Digging deeper into our history

2016-09-13 06:00
Collection assistants Ntombovuyo Tywakadi and Ayesha Hendricks with a suzani (top) produced in 1860.

Collection assistants Ntombovuyo Tywakadi and Ayesha Hendricks with a suzani (top) produced in 1860.

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Behind the imposing grey granite walls of the National Mutual Building of Australasia, on Church Square, lie over 150 000 historical artefacts.

These priceless objects are housed in the Iziko Social History Centre, where the collections of some of Iziko’s 11 museums have been brought together under one roof. The building, historical in itself after being constructed for the insurance company 1905, was renovated and extended to facilitate the merger of collections in 2010.

The renovated building boasts a range of special features and has been turned into a world-class museum facility for the housing of the reserve Social History collections and archives. The collections are housed in a secure environment, with temperature and humidity control as well as fire prevention systems. However, curators at the museum are still unpacking and categorising the thousands of items from various local museums, says curator Esther Esmyol. This is set to keep going on for many more years.

Some of the gems hidden behind the imposing walls include indigenous cultural material from southern Africa, artefacts from the colonial period of the Cape, including maritime and historical archaeology, as well as collections of world ceramics, furniture, coins and textiles.

The textile collection boasts over 12 000 items, ranging from leather clothing worn by the San thousands of years ago, colonial dresses and shoes, and even contemporary items such as an EFF beret.

Hidden away among the hundreds of drawers in the storeroom housing this collection are delicate beaded items from almost every South African culture – a contrast of the vivid Tsonga colours threaded through the patterns, bold blue shapes interwoven in Xhosa necklaces and the iconic geometric shapes of the Ndebele.

One of collection assistant Ayesha Hendricks’ favourite items is a Middle Eastern textile called a suzani, which was commissioned by a Cape Town family in 1860 and made in Uzbekistan. Traditionally made as part of a dowry, the pattern of the suzani is drawn by the head of the house, with up to six women working to each create a panel. The panels were then connected by the family matriarch.

“You can see each individual’s handiwork,” says Hendricks.

The centre also houses thousands of other handmade items, with an extensive ceramic collection including KhoiSan pottery pieces from 2000 years ago, woven grass baskets, masks from across Africa and wooden beer making pots and drums. Some more modern items can also be found, such as the museum’s collection of wire toy cars.

But the museum group is more than just a collector, with exhibitions often taking place in partnership with external events and organisations. “Museums are more than collectors, conservers or keepers of the past. Our role has changed radically to be catalysts that make the connections between our collections, initiate, inspire and instigate discussions and exhibitions on contemporary thought, as well as to promote tolerance and social cohesion. We can play an important role in supporting our democracy, says Rooksana Omar, Iziko’s CEO.

The museum is looking to enact this through their in_Herit Festival, which takes place from Monday 19 to Sunday 25 September. The festival offers free entry to all Iziko museums during this time. People’s Post is the media partner of the in_Herit Festival.

Behind the imposing grey granite walls of the National Mutual Building of Australasia, on Church Square, lie over 150 000 historical artefacts.

These priceless objects are housed in the Iziko Social History Centre, where the collections of some of Iziko’s 11 museums have been brought together under one roof. The building, historical in itself after being constructed for the insurance company 1905, was renovated and extended to facilitate the merger of collections in 2010.

The renovated building boasts a range of special features and has been turned into a world-class museum facility for the housing of the reserve Social History collections and archives. The collections are housed in a secure environment, with temperature and humidity control as well as fire prevention systems.

However, curators at the museum are still unpacking and categorising the thousands of items from various local museums, says curator Esther Esmyol. This is set to keep going on for many more years.

Some of the gems hidden behind the imposing walls include indigenous cultural material from southern Africa, artefacts from the colonial period of the Cape, including maritime and historical archaeology, as well as collections of world ceramics, furniture, coins and textiles.

The textile collection boasts over 12 000 items, ranging from leather clothing worn by the San thousands of years ago, colonial dresses and shoes, and even contemporary items such as an EFF beret.

Hidden away among the hundreds of drawers in the storeroom housing this collection are delicate beaded items from almost every South African culture – a contrast of the vivid Tsonga colours threaded through the patterns, bold blue shapes interwoven in Xhosa necklaces and the iconic geometric shapes of the Ndebele.

One of collection assistant Ayesha Hendricks’ favourite items is a Middle Eastern textile called a suzani, which was commissioned by a Cape Town family in 1860 and made in Uzbekistan. Traditionally made as part of a dowry, the pattern of the suzani is drawn by the head of the house, with up to six women working to each create a panel. The panels were then connected by the family matriarch.

“You can see each individual’s handiwork,” says Hendricks.

The centre also houses thousands of other handmade items, with an extensive ceramic collection including KhoiSan pottery pieces from 2000 years ago, woven grass baskets, masks from across Africa and wooden beer making pots and drums. Some more modern items can also be found, such as the museum’s collection of wire toy cars.

But the museum group is more than just a collector, with exhibitions often taking place in partnership with external events and organisations.

“Museums are more than collectors, conservers or keepers of the past. Our role has changed radically to be catalysts that make the connections between our collections, initiate, inspire and instigate discussions and exhibitions on contemporary thought, as well as to promote tolerance and social cohesion. We can play an important role in supporting our democracy, says Rooksana Omar, Iziko’s CEO.

The museum is looking to enact this through their in_Herit Festival, which takes place from Monday 19 to Sunday 25 September. The in_Herit Festival offers free entry to all Iziko museums during this time. People’s Post is the media partner of the in_Herit Festival.


Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
ADVERTORIAL
Competition regulation for a growing and inclusive economy

ADVERTORIAL: The Competition Commission of South Africa is conducting advocacy work in the South African automotive aftermarket industry and has gazetted a Draft Code of Conduct for public comment.

/News
 

5 top leg exercises for men

Here’s our selection of the five best leg exercises that you can do in the comfort of your own home.

 
 

You won't want to miss...

10 best dressed men of 2017
How to open a beer bottle without an opener
WATCH: Man films himself going down water slide upside down as things go very wrong…
WATCH: Conor McGregor: Notorious the trailer
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.