By Ruvesen Naidoo
On 10 May, Makhanda’s Amazwi South African Museum of Literature hosted the Sarah Baartman District International Museum Day celebrations under the theme of ‘Museums, Sustainability and Well-being’.
Amongst the crowd were various schools of Makhanda where learners had the opportunity to enjoy the exhibitions on display. With the arrival of learners from Mary Waters, Nathaniel Nyaluza, Khutliso Daniels, Nombulelo High, Ntsika Secondary, T.E.M. Mrwetyana Secondary, the Amasango Career School, PJ Olivier, the Andrew Moyake School of Excellence and Archie Mbolekwa Primary, the day soon became more than just a celebration, but an opportunity for learners to educate themselves on the history of both their culture and livelihoods, in a more informal, local context.
Amazwi education officer, Nozipho Madiona, started the day off by explaining the ‘Human Nature’ exhibit which showed how the environment can be protected and highlighted the contributions of South African literature to the understanding of the relationship between humanity and nature.
Lwazi Bhengu, representing the International Council of Museums, encouraged learners to take notes, pictures, and voice recordings of the tour as he explained that Amazwi museum prides itself on inclusivity and for the exhibitions of the museum to reflect the different cultures in South Africa. The ‘Sustainability’ part of the theme, Bhengu said, was about people meeting their own needs in a responsible way. He added that it was important for museum exhibits to be socially sustainable by showing their efforts towards protection of both personal rights and cultural rights. Amazwi does this by not charging any entrance fee, and by displaying exhibitions that advocate against gender-based violence and embrace cultural differences.
As the talk drew to a close, learners headed back to the outdoor seating area to enjoy the day’s festivities including a performance by the Archie Mbolekwa school marimba band. The purpose of the day was shared by Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture senior manager MS N. Wakaba, who said museums serve as a “pathway to history, a protection of our culture and gives us an insight to the past and the future”. Messages of support were given by representatives of the department of education, department of safety.
Department of Education representative, Viwe Pikoli said that learner participation in presentations represents oral history and encourages schools to start debating societies. Mncedisi Boma of the Eastern Cape Department of Safety said it was their primary goal that learners are able to learn in safe environments that are safe.
Soon after, came the presentations by learners Junior Booi from Andrew Moyake, Siyolise Booi from Ntsika Secondary school, Aphelele Mabombo from T.E.M. Mrwetyana, Linamandla Ndzolongwane from Mary Waters and Thukela Sobisi from Hoerskool P.J. Olivier.
The programme director of the day, Sarah Baartman District’s assistant director of museums and heritage resources, Zandisile Sakata, seemed delighted with the showcase of presentations by the school learners and announced that they would receive prizes donated by the Department of Community Safety, including a bag, tablets and laptops. These prizes were humbly supplied by the department of safety.
The crowd listened closely to the presentations shared by the learners, who shared the sentiment that museums preserve both heritage and indigenous knowledge of South Africans, and that museums should constantly work towards creating events and programs that contribute to healthier lifestyles.
Ntsika Secondary school matriculant, Siyolise Booi in his presentation, spoke of how the plants he saw are common in his own cultural practices. The judges handed down their decision – in first place was Thukela Sobisi, second was Linamandla Ndzolongwane, third was Aphelele Mabombo, in fourth place was Siyolise Booi and fifth place was given to Junior Booi.
Dr Tom Jeffrey, principal curator at the Amazwi museum, was a guest speaker, saying that indigenous knowledge preservation contributes to ecological preservation. “Ecological and social justice are part of a single path to the overall well-being of a person,” Jeffrey added.
Judges said they were grateful for the learner’s presentations as it showed their understanding and respect for the existence and purpose of museums.