Ms Rooksana Omar became the CEO of Iziko Museums in November 2010. Under her leadership Iziko Museums has been renamed Iziko Museums of South Africa, marking a turning point affirming Iziko’s national status and acknowledging the fact that our museums – like the anthem and the flag – are an integral part of who we are as a nation.
While serving as CEO, difficult issues such as the repatriation of human remains have been readdressed; the institution has consolidated its branding and made extensive efforts to communicate with different audiences; the organisation has re-evaluated its current offering at the 11 Iziko museums, a plan for the thematic redevelopment is in place and outreach education programmes to marginalised communities have been intensified.
Iziko has also significantly increased its research and partnership programmes, thus paving the way for dynamic encounters through exhibitions.
Ms Omar has endeavoured to break down barriers between the museum and the community by making the museum more inviting, open and accessible, and by inspiring critical thinking. Since her appointment, she has sought to develop the foundation for critical exchanges and working for social inclusion, knowledge creation and community participation. Her focus has been on making Iziko less of a monologue and more of a dialogue, emphasising the fact that our museums exist for the benefit of all.
Before joining Iziko Museums of South Africa, Ms Omar served the Luthuli Museum in Groutville, where she laid the foundation for its strategic direction, policy and good governance and focused her team to create a platform for vibrant research, educational activities, exhibitions programmes and collections policies. She was responsible for forging partnerships that saw people such as Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and Gcina Mhlophe, etc., interacting with learners and students from this urban area. Prior to this, Ms Omar worked at the eThekwini Municipality where she gave flesh to the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) from a heritage perspective.
Among other things, one of Ms Omar’s most remarkable contributions was to be instrumental in building the ‘Wall of Hope’ for people who have passed away of Aids; and the renaming of Central Park in Durban to Gugu Dlamini Park, after the woman who publicly disclosed her HIV status and was stoned to death in KwaMashu as a result.
Ms Omar continues to play an important role in shaping heritage in South Africa and internationally through her involvement in numerous bodies, such as the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the Commonwealth Association of Museums (CAM).