Arts and Culture; South African Museum Association: briefing

Arts and Culture

01 April 2003
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

1 April 2003


Ms M A Njobe (ANC)

Documents handed out:

The South African Museum Association briefed the committee on the transformation of museums and monuments and the presence of human remains in museums. Concerns with the department of Arts and Culture were highlighted. Other issues discussed included a dire need for an injection of new life into the sector, national audit of collections, the registration of human remains, and the financial limbo of museums. The committee proposed that SAMA draft a letter to the Department, submit it to the Committee to edit and forward to the Department.

Transformation in museums
Ms Rooksana Omar, President of the South African Museum Association (SAMA) spoke of transformation in museums as being slow siting the lack of clarity from the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) as responsible for the lack of implementation. Issues such as demographic, mentorship programmes, succession programmes, training programmes and public private partnerships were mentioned. Service delivery had been stifled because of financial and human resource constraints with new blood not coming in.

Curators were no longer able to continue with research and exhibitions but had become mere facilitators. There were no national audits of collections in South Africa and that collections development faced threats from international cartels that targeted South African Museums to steal collections. Market culture had outpriced pieces making it difficult for museums to keep them.

The SAMA President explained Exhibitions as core business, were costly and needed several initiatives to support them in becoming vibrant dynamic heritage resources. In terms of research and exhibition, the full potential of this sector had not been realised.

Funding of museums
Ms Omar called on the department to clarify the state of museums. She made reference to section 5(a) of the constitution, in highlighting the state of limbo and flux for municipality museums. Conservation management should be supported with preventative programmes. A coherent strategy needed to be devised for museums and heritage in order to increase funding.
SAMA did not address the transformation of monuments in their brief because it ought to be addressed by South African Heritage Resource Agency, SAHRA.

Human Remains
SAMA pointed out that Human Remains had scientific value yet presently there was no national register of human remains in South African museums, universities or medical schools. At the moment different museums registered with different municipalities. Issues of unethical acquisition of human remains by means of grave robbery; and criteria or lack of policy used to return the remains to descendants or communities were also highlighted. Ms Omar recommended that researchers and communities had to reach joint consensus about the storage and limited access of Human Remains. Another recommendation was that there should be a team that would review research and policy around other countries in the world and UNESCO, and then conduct an audit of South Africa's collection and devise a South African framework.

The outline of their achievements included developing training programmes (including the one used by Robben Island museum), code of ethics, the collection policy, and a constitution that governed the association.

Ms Omar was explicit about SAMA not being a statutory body but a professional body that offered an extensive network for museums nationally and internationally. SAMA was increasingly functioning on a regional level and would need to restructure to focus on a regional level.
Issues facing SAMA
-No systematic annual funding
-Shrinking membership - sector staff not being replaced by young blood
-Increased pressure for expert advice
-Dependency on goodwill
-Having no formal link with South African Museums

DiscussionMs A Van Wyk (NNP) commended the excellent work that was being done by SAMA under the prevailing conditions. The advantage of SAMA not being a statutory body was its independence. She passionately felt that the department needed to set up a sub directorate to deal with museums; and that recommendation ought to be made to the government and ministry that SAMA should get representation onto the heritage council.

Ms Omar (SAMA) strongly felt that they deserved to be represented on SAHRA and the National Heritage Council because they represented over 400 museums and museum workers. With regards to SAMA becoming a statutory body Ms Omar said the decision would not entirely be hers, but the councils to look at. She felt it would be favourable because they were doing a lot of work within the heritage sector.

Ms T Tshivase (ANC) asked how museums benefited and contributed to rural areas and its people.

Ms Omar said there were initiatives at local, provincial and national level to overcome the marginalisation of rural people in the form of co governance with the communities, museums and tourism authorities.

Mr M F Cassiem (IFP) asked if SAMA had done their homework in trying to secure funding from other sources. They had heard strong appeals for funding from almost every group and that the DAC, whose kit was limited, merely worked like a post office.

Ms Omar said that they had applied for funding to the IDP, Lotto fund, and universities overseas. DAC was not necessarily like a post office because its budget had increased whereas funding for museums had decreased.

Ms H Mpaka (ANC) asked what the status quo was - whether SAMA was transforming their association or museum institutions; and who was meant to conduct the national audit. What was the target group for SAMA training programs? Ms Mpaka sought clarity as to why SAMA wanted to be seconded to the heritage council when the process was open to everybody.

Ms Omar said she was referring to transformation of the museum institution and not of the Association. A number of museums had made attempts to transform but this could only be fully implemented if DAC could state exactly what it meant by transformation even if it were in the form of an information booklet to define transformation. The DAC should be responsible for doing a national audit for the State, as it was their business and not that of SAMA. Provincial, local, national and independently funded museums could become members of SAMA and gain access to all the information available. In relation to training the training programme had targeted museum workers and twenty students but had not been limited to them. Regarding secondment to the heritage council, Ms Omar felt it was up to the SAMA Council to decide the case.

Mr S E Opperman (DA) asked if SAMA was involved in the returning of art effects.

Dr H Vollgraaff (Chairperson: SAMA) said art effects were returned to Iziko Museums in the Western Cape to allow the relevant process to take place regarding their permanent placement.

Mr S L Dithebe (ANC) commented that SAMA stood a better chance of getting resources internally and externally if they were not a statutory body, a status that would be restrictive. Mr Dithebe expressed concern about the theft of collections by international cartels, and asked if the police and investigative programs like Special Assignment and Third Degree had been involved. What was the difference between human fossils and human remains?

Ms Omar said that museums did contact and involve the mentioned bodies and often made use of interpol. Some small museums did not get access to Special Assignment and Third Degree.

Dr H Vollgraaff said human fossils were human remains that were between 12000 and 600000 years old. Urgent policy was needed around the lengthy complex issue that they often faced, regarding who the fossils should be returned to (social group or generic group).

Prof I Mohamed (ANC) commented that in Europe and America, museums were a great source of job creation and a strong tourist attraction. He added that he felt DAC in comparison to the Department of Science and Technology (DST) could surely do more.

Both Bishop L J Tolo (ANC) and Ms N D Mbombo (ANC) were concerned about how the rural people were attracted to visit museums.

Ms Omar explained that this was not incumbent of SAMA. They dealt specifically with their membership.

Ms M Njobe (Chair; ANC) asked what SAMAs relationship with DAC was because SAMA had raised issues that needed to have been raised to DAC. What was DACs response?

Ms Omar said that SAMA did not have a problem with dealing with DAC directly or indirectly.

Mr Cassiem (IFP) suggested that SAMA draft a letter to DAC in which they would capture all the points that they had made to the committee. The committee could edit the letter and forward it to the Department for a more complete response.

Mr N Ngcobo (ANC) felt that the DAC should set up a special workshop for the Committee to gain insight, as museums in many countries were major money-spinners.

The Chair suggested that members should visit museums to see what was actually going on as part of the Committee's oversight role.

The meeting was adjourned.




No related


No related documents


  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: