09 September 2010

Lwandle is Museum of the Year in the Western Cape
Category: General News
Posted on January 25, 2010

The Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum, the first and only museum in a Western Cape township, has been named as the Museum of the Year for 2009 by the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport.

This is a museum which, despite recurring financial crises and constant threats of closure, has through its committed staff and board, built an institution which has redefined the traditional role and immediate tasks of a museum. It has made a substantial contribution in turning a place which under apartheid was only officially recognized as a place of hostels for male migrant labourers into a community.

Moreover, through developing relationships with organizations, like the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, the South African Heritage Resources Agency, the District Six Museum and the Robben Island Museum, it has played a substantive role in creating, promoting and sustaining important and structured relationships across communities in the Western Cape through an emphasis on programmes that draw upon the youth seeking to recover memories of lives under apartheid from their elders.

The museum deliberately rejects apartheid notions of community, where these are based upon racial and/or ethnic identities. Instead it seeks to establish the spatial configuration of Lwandle and all its residents as its immediate community. This is evident in all its exhibitions, particularly its permanent exhibition Iimbali zeKhaya (Stories of Home).

All the museum’s exhibitions have been central in establishing a history of Lwandle and its residents as a community with a distinct heritage that affirms a past in struggles against the foundations of the apartheid system.

In 2009 two very important projects of heritage preservation were central to the work of the museum. The first involves preserving one hostel, Hostel 33, as a visual reminder of the migrant labour system that was the basis for the formation of Lwandle.

In 2009 plans to develop the Hostel 33 took a massive step forward when the museum, in an international competition, was the recipient of a funding award from the US Ambassador’s Cultural Preservation Fund. The museum is now in the process of developing plans, in consultation with community members, around how to preserve and restore the hostel so that it serves as a memorial to the migrant labour system. The National Heritage Council and the National Lotteries Board have also allocated funds for this project.

The second major project of heritage preservation has been a series of oral history projects that the museum has run over the past few years in collaboration with the District Six Museum, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation and schools in the area. An important outcome of this project in 2009 was the publication of a book by the museum and the IJR entitled Community on the Move. It provides a resource for schools and communities around how to develop oral history projects that are linked to artistic production, photography and performance.

There are many other ways that the museum has built and developed communities in Lwandle, in the Western Cape, South Africa and internationally. It supports and contributes substantially to the Cape Town Memory Project and the Oral History Association of South Africa. It has strong working relationships with academic departments at universities such as the History Department at the University of the Western Cape, and the Center for the Study of Public Scholarship at Emory University in Atlanta, and, has begun to developing strong linkages with museums and heritage organisations with similar interests in Africa, Australia and North America.

Whilst many have theorized about the role which museums can play in creating social cohesion, at once challenging age-old racist identities and stereotypes and concentrating on the affirmation of the complexities of identity and the very notion of community, the Lwandle Museum has through its experiential approach, innovative leadership and involved governance structures created an exciting example of the potential impact of museums within local, national and international community life.

Contact Details:Lunga Smile, Museum manager and curatorThe Lwandle Migrant Labour MuseumOld Community Hall, Vulindlela Street, Lwandle, 7143Tel: 0218456119E-mail: lwandlemus@tiscali.co.za

SOURCE: www.archivalplatform.org

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