation of the South African Cultural History Museum (SACHM), formed part of this process. The paper shows that (i) NP and AB ideologues increasingly dominated the SAM Board during the 1950s and early 1960s and (ii) their aspirations changed from the display of cultural history material, within the auspices of the SAM, into the establishment a fully-fledged independent SACHM committed to the presentation and housing of white South African and European material and history. The SACHM came into existence in 1964.’

Reference: Mazel, A.D. 2013. Apartheid’s child: the creation of the South African Cultural History Museum in the 1950s and 1960s. Museum History Journal. 6 (2): 166-202.

Association of Southern African Archaeologists biennial conference, Botswana

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Aron Mazel attended the biennial conference of the Association of Southern African Archaeologists (ASAPA) that took place at the University of Botswana, in Gaborone, between 3 and 7 July 2013. It was Aron’s first ASAPA conference since 2000. The conference covered a range of archaeological topics from the Early Stone Age over a million years ago to the building of bridges in the industrial era. Aron did two presentations:   (i) ‘It’s about time: reflections on recent papers about Didima rock art and the construction of hunter-gatherer history in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg’ and (ii) ‘Politics, Education and Archaeology: a personal reflection on the period between 1979-1994.’ The first paper was a continuation of research he has been doing over an extended period which (i) investigated the reluctance of rock art specialists to engage with information generated from the excavation of rock art shelters and surface collections in addressing hunter-gatherer history and (ii) continued with the process of integrating information from rock art studies with excavation research work done in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg to construct a richer hunter-gatherer history. The second paper reflected on the author’s experiences of archaeology in South Africa between 1979 when he joined the KwaZulu-Natal Museum, and 1994 when South Africa voted in its first democratic government. He used his experiences (and that of colleagues) to challenge the comments made by Shepherd (2003) that: ‘The defining characteristic of archaeology under apartheid was the growing separation between archaeology and society.’