Sounds and Silences of a San Archive

  • Posted: Aug 19, 2011

10 August 2011

Sounds and Silences of a San Archive
18 August 2011 – 15 May 2012

Iziko Social History presents, ‘Sounds and Silences of a San Archive,’ an exhibition at the Iziko Bertram House in celebration of the centenary of Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd’s landmark publication “Specimens of Bushman folklore”.

The archive of /Xam and other San ethnography, artefacts, sound recordings, drawings and memories collected and made known by Wilhelm Bleek, Lucy Lloyd and Dorothea Bleek between 1856 and 1948 is an international treasure curated by Iziko Museums of Cape Town, the National Library and University of Cape Town respectively. This archive revolutionised our understanding of San life by recording and understanding the thoughts, beliefs and actions of the many San who lived and continue to live in southern Africa.

Dorothea Bleek with rock painting copy by George Stow. University of Cape Town achive

Curated by Dr. Sven Ouzman, the exhibition has three themes. The first focuses on the 1870s using large copies of pages from ‘Specimens of Bushman Folklore’ accompanied by artefacts - like bored stones and springbok ear dance rattles - mentioned in those pages. The second theme relates to Dorothea Bleek’s 1910-1911 expedition to the /Xam Karoo heartland. She documented the devastating effects of disease, European expansion and cultural dispossession on descendants of Bleek and Lloyd’s /Xam teachers. Rare wax cylinder sound recordings will be on display. The final theme comments on modern uses of past and present San intellectual property by scholars, poets, artists, advertisers and business people. These uses and abuses raise issues of ownership of the past and present. Details of representative San organisations that visitors can contact to assist San continue to claim and maintain their place in society, will be provided.

Iziko Museums and UCT will be hosting a separate but related conference organised by Professors Janette Deacon and Pippa Skotnes called “The courage of //Kabbo and a century of Specimens”, also to mark the publication centenary of Specimens, will take place between 18 and 20 August 2011.



Iziko Museums (Iziko) operates 12 national museums in Cape Town.  The museums that make up Iziko have their own history and character, presenting extensive art, social and natural history collections which reflect our diverse African heritage.  Iziko is a public entity and non-profit organisation which brings together these twelve national museums under a single governance and leadership structure.  The organisation allows *free access to all individuals on commemorative days, as well as unlimited free access to individuals aged 18 and under (*excluding the Castle of Good Hope and Planetarium).

COMMEMORATIVE DAYS – FREE ENTRANCE (excluding Iziko Planetarium and Castle of Good Hope)

  • Human Rights Day: 21 March
  • Freedom Day: 27 April
  • International Museum Day: 25 May
  • Africa Day: 25 May
  • Youth Day: 16 June
  • National Women’s Day: 9 August
  • Heritage Week: 19 – 25 September
  • National Aids Awareness Day: 1 December
  • Emancipation Day: 1 December
  • Day of Reconciliation: 16 December

Issued by: Melody Kleinsmith
Communications Coordinator: Institutional Advancement, Iziko Museums
Telephone +27 (0) 21 481 3890
Facsimile +27 (0) 21 481 9620
Cell 073 107 4955

On behalf of: Office of the CEO, Iziko Museums of Cape Town 

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