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 7 - Nov. 2001
In Memory of George Sembereka
When I learned that George Sembereka had died August 9th 2000, I was shocked and saddened by the loss. It has been over a year now that I heard the news, and I still often think of him. That is the amazing thing about CAM. You develop meaningful connections with people all around the world, share experiences and begin to understand the common aspects of our humanity. George and I were drawn together by our interest in sharing views on work and life. Maybe he liked to talk or we drifted together because we both liked to listen. It's not only our conversation that stays with me, it's the images of being quietly tegether on the lawn at the University of Victoria, on the steps of the National Museum in Johannesburg, in the storage rooms of the national collection in Pretoria and at the opening reception of the triennial meeting in Botswana where we were greeted by traditional dancers from a local high school. I remember George standing there with his cane and I was glad to be in the company of a friend.
George was a serious museologist. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in English and History from Chancellor College in Zomba, Malawi and completed his Post Graduate diploma in Museum Studies at Leicester University in England in 1983. He joined the Museums of Malawi in 1980 and boosted the growth of the ethnology section of the museum during his 20 years of service. He traveled to museum conferences and workshops in Africa, America and Europe where he shared ideas with his colleagues and searched for techniques that could be used back home. During the CAM study tour and triennial meeting in South Africa and Botswana in 1995, George kept challenging my concepts. Everywhere we went he kept asking me, "Is this an African museum?" Since most of the museums we visited were based on colonial models, I started to see his point and explore with him the kind of museum that he believed was needed in Africa.
Recently, I learned some important things about George. He was born November 22, 1957 in Limbe in Blantyre City, Malawi and he had one son. There is always so much about a person that we don't know. All we have is our shared experiences and our mutual connection with each other. The good thing about this is that the wealth and value of our memories continues to live. Even though we will miss George and are deeply saddened by his premature passing, we have been enriched by knowing him.