C o m m o n w e a l t h
A s s o c i a t i o n o f
M u s e u m s
CAM Bulletin Number 1 - Jan. 1996
Key messages to CAM: Seminar and Outreach Program: Botswana and South Africa. Museums and the National Identity: Ideas, Issues and Applications, Sept 17-28 1995
Mrs Brigitte Mabandla
Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology
Tswaing Crater Museum on 19 September 1995
It is a singular honour to welcome you as distinguished people - people concerned with the conservation of heritage. Ms Lois Irvine, colleagues from neighbouring countries and overseas, I am most pleased to extend to each of you a warm welcome to South Africa and the Tswaing Crater Museum. Minister, Dr Ben Ngubane, requested me to convey his appreciation for your presence and your participation in the seminar and outreach program. Unfortunately Dr Ngubane can not be here today.
Sure, the Tswaing Crater Museum is a most appropriate place, at least in South Africa to meet and share experiences and concerns on museums and national identity. The fact is that each of us has a stake in the incredible living diversity of the earth we live on. The heritage we share as inhabitants of this planet is a heritage that transcends both time and national boundaries. Heritage is a compound of many treasures. They are natural and human made and they emanate all over the world. Access to them will benefit humankind not just physically, but more important, spiritually, enabling us perhaps to understand the words of William Blake better:
"To see a World in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the Palm of your Hand
And Eternity in an Hour"
This is our problem; but that is also our opportunity!
Of all the available models of museums the National Cultural History Museum did well to explore the ecomuseum system. I wish to congratulate the Director and staff for pursuing this concept. The history of Tswaing will be told from its geographical formation thousands of years ago, the appearance and evolution of the forms of life which have created the natural and ecosystems, and the advent of human life on its history. Tswaing can become the mirror where the local population can see itself in its relations to the environment which surround it. You should gain the interest of your neighbours. They should recognise themselves fully in the ecomuseum. Furthermore, they should use Tswaing as a tool for development. Ecomuseums can be planned; people not. Producing the actual voices of your neighbours makes them an integral part of Tswaing's presentation. As the local people speak Tswaing should listen and Tswaing should bring them closer together.
In South Africa we realise that lone wolves cannot hunt alone. Therefore, the need for international cooperation is beyond question. In the past our sub continent had difficulties to agree on political and philosophical grounds. Today it is possible for valuable cooperation to take place. A common purpose can be found in cultural development and conservation. Museums can be effective communicators of culture, provided, that they give the necessary political expression of the vitality of communities.
Ladies and gentlemen, again, we are honoured by your presence and participation, in this first Seminar and Outreach Program on national identity and its relationship to museums. May you return again and again to the Tswaing Crater Museum and I wish you all a pleasant stay and fruitful deliberations.
Message from the Commonwealth Secretary General,
Chief Emeka Anyaoku
I was delighted to be asked to send a message to you all at the 1995 Seminar and Outreach Program, Botswana and South Africa, which has been organised by the Commonwealth Association of Museums.
Your Association, which was founded in 1974, is one of about 200 Commonwealth agencies which are listed in our Directory of Commonwealth Organisations and with which the Secretariat is particularly pleased to enjoy growing collaboration through the work of our NGO Desk. The role of non-governmental organisations such as yours is of great importance as it represents a large part of the tradition of cooperation and partnership which is so central to the vibrant links between the people who make up our family of nations.
I have followed with keen interest the development of your Association, from the beginning when you were based in London and, subsequently, when you moved to Calgary in Canada. Notwithstanding the fact that you are a small organisation, much has been achieved. To mention some of your recent initiatives, your distance learning program in basic museum studies has been of significant value, as were your regional workshop in Belize in November 1993 on museum ethics and indigenous people, and your collaboration with the University of Victoria in Canada in organising the May 1994 symposium on the theme of "Curatorship: Indigenous Perspectives in Post-Colonial Societies".
The documents for your current Seminar and Outreach Program stress that the contemporary world needs to address more effectively the questions of national identity and nationalism, which are proving to be increasingly strong forces for both constructive development and destructive conflicts. I could not agree more. Sadly, the demise of the Cold War has not been the global panacea that many had hoped for. We have all been appalled in recent months by the suffering in the former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda and elsewhere. Indeed, in Europe (including the former Soviet Union), North America, Australasia and in many other parts of the world, there are increasing manifestations of friction and strife which represent entirely negative responses to the challenge of pluralism. It is clear that a welcoming acceptance of different cultures and communities has never been more necessary.
All is not doom and gloom, of course. There have been some notable successes, of which the end of apartheid in South Africa is the most compelling Commonwealth example. While our association cannot resolve all such problems, we can continue to provide an example of what Jawaharlal Nehru called "the healing touch". The world needs organisations such as the Commonwealth which show how different people can be brought together, not in order to make them similar but to foster understanding, cooperation and development within the framework of diversity.
Welcoming all South Africans back into the Commonwealth in June 1994 was one of my most heartening duties as Secretary-General, and assisting the new South Africa to establish the many links which Commonwealth membership entails has been a particular pleasure. The Chairman of your Program Committee, Mr Emmanuel Arinze of Nigeria, and your President, Mr Sadashiv Gorakshkar of India, are well placed to ensure that South Africa's museum community is integrated fully with friends and colleagues in the rest of Africa and in the Commonwealth as a whole.
I feel confident that during the twelve days of your meetings, you will have valuable discussions about many ideas, issues and applications which will be beneficial not only to your Association but to the wider international community. I wish you all the very best in your deliberations.
Message from Dr Humayun Khan
Director, Commonwealth Foundation
I am very sorry that unavoidable circumstances have prevented me from being in Gaborone to personally convey to you my good wishes and those of everyone at the Commonwealth Foundation on this auspicious occasion.
The Foundation is proud of its partnership with so many Commonwealth Professional Associations and, among these, the Commonwealth Association of Museums occupies an important place. We are particularly pleased that we have been able to assist a number of delegates to participate in the Commonwealth Association of Museums 1995 Seminar and Outreach Program. It is specially gratifying that, on this occasion, professional colleagues from South Africa will be present and I am sure they will receive the same warm welcome as they do at every Commonwealth Forum.
All of us at the Commonwealth Foundation wish you a successful and enjoyable conference and it is our hope that this event will further strengthen the Commonwealth Association of Museums and lead to increased contacts between member countries of the Commonwealth.