30 June 2012

Kathy's humanity kept him strong

By: Zongezile Matshoba
Two years of hard work behind the scene ultimately paid dividends when Ahmed Kathrada, the African National Congress stalwart, graced Albany Museum on Saturday. Bongani Mgijima, the Museum Manager worked tirelessly to get the Kathy: The Man behind the Public Figure exhibition to come to Grahamstown as part of the 2012 National Arts Festival. When that failed in 2011, the efforts were revived again, and, with the help of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, the National Arts Festival Office, and the South African Post Office, that became a reality. The exhibition is about Kathrada's personal life.

Kathrada, 83, affectionately known as Kathy, revealed that he got the nickname from his standard eight Afrikaans teacher in the 1940s when it was difficult for the teacher to call his name. Several other personal things that came out include his comrades and friends, such as Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned with him in Robben Island from the 1960s to the 1990s after the famous Rivonia Trial.

"I got a loaf of bread everyday, while Mandela never got it for ten years," he said.

When they were sanctioned not to get paper to write anymore, they used eight pieces of toilet papers in the mornings and evenings to share information and their thoughts.

Kathy tasted better food and other things after 18 years of imprisonment, when they were sent to Pollsmoor Prison. He only saw and touched a child after 20 years, something that he appreciated very much up to this day whenever he sees a child.

The prison did not dampen their spirit as political prisoners. They were adamant that the struggle was continuing outside, and that one day they would be freed. He jokingly said that one thing that never crossed their minds was that Mandela would come out to be the State President, and having Kathrada serving under him.

Their suffering inside was nothing as compared to the knowledge that their comrades outside were suffering more. Kathrada said that "In prison we were safe and protected. No police could come and shoot us".

Kathrada's advice is that ignorance is wrong. He gave an example of a wife of certain man that was shocked to learn that he had spent 26 years in prison. She then asked, "Was it for murder?"

The dwindling number of history students is also raising some concern since that has its own consequences. The young and old are becoming more and more ignorant of their history, are easily forgetting the past, and are unable and unwilling to talk about their past or to contribute to current debates, and social cohesion.

The exhibition is at Albany Observatory Museum (Bathurst Street), and can be viewed from 09h00 until 17h00 during the National Arts Festival. It will then move to Albany History Museum (Somerset Street) for the next three months.     

22 June 2012

Museum tour-guide grabs film role

By: Zongezle Matshoba

Moses Lamani (left), ready to do his tricks, and pull the ropes
that will amazingly reflect Grahamstown on the
white table while he rotate the Camera Obcura 360 degrees.
Moses Lamani, an outstanding tour-guide at Albany Observatory Museum will feature in Mikhael Subotzky’s film. This documentary is part of Subotzsky’s Retina Shift in this year’s  National Arts Festival's exhibition programme which will be shown at the Gallery in the Round at Grahamstown's 1820 Settler's Monument. Retina Shift looks at the history of Grahamstown, using photographs, video and Subotsky’s persona.

Lamani, respected for his fluency in articulating and operating the Camera Obscura that lives many tourists short of breath with exhilaration, has been hard at work with Subotzky, the Standard Bank Young Artist award for visual art in 2012.

Albany Observatory Museum is central to Makana Municipality’s tourism because of the Camera Obscura and the Victorian lifestyle. The camera requires rare skill and energy to manually maneuver it 360 degrees. Years of experience are really telling as one is unable to notice the gasps in that dark room as Lamani enthrall visitors.  

The film itself is to reveal more about Lamani the man, and his personal experience of Grahamstown that is observing and reflecting on its past 200 years through the Makana Municipality project known as Project 200 Years.

Lamani has been filmed and photographed many times, including the recent SABC 3’s Top Billing shoot. But, never before has he and the Camera Obscura been given the much detailed focus as in the work of Subotzky.    

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20 June 2012

Kathy - Ahmed Kathrada's Exhibition on show for NAF

By: Zongezile Matshoba

At long last, Ahmed Kathrada, 83, the stalwart himself, is coming to the National Arts Festival. Kathy – The Man behind the Public Figure is an outstanding exhibition that celebrates Kathrada’s release from Robben Island in 1989 where many political prisoners were incarcerated for years. Kathrada, a staunch member of the African National Congress, was one of the Rivonia trialists that included Nelson Mandela who came out of prison to be the first black State President of South Africa. He then served in the national government as President Mandela’s Parliamentary Counsellor.

The exhibition is a personal insight into Kathrada as an ordinary person, his lifestyle, his letters from Robben Island, and much, much more about his comrades.   

Kathrada will also do a walkabout of the exhibition, as well as taking part in the Think!Fest programme, presenting the ANC centenary on June 29. Many notable guests from the political and academic circles are expected to be part of the official opening, the walkabout and the Think!Fest.

The exhibition has been developed by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation. It will be at Albany Observatory Museum for the duration of the festival. It will then move to Albany History Museum for next few months.  

For more on Kathrada, read his biography.

13 June 2012


Albany Museum Mobile Museum assists farm schools that are unable to reach the museum.

 On a weekly average, we visit at least five farm schools where the learners enjoy the advantages of Museum based education in their own school environments.

On 20 July 2012 we will be celebrating Mandela Day again at four farm schools namely: Manley Flats, Zintle, Martindale and  Wilson Party farm school. The main event will be at Wilson Party farm school at 10h00 – 13h00.

Madiba was politically active for 67 years, and on Mandela Day people all over the world, in the workplace, at home and in schools, will be called upon to spend at least 67 minutes of their time doing something useful within their communities, especially amongst the less fortunate. We are going to spend 67 minutes with our aim being to assist each school with donations.

We would be most grateful if the Makana Community, businesses, non-governmental organisations and individuals could  become part of the Museum’s initiative and extend a helping hand.

We hope that our request will meet with your approval.

For more information or to make a donation to this good cause contact :

Nozipho Madinda
HOD: Mobile Museum
Albany Museum
Tel: 046-6222312
Email: n.madinda@ru.ac.za