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Museum Futures Today: Relevant, meaningful and responsible

ICOM Workshop hosted at Iziko Museums of South Africa

Media images and interview requests, please contact:
Zikhona Jafta on 021 481 3838 or at

Iziko Museums of South Africa hosted the International Council of Museums’  training workshop, entitled Museum Futures Today: Relevant, meaningful and responsible. The workshop, for 30 museum practitioners, nine of whom are from across the African continent, took place at the Iziko South African Museum from 25 to 29 November 2019.




“Museums worldwide are undergoing a revolution by rethinking their practice on how to become more inclusive and receptive to the publics they serve. This opportunity to work with the African American Museum of History and Culture (Smithsonian) and ICOM to provide training for young museum practitioners from the African continent has been very productive and enriching,” said Ms Rooksana Omar, CEO, Iziko Museums of South Africa.

Museums are faced with many questions pertaining to their relevance, their effectiveness, their accessibility and their impact on the societies in which they exist. They are currently undergoing rapid changes which affect how we understand the museum’s social responsibility, how we refine our approaches to professional roles and how we engage with perceptions about the place of the museum in contemporary societies. Serving the core functions of research, collecting, preservation, presenting exhibitions and education, traditional museums have been subjected to scrutiny.




In this regard, the ICOM training workshop sought to highlight museums’ need to be reflexive, and to reconceptualise the various components of a museum.

The purpose of the workshop [was] to get different practitioners together in one space; and it’s not only just to reflect on why our museums are not always accessible, not always representative, or at least widely representative – so we have to begin to assess the methodologies, the curatorial approaches. We have to begin to assess the structures of museums, the histories of museums, so that we can understand what solutions are needed,” said Nomusa Makhubu, Associate Professor in Art History at the Michaelis School of Fine Art and Facilitator on the ICOM Workshop.

So the workshop was aimed at getting those solutions, at least beginning to think about what those solutions could be. Many of the participants have come up with a number of ideas, but they’ve had to think about the feasibility of those ideas in making museums more accessible, more socially responsive. It’s not just about social engagement – it’s about responding to social change.




Over the course of five days, participants were encouraged to rethink their role as museum workers and as contributors to social and community change; to develop analytical skills in relation to museums and representation; to develop the capacity to engage with culture-sensitive issues and multiple perspectives; and to build relationships with fellow participants.

There were different topics in the workshop responding to these concerns – we spoke about colonisation and decolonisation; we spoke about racial issues; about indigenous communities; about LGBT communities; about gender equality. Essentially, we spoke about museums should play an important role in prompting communities to reflect on these issues, and in this way to improve the condition of many of these communities,” said Carlos Serrano, Capacity Building Coordinator for ICOM.  

Workshops like this are significant and valuable – first and foremost we interact; we get to exchange knowledge and experiences. At the same time, we’ve reflected on our professional practices, and set new goals; we’ve been implored to manage change – because we are living in a dynamic world where change is happening at an accelerating rate. We’re trying to be relevant, so there’s always a need to refocus and redefine our purposes at a professional capacity with different professionals from across the continent and the globe,” said Goabaone Montsho, Curator at the Botswana National Museum.  

The workshop was facilitated by Nicole van Dijk, Nomusa Makhubu, and coordinated by Carlos Eduardo Serrano Vasquez.





Issued by: Ellen Agnew
Communications Coordinator: Iziko Museums of South Africa
Telephone: 021 481 3830 Email:
Issued on behalf of the Office of the CEO, Iziko Museums of South Africa


About Nicole van Dijk

Van Dijk is a curator and leads the research and development programmes of Museum Rotterdam. She is responsible for participatory research and community projects. These include ‘City as Muse’ – a longitudinal participatory project with Rotterdammers in creative dialogue with the museum. These resulted in more in-depth projects focused on citizens and communities including Surviving Carnisse, True Rotterdammer I and II, Connection by Heritage and the Authentic Rotterdam Heritage a new way of collecting for museums. With the Authentic Rotterdam Heritage, van Dijk is building an active collection which consists of objects, people and communities playing a connecting role in the contemporary city. This collection is the heritage of the future which has more social power to connect communities and start social empowerment. Nicole’s practice is driven by using the museum’s experience and collections and combining it with the contemporary experience of people living in the city. This creates a fusion of collections and participatory approaches to programmes and governance to shape the role of the 21st century museum. Nicole studied at Art School and holds a master’s degree in Cultural Anthropology.

About Nomusa Makhubu

Makhubu is a senior lecturer of art history at the University of Cape Town, and a practicing artist. She has received the ABSA L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award (2006) and the Prix du Studio National Des Arts Contemporain, Le Fresnoy (2014). Makhubu is the first Runner-Up in the DST Women in Science Awards (2017). Makhubu was a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies and was an African Studies Association (ASA) Presidential Fellow in 2016. In 2017, Makhubu was a Mandela-Mellon fellow at Harvard University. She co-edited a Third Text Special Issue: The Art of Change (2013); and with Nkule Mabaso, she co-curated the international exhibition, Fantastic, in 2015; There are mechanisms in place by Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum in 2018; and the South African Pavillion at the Venice Biennale in 2019.

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, join our online community on Facebook (, Instagram (@izikomuseumssa) or follow us on Twitter (@Iziko_Museums) for regular updates on events, news and new exhibitions.

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