Celebrating 15 Years of Iziko

  • Posted: Apr 17, 2014


We believe our museums belong to all South Africans and that they must represent the memories, identities, culture and natural and social heritage of all South Africans and a new worldview. Thus, in the next five years, Iziko Museums of South Africa (Iziko) aims to propel our museums into a new era, to ensure they serve the needs of future generations of South Africans. Iziko CEO, Ms Rooksana Omar, sheds light on the Museum’s strategic plan for the period 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2019.

As Iziko Museums of South Africa prepares to get the financial year underway on 1 April, our strategic path for the next five years has been decisively laid out. This plan informs all Iziko’s activities. Our primary focus is access to Iziko’s collections, exhibitions, research, education and public programmes by all people to promote nation building, social cohesion and to raise awareness of South Africa’s diverse history, culture and heritage. This will be accomplished by offering museum programmes that open up our spaces as knowledge resources to all through a combination of museum best practices and employing latest information technology instruments.

In 2014 we celebrate 20 years of democracy in South Africa, following the landmark elections held on 27 April 1994 that led to the inauguration of our very first democratically elected State President, the late Nelson Mandela. Our recent history has been marked by exciting and innovative changes and challenges in our country’s social fabric, technology, economy, and our place on the African and world stage. Iziko’s strategic plan embraces these changes and challenges, and presents new ways of thinking about heritage, culture and museums within the 21stcentury, given the context of our developing democracy. Our potential as a nation is embodied in our plan for advancing Iziko’s museums into and beyond the 21st century.

In his introduction to Iziko’s strategic plan for the period 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2019, current Iziko Council Chairman, Ambassador Dikgang Moopeloa highlighted the unifying role of museums in the 21st century: “As spaces of heritage, museums are important in educating people about social issues such as poverty and illiteracy, and in turn act as catalysts for social change and nation building. Museums are also important forums for enhancing democracy. Our museums play a vital role in building an inclusive society and economy, encouraging active citizenship, and laying the foundations for greatness.”

The Southern Flagship Institution, now Iziko Museums of South Africa, was formed in 1999 when five clusters of established museums in and around Cape Town merged. In 2014, Iziko marks the 15th anniversary of this National Flagship Museum. Our museums and collections were mainly curated during apartheid and colonial eras. Thus, despite significant transformation since amalgamation – the bias of a “pre-democracy” worldview continues to be reflected in both the buildings and the presentation of our collections. Integrating this cluster of museums has been a challenging process. However, during the past 15 years, Iziko staff have worked passionately to transform mind-sets and practices entrenched in previously separate institutional histories and collections. Fifteen years on, based on performance information gathered from across the departments, Iziko has emerged as one of the leading players in the heritage sector, and is acknowledged as a centre of excellence in museum management and operations.

Iziko has a long tradition of scholarship, knowledge creation and mediation that translate into a vibrant and diverse offering. Our museums are not only spaces of memory that celebrate our cultural diversity, they are spaces where both knowledge and culture is generated; and an integral part of the life of communities and our country; with the potential to contribute significantly to vital processes of social and economic development. Iziko contributes to achieving the Mzansi's Golden Economy impacts defined by our Executive Authority, the Department of Arts and Culture. Significantly, Iziko plays an active role in the education, tourism, arts, culture, heritage and the job creation value chain. Our museums constitute a substantial component of the national tourism product, and attract many local and international visitors annually.

All Iziko’s activities are underpinned by the understanding that museums can benefit all South Africans, particularly young people, to become active and reflective participants in society and their own learning. Repositioning and reinventing our museums and practice to optimise this potential is thus central to Iziko’s mission to ensure relevance and maximum benefit for all. As we transform to improve our visitor experiences and increase access to collections and our intellectual capital, we also develop education programmes and resources that contribute to improving the basic education outcomes of our country.

Adequate resources and funding to achieve the vision for the Museum over the next five years and beyond are crucial. It is a fact that the nation is faced with severe problems related to, amongst others, basic health, welfare and education. The greater part of the public purse is allocated to these vital services. However, it is essential that cultural resources continue to receive the necessary public support and funding in order to maintain and transform our museums. We look forward to your continued support to fulfill our role in maintaining our heritage for the benefit of present and future generations.

In the next five years, we will continue to address the challenges we face proactively, and build on our achievements to bring our visitors African museums of excellence.

Iziko Museums of South Africa CEO, Rooksana Omar

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