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EDUCATION AND RECREATION SELECT COMMITTEE
27 October 2004
HERITAGE: BRIEFING BY DEPARTMENT OF ARTS AND CULTURE
Documents handed out:
Heritage and National Archives in the Department of Arts and Culture
The Department of Arts and Culture briefed the Committee on the state of the country's heritage and the progress made in the collection and display of artefacts. Reference was also made to the upcoming world conference on heritage. The Committee urged the Department to make an effort to place Black culture into the country's heritage collections.
Mr Themba Wakashe, Deputy Director-General: Heritage and National Archives in the Department of Arts and Culture, gave a briefing on the work that the Department was doing in terms of heritage. Three pieces of legislation were critical to the work of the Department: National Heritage Resources Act, the Cultural Institutions Act and the National Heritage Council Act.
Key focus areas in the heritage sector had been identified as needing transformation. One of these areas was the need to reconceptualise the national museums so as to present nationally coherent structures. The second was to look at the repositioning of the infrastructure so that it was ready for the 21st century. Also considered was the development of a sustainable heritage appreciation through exhibitions and educational programmes.
Mr Wakashe noted the issue of Black people not visiting museums and said that research from the Department had shown that the exhibitions within museums did not reflect the history of Black people. The artefacts that exist in the museums were a reflection of the social development of a country and as such, these collections should reflect all of the country's peoples.
He continued that prior to 1994, museums had been under-funded. The Department had amalgamated the museums since 1994 and the SA Museum in Cape Town was a product of this amalgamation. The Department had been challenged by the lack of funding throughout the transformation process. It had sought funding from Treasury and it was successfully able to transform various areas within the Department. These areas included human resource development, cultural transformation, encouraging community involvement, multilingualism, building and developing new audiences and the establishment of partnerships between the institutions themselves.
The Department had experienced both successes and shortcomings during the transformation process. It had realised that there was not enough inventory as far as heritage was concerned. The Department therefore embarked on a proper inventory of collections within the museums. Money has been allocated over a two year period for the purpose of a national audit process.
Unfortunately, the educational programmes instituted by the Department had not been sustainable because they were short-term programmes. The Department took the issue of the national archives very seriously because it contained records of government departments. He also stated that the archives mostly contained a record of White governance and White heritage. What existed for Blacks was mainly information on births and deaths. Consequently, there was a campaign by the Department to establish a black heritage as well. Mr Wakashe noted that heritage material from the anti-apartheid movement era was being offered to the government for them to purchase by both individuals and companies. This had become a major challenge for the collection of anti-apartheid legacy material because the Department felt that these collections belonged to the country and should be returned.
Mr Wakashe also pointed out that South Africa was going to host the World Heritage conference in July 2005 in Durban. This was the first time that such a conference would take place in sub-Saharan Africa. The Department would present a position paper on the importance of heritage at the conference and the disrespectful ways that civil wars on the continent had destroyed African heritage.
Ms Madlah (ANC) asked what the Department was doing to encourage the youth to visit museums. She also asked about the Department's provincial audit process.
Mr Wakashe noted that there were various outreach programmes that the museums undertook to educate and encourage young people. However, there were not any Black young graduates pursuing museum studies. One reason for this could be that the salaries paid to museum staff were very low. There were no incentives from government to attract the best brains to this sector. This issue was a major challenge that needed to be overcome. He added that the provincial audit was still in progress but a clearer picture was bound to emerge when the study was completed. The result of this study would be shared with the Department.
Ms M Masilo (ANC) was concerned about the extent of libraries of learning for young people in the country. She also asked if the Department could generate money for the anti Apartheid movement collections.
Mr Wakashe requested that libraries be the subject of a separate briefing as there was a need to touch on lot of issues there. He noted that there were no libraries for the blind and many other libraries were being closed in the country. The largest township in the country had no library and it was difficult to support a culture of learning within such a context. He continued that the Department could generate money for the anti Apartheid movement collections. However people who had fought in the anti Apartheid movement had done so out of moral goodness and as such, it was unacceptable to have to buy back this legacy from private collectors who were selling these collections for profit. These collections belonged to South Africa and should not have to be bought back, it should be donated by these private collectors.
Mr M Thetjeng (DA) asked if the Department had liaised with South African Police Services to see if they had any anti Apartheid materials, especially audio-visual materials, that had been collected during that time by them as these should form part of the museum collections. He also asked how the Department linked up children with museum studies. He was interested in the method that the Department was using to ensure funding was flowing to provinces to maintain traditional heritage.
Mr Wakashe replied that the South African Police Service had its own museum that hosted some of the country's artefacts. Artefacts that were collected after 1976 were also stored at the South African Broadcasting Corporation. He said that the question on linking children to museum studies had been addressed in an earlier question.
The Chair asked to what extent had the country lost its artefacts. He also asked about the matter of the repatriation of the mortal remains of people who had been involved in the struggle. He suggested that a monument could be build if it was not possible to return their remains to this country.
Mr Wakashe replied that the Minister had moved towards establishing a committee to advise him on the issue of the repatriation of remains. Section 32 of the National Heritage Act addressed this issue and it was within that context that the Minister had established the committee.
He continued by saying that South Africa had not lost collections to a large extent. Theft did occur in museums but there were currently efforts being made to prevent this from happening. Most of the funding of the heritage sector would be gathered from the National Heritage Council rather than the Department. He noted that the British had maintained their graves after the Boer War up to the present time and the Boer graves were likewise maintained. The Minister would make an announcement on what should be done to war graves in this country.
The Chairperson asked about the amalgamation of the museums. He wanted to know whether staff were fired and how was the issue of redundancy dealt with.
Mr Wakashe replied that there had been some redundancy at managerial level. In some cases, directors had taken packages and left and some were re-deployed. The amalgamation issue was not over because some institutions could not be abolished. The Department would keep the Committee informed about the 2005 conference.
The meeting was adjourned.
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