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25 Years

Ruins and Remains: Imaging 'community' in the South End Museum

Date: 
Fri, 11/15/2019 - 12:00pm
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Event Location: 
537 Heller Hall

Presented by: Michelle Smith, University of the Western Cape

This chapter, a part of my dissertation on three museums in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, reflects on South End Museum in Port Elizabeth. As a “community museum,” South End aims to image a “community” left in ruin, forcibly removed under apartheid laws. The point of departure in this chapter is that the idea of the “community museum” is haunted by the colonial and apartheid pasts: life under colonialism and apartheid is not only what the “community museum” exhibits and stages, race and ethnicity inhere in its exhibiting and staging practices. Both notions, “community” and “museum,” have received critical attention, specifically, in South Africa, in relation to the District Six Museum. It is to this scholarship that this chapter aims to contribute, asking not only how “community” repeats, but how it might be, and indeed is being, re-figured at the South End Museum. At the heart of this re-figuring is a historical figure, David Stuurman, who is remembered, recalled, and who, in turn, is seen as calling the “community” to gather around loss, destruction, and death, but a figure of whom there is no photograph. The chapter looks at how modes of exhibiting at the South End Museum interact, animate, and conjure this figure.