As a good museum-goer I decided to visit both the South African Museum and National Gallery of South Africa, two of the country’s national museums.
The SA Museum, not to be confused with the SA Museum in my home city of Adelaide, was very nice. The style of the displays, although slightly dated, were good and the specimens and objects were very impressive. I even my my first encounter with a Lion. I hope my next one will be with a live one on a game drive. The museum itself was very much focussed on scientific and natural history, not normally my thing.
The South African National Gallery was a delight. The appearance of contemporary works was great and important to telling the story, both historical and contemporary, of the racism that plagues this beautiful country. As you can imagine art is, and has been, an important way to express these feelings and advocate for change in difficult political and social time.
My favourite work was by Dean Hutton, gender queer identified artist and social and political activist. His work spoke to ‘reverse racism’ to which he wrote “White people made racism and made sure it is deeply embedded in our social systems, laws, economies, institutions and individuals. So this provocation is here to make you feel that ‘white pain’,”
I was also lucky enough to pop into the District Six Museum in the very controversial area known as District Six. The District was established in 1867 and was a vibrant area home to freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants. In 1966 the area was declared a ‘white area’ under the government’s Group Areas Act 1950. By 1982 more than 60,000 people of colour had been forcedly removed from their homes and sent many miles away to ‘coloured settlements’.
The museum is reclaiming the past and remembering the lives of people and groups in the community. Former residents of District Six welcome you to the museum and take tours. The museum is vey personal and moving.
District Six is one of the most socially engaged museums I have visited!
Finally, a visit to Groote Constantia on the other side of Table Mountain. GC is a wine farm and historic house dating back to the 1600s.
The house, of a unique Cape Dutch style , is located in a beautiful setting surrounded by vineyards and mountain views. The house is set up to evoke a sense of 1600s lifestyle – ornate timber furniture, ceramics, oil paintings and much more.
So far Cape Town’s museums have been a mix of the good, the average and the gorgeous. I’m looking forward to exploring some others before I leave.