Iziko Museums of South Africa CEO Welcomes 2014

  • Posted: Jan 16, 2014

As 2014 gets under way, Rooksana Omar, Chief Executive Officer of Iziko Museums of South Africa, looks at the highlights and achievements of year that was. 2013 was a successful and productive year for Iziko, despite the hurdles that face those whose work is the preservation and showcasing of South Africa’s heritage to the public, and the education of our current and future generations. She thanks our partners and sponsors who share in our achievements for their generosity, and looks forward to fostering continued support in the year ahead.

I have had the pleasure of working with numerous partners and stakeholders who have supported Iziko Museums of South Africa over the past year and beyond.

Notably, this year marks 15 years since the amalgamation of the Southern Flagship Institution, now Iziko Museums of South Africa (Iziko), which was formed in 1999 to create national museum institutions aligned with the new government's transformation imperatives. Today, Iziko is an integral part of the life of communities and our country, and plays an active role in the tourism, arts, culture, heritage and the job creation value chain.

Our 11 national museums and planetarium have continued to create innovative, interesting and engaging exhibitions, workshops and public programmes, newsletters, new knowledge and research. Our museums are a substantial component of the national tourism product, and attract many local and international visitors.

Iziko Museums of South Africa ushered in 2013 with the start of construction of the Courtyard Project on 13 January 2013. This new capital works project, funded by the Department of Arts and Culture, is aimed at providing the much needed space for the Natural History collections. This project will make it possible for the Iziko South African Museum (the oldest in our flagship group) to lay the basis for a 21st century museum that is open and engaging.

As we continued to produce exhibitions that were insightful, challenging and entertaining, Iziko staff gave our visiting public exceptional experiences at our art, natural history and social history museums. We brought you exhibitions like Rendez-vous 12; The isishweshwe story: material women?; Umhlaba 100 Years: Commemorating the 1913 Land Act; Oliver Reginald Tambo: The modest revolutionary; and Uncontained: Opening the Community Arts Project Archive with the University of the Western Cape.

Proving that our hard work has not gone unnoticed, we scooped an award for Fired: An exhibition of South African ceramics at the Western Cape Provincial annual cultural competition in February 2013. This exhibition tells the story of the development of ceramics in our country – from the iconic Lydenburg heads, indigenous KhoeKhoen pots, and rural ceramics, to works of small-scale pottery factories and a selection of contemporary works. The South African Museum and Planetarium, the South African National Gallery, the Slave Lodge, Koopmans de-Wet House and Rust en Vreugd were all awarded recognition from Tripadvisor.

In August 2013, the new Council of Iziko Museums of South Africa, chaired by Ambassador Dikgang Moopeloa, together with Mr Themba Wakashe, Ms Bernadette Muthien, Advocate Roshan Dehal, Professor Sadhasivan Perumal, Mr Dawood Coovadia, Mr Richard Nicholls and Mr Andries Mooke were inaugurated. This Council will provide strategic and policy direction for Iziko Museums of South Africa for the next three years.

Numerous beneficial partnerships that Iziko entered into over the past year have resulted in funding for exhibitions, workshops and transport to our museums. In an attempt to be accessible to all, we have made concessions for free entry to the museums for those in need, had open and free days, and provided our visitors with the best possible value for sharing our unique offering of entertainment and knowledge.

We actively participated in the South Africa/French Season in Paris, France by curating an exhibition entitled, A Portrait of South Africa: George Hallet, Peter Clarke & Gerard Sekoto, which opened on 29 October 2013 at the Cité internationale des arts.

On 5 December 2013, the world sadly bid farewell to leader, world icon and symbol of the nation, former President Nelson R Mandela. Iziko commemorated his life with a small but vital exhibition in a reflection cove at the Iziko South African Museum.

Congratulations are due to the first batch of students who successfully completed the Mellon UCT and Iziko Honours in Curatorship Degree. We are truly proud of your achievement.

would like to congratulate the teams at Iziko for remaining positive, working tirelessly to discover new knowledge, create new exhibitions, stimulate new discourses, revisit and revive old exhibitions and discard old stereotypes, and bring cutting edge exhibitions to our spaces – I am truly honoured to work with you, and relish seeing the dynamism that emanates from you in 2014.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for your continuous support.

Rooksana Omar, Chief Executive Officer, Iziko Museums of South Africa

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