Patterns of Contact: Designs from the Indian Ocean World

  • Posted: Aug 19, 2014

Iziko South African National Gallery, 19 August until 27 November 2014

Iziko Museums of South Africa is hosting World Design Capital 2014 exhibition,Patterns of Contact: Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean World. On display at the Iziko South African National Gallery, the exhibition highlights over 1 000 years of visual art and East Asian influence. A rare selection of works, including a replica of a 14th century Chinese world map, on loan from the Parliament of South Africa, will be publicly displayed for the first time.

Created in 1389, the historical Chinese map titled, Da Ming Hun Yi Tu (Amalgamated Map of the Great Ming Empire),is one of the oldest surviving world maps from East Asia. Painted in colour on stiff silk and measuring 3.86 x 4.56m, it depicts sub-Saharan Africa in a good approximation of the correct shape, complete with mountains near the southern tip. The original map is currently housedin the First Historical Archive of China, in Beijing. In 2002, the Parliament of South Africa obtained permission to have a digital copy reproduced for a mapping exhibition entitled, Perspectives on and of Africa, at the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town. The digitisation and reproduction of the map on modelled silk fabric, was undertaken by the College of Computer Science & Technology of Zheijiang University. It was the first-ever copy of the map to be made.

Drawn from Iziko’s Permanent Collections, Patterns of Contact showcases treasures from the Indian Ocean World, revealing deeply entrenched contributions to our history, visual culture, art and design.

The breathtaking exhibition is comprised of a variety of artworks such as furniture, textiles, and artefacts created from a range of materials, including precious metals, glass, ceramics and wood. Supplementing the exhibition are magnificent works from the Groote Schuur Art Collection, including Batavian and early-Cape furniture, as well as silverware.

A zone of multicultural contact for at least 5 000 years, the Indian Ocean World – comprised of India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia – was a vast network intensively traversed by all the people of the ‘Old World’. In a quest for fortune or new knowledge, explorers, sailors and merchants established commercial, religious and intellectual relationships here, long before the inhabitants of the other great oceanic regions of the Atlantic and Pacific.

From as early as 10 000 AD, trade and exchange between southern Africa and Indian Ocean navigators linked Mapungubwe (a pre-colonial state in South Africa), and other local sites with the Mediterranean world, the Arabian Peninsula, and India, creating a global network.

For enquiries, contact Carol Kaufmann at Tel: 021 481 3958 or email:

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Issued by: Lee-Shay Collison
Media Officer – Department of Institutional Advancement, Iziko Museums of South Africa
Telephone: +27 (0) 21 481 3861                  Facsimile: +27 (0) 21 461 9620
Cell: 073 585 9843                                          E-mail:

On behalf of: Office of the CEO, Iziko Museums of South Africa

Notes to editor:

About Iziko Museums of South Africa (Iziko)

Iziko operates 11 national museums, the Planetarium, the Social History Centre and three collection‑specific libraries in Cape Town.  The museums that make up Iziko have their own history and character, presenting extensive art, social and natural history collections that reflect our diverse African heritage.  Iziko is a public entity and non-profit organisation that brings together these museums under a single governance and leadership structure.  The organisation allows *free access to all individuals on commemorative days, (*excluding the Castle of Good Hope and Planetarium). Visit our webpage at, join our online community on Facebook ( or follow us on Twitter (@Iziko_Museums) for regular updates on events, news and new exhibitions.

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