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Sentinels of the South

Opens at the Iziko South African Museum

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

Opening date: Thursday 5 December 2019

Iziko Museums of South Africa celebrates South Africa’s polar heritage and the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty with the opening of a new exhibitionSentinels of the South. This also coincides with international Antarctic Day and the opening of the annual Antarctic Season.


The exhibition, entitled Sentinels of the South, examines the history, discoveries and current role of South Africa’s Antarctic and Southern Ocean exploration. It takes visitors through the history and challenges of early Antarctic exploration, and South Africa’s role in this. The rich and unique biodiversity found on these islands, and the role these islands play in helping us understand some of the global issues affecting everyday South Africans, are highlighted. The exhibition showcases South Africa’s multidisciplinary Antarctic scientific endeavours, our state-of-the-art research facilities, and our flagship research vessel, the S.A. Agulhas II.

The team of the Iziko Museums of South Africa have been doing pioneering research delving into Antarctic ecosystems – we see it befitting to share this knowledge with our public, to inform visitors around the role of these ecosystems in understanding Earth and its future. We are thrilled to be launching an exhibition of this calibre, and look forward to welcoming visitors to this new, exciting and educational exhibition,” says Ms Rooksana Omar, CEO, Iziko Museums of South Africa.

Antarctic ecosystems, including South Africa’s Prince Edward Islands, are exceptionally important in understanding our planet and its future. The isolation and the extreme weather conditions prevailing there means that they still contain some of the most untouched ecosystems on earth, making them exceptional natural ‘laboratories’.  Yet, they have not remained unaffected by global changes such as climate change and the introduction of invasive species. Because of their isolation and the long-term research conducted in these areas, global effects can be more easily monitored and identified, making them an ideal early warning system for scientists studying the impact of environmental changes.

Antarctic Legacy of South Africa (ALSA)

Since South Africa annexed the Prince Edward Islands in 1948, South African researchers have been undertaking regular expeditions to the Antarctic Continent, the Prince Edward Islands and Gough Island, as well as elsewhere in the Southern Ocean. ALSA is based at the Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University and is funded by the National Research Foundation, as part of the South African National Antarctic Programme, to preserve this rich human history of the expeditions conducted over the past 70 years.

Aside from the results of biological and physical research, the expeditions have produced a wealth of photographs, videos, and written and oral accounts. This historical record also includes maps, journals, logbooks, newspaper articles, and artworks. ALSA collates, digitises and archives these records, along with out-of-print South African research articles and unpublished documents residing in governmental archives, university departments and museums, and makes them accessible to interested institutions and the public. The ALSA website ( serves as a public portal to provide access to this information, which currently contains over 20 000 records.

The Antarctic Legacy of South Africa project, in collaboration with Iziko Museums of South Africa, is preserving the polar heritage of South Africa by making it available in this new exhibit.

During the opening of Sentinels of the South at the Iziko South African Museum, a new art publication ANT{INK}TIKA by Jess Verheul, and published by ALSA, will be launched. The book consists of 49 sketches, including three poems depicting scenes experienced by Verheul during her Antarctic expedition.



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 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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Please be advised that all Iziko Museums of South Africa will be closed to the public on Election Day,  Wednesday, 29 May 2024.