Mudzunga Munzhedzi, Dimakatso Tlhoaele and Thembeka Nxele from the Museum's Human and Natural Science departments attended a workshop that was held at the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town last week. The workshop was aimed specifically at English-speaking African countries, targeting young museum professionals . About 30 participants from different countries attended the workshop including two facilitators, Nomusa Makhubu who is a Senior Lecturer of Art History at the University of Cape Town, and Nicole van Dijk who is a Curator at Museum Rotterdam. Participants came from across Africa, notably South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Botswana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Seychelles, Ghana, and Uganda.
The workshop mainly focused on engaging communities as well as sectional and multiple groups in knowledge-making. In simple terms, the key focus was to explore socially-responsive strategies of museum practice. This is due to the fact that museums are currently undergoing rapid changes that affect how we understand the museum’s social responsibility, how we refine our approach to professional roles and how we engage with perceptions about the place of the museum in contemporary societies. It was valuable for the museum staff because it is the Curators, Collections Managers, Educators, Conservators, Management’s role (a) to relate to strategize in response to the changing role of the museum and the changing objectives of the museums and displays, (b) to use innovative methodologies towards curatorial practice, (c) to create programs to attract and sustain new and diverse audiences, (d) to facilitate strategic planning in developing long-term goals in light of the discourse of decolonization and transformation, (e) to develop the capacity to engage creatively with difficult histories, and (f) to apply critical thinking in relation to the complex socio-political challenges faced by public and private museums.
The lectures covered included Museum as Institution – the African context; The Changing Role of the Museum in the 21st Century; Active Collecting for Social Change - contemporary interpretation of heritage (case study Museum Rotterdam); Community-led or Community-centered: stakeholders, plural communities, citizenship and public engagement (case study Red Location Museum, Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum); as well as Multiple Narratives, Challenging Histories – Heritage and Reconciliation.