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Celebrated annually on 3 December since 1992, International Day of Disabled Persons seeks to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
Iziko Museums, in collaboration with Meaningful Access Projects (MAP), hosted a workshop for the League of the Friends of the Blind (LOFOB) on Tuesday, 3 December in celebration of the International Day of Disabled Persons.
Facilitated by Sandra Eastwood, Helen Binckes, Mariechen Schimmel and Bevil Spence of MAP, the workshop ran from 10h00 until 12h00 in the Atrium of the Iziko South African National Gallery, and came as an introduction to drawing with a raised line. This complemented an awareness of line and form experienced in explorations of artworks up on exhibition in the ISANG Atrium. A music (drumming) workshop followed the drawing workshop.
“It’s about inclusivity and accessibility; welcoming everyone to the gallery to be touched by art,” said Sandra Eastwood, a facilitator at MAP.
Both the ISANG and the ISANG Annexe have collaborated with MAP over the past years to bring together a series of exhibitions that encourage participation by visitors living with disabilities to take root in regular visits to Iziko’s spaces. In light of this, for this year’s International Day of Disabled Persons, Iziko would like to highlight the work done by MAP – celebrating the lives of those living with disabilities and increasing awareness of their rights and well-being in all spheres of society.
Looking back on MAP at Iziko
In 1967, the first Sculpture for the Blind exhibition, initiated by Professor Matthys Bokhorst, was held in the ISANG – where adults with visual impairments were invited to tactile walkabouts. This introduced the concept of an inclusive welcome for visitors who live with disabilities, and in 1971 the Touch Gallery officially opened at the ISANG Annexe. Here, access awareness included both physical and conceptual access through wheelchair accessibility, signage, height of pedestals, safety of both visitors and artworks, and multi-sensory walkabouts. These walkabouts were extended through related practical art workshops, and further explorations of creative expression through movement and music.
The Touch Gallery hosted a series of exhibitions of artworks from the ISANG Permanent Collection, as well as works created by students at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Kwazulu Natal (UKZN) and Cape Performing Art Board (CAPAB) – with annual exhibition catalogues sponsored by Mobil Oil Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd. This was pioneering work – part of a movement which now sees Access Awareness as an integral part of most major museums.
The Touch Gallery and the movement that followed eventually grew into Meaningful Access Projects (MAP), which is kept alive today through sponsorship for learners by the Truworths Social Involvement Trust, and through generous ongoing help and support from Iziko. Adults are welcomed on a voluntary basis.
This work has received both national and international recognition through publications that include ICOM News and Imfama. Participation in conferences in Potchefstroom, South Africa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and New York, USA; workshops in Shoshanguwe and Stellenbosch, both in South Africa; and exhibitions at the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), Durban Art Gallery (DAG) and Pretoria Art Museum (PAM) also helped to raise awareness about MAP. The South African Jewish Museum and UCT Irma Stern Museum also welcome MAP visits.
MAP would not have been possible without the involvement of many dedicated and committed individuals throughout the years. Museum professionals, volunteer guides, educators, artists, art centres and participants from all walks of life have inspired and encouraged these explorations. Support from stakeholders and input from people like Dr William Rowland, past President of the World Blind Union, proved essential. Foundations laid by, to mention but two of the legendary teachers, August Hopley and Victor Honey, continue to enrich our projects. The legacy of work done lives on, currently still being coordinated by Sandra Eastwood who has been involved since 1967, and through indispensable gifted stalwarts, both expert and ingenious, like Helen Binckes, Mariechen Schimmel and Bevil Spence.
Issued by: Ellen Agnew
Communications Coordinator: Iziko Museums of South Africa
Telephone: 021 481 3830 Email: email@example.com
Issued on behalf of the Office of the CEO, Iziko Museums of South Africa
About The League of Friends of the Blind (LOFOB)
LOFOB is a Non-Governmental Organisation which caters to the needs of blind and visually impaired individuals. Wwe works to further the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for Education and Decent Work.
Based in Grassy Park, Western Cape, we have been in operation since 1933 and have assisted in providing independence development services to thousands of individuals from all over South Africa and across the African continent.
About Iziko Museums of South Africa (Iziko)
Iziko operates 11 national museums, the Planetarium and Digital Dome, 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 public benefit 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, Groot Constantia and Planetarium and Digital Dome). Visit our webpage at www.iziko.org.za, join our online community on Facebook (www.facebook.com/IzikoMuseums), Instagram (@izikomuseumssa) or follow us on Twitter (@Iziko_Museums) for regular updates on events, news and new exhibitions.