Me­moirs of a Mu­seum Junkie

Join the trail of small-town mu­se­ums

South African Country Life - - In This Issue -

Ionce went on a barg­ing hol­i­day in he UK and, on sight of a steeple break­ing the sky­line, our self­ap­pointed cap­tain would say, ‘Where’s there’s a church, there’s a pub’. An ex­cuse to moor up.

Sim­i­larly, my maxim is ‘Where there’s a small town, there’s a mu­seum’. Sadly it hasn’t al­ways been true but, to my chil­dren’s cha­grin, it’s never stopped me from look­ing. And so over the years I have found my­self ea­gerly pur­su­ing dust motes, pe­rus­ing dog-eared doc­u­ments, chipped ceramics, wilt­ing lace and old farm uten­sils in the strangest places.

In re­cent years, I’ve dis­cov­ered that mu­se­ums are not only about granny’s trap­pings, but trib­utes to just about any­thing. While far from be­ing a com­pre­hen­sive col­lec­tion, here’s a hand­ful from in and around the Western Cape.

Air Force Mu­seum, Yster­plaat

A fighter pi­lot in World War II, my late fa­ther-in-law used to go to the SAAF Mu­seum at the Air Force Base at Yster­plaat soon af­ter it opened in 1987 for re­union pho­tographs. It’s been up­dated since then with some very smart up­grades of the dis­plays, and it looks like things will be chang­ing even more, be­cause we re­cently found fur­ther ren­o­va­tions un­der­way there.

Bring­ing the his­tory of the Air Force into the 21st cen­tury is the Col­lec­tive Her­itage Dis­play Hall, where a se­ries of pan­els takes you from the in­cep­tion in 1920 pretty much to the present day – cer­tainly to the huge role it played in both Nel­son Man­dela’s in­au­gu­ra­tion in 1994 and his fu­neral ar­range­ments in 2013.

There are metic­u­lous time­lines of com­bat, he­li­copter, fixed-wing and trans­port air­craft, uni­forms and minia­ture mod­els. Best are the big old planes them­selves in the 1920 hangar. For a more com­plete pic­ture, book a guide, visit the 1939 Spitz plan­e­tar­ium or, on the last Sat­ur­day of ev­ery month, wit­ness a ground run of the thun­der­ing old Shack­le­ton.

Why go? A priv­i­lege to get an as­tral per­spec­tive in a work­ing mil­i­tary base.

021 508 6561

18 Gang­ster Mu­seum Khayelit­sha

When I heard news of a town hall talk in Mow­bray fo­cused on a project called Shake­speare in Prison, I was so there.

Among the peo­ple I spoke to was Mthetheleli Ngx­eke or ‘MT’ who, ar­rested aged 17 for armed rob­bery, had spent time at Drak­en­stein Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre.

He is cur­rently work­ing at The Mes­sage Trust South Africa, a Chris­tian ini­tia­tive that, among other things, has a cof­fee shop where ex-of­fend­ers are trained as baris­tas, to turn gang­sters into ‘gangstars’.

I met up again with MT to drive out to he 18 Gang­ster Mu­seum in Khayelit­sha, where it is housed in a com­part­mented ship­ping con­tainer dra­mat­i­cally painted black. The visit also in­cluded a short, guided tour of the neigh­bour­ing town­ship with co-founder Wan­dis­ile Nqeketho.

Armed with shov­els­ful of in­side in­tel, Wandi took us on a tour past (and into)

Bob’s she­been, a hair salon, a tai­lor and a spon­ta­neous game of street soc­cer. Back at the mu­seum, he sat on a bunk in the part of the con­tainer that’s a replica of a prison cell, he ex­plained its cau­tion­ary sig­nif­i­cance.

In the other half of the cell, di­rec­tor and co-founder Siyab­ulela Daweti talks through and be­yond the vis­ual pan­els, giv­ing a broader, so­cial pic­ture of what led to the cre­ation of this ‘liv­ing’ mu­seum.

Why go? An eye-open­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to change your per­spec­tive on crime.

021 821 7864, 073 707 3639 www.18gm.co.za

Book­ing es­sen­tial.

Strand­veld Mu­seum Fran­skraal

Be­cause one is so of­ten in tran­sit, gems in lowkey coastal towns are of­ten over­looked but, on a re­cent trip pass­ing through Gans­baai,

I was de­ter­mined to seek out the Strand­veld Mu­seum, orig­i­nally the home of one of the head­men on Dyer Is­land.

It turned out to be a quaint lit­tle cot­tage set on the rocks among kelp and cor­morants, but was dis­ap­point­ingly closed on my im­promptu visit. I made a note of the phone num­ber on the board out­side to call later.

When I called Estie Fourie, co-owner with her hus­band Jan, there was a health cri­sis in her nearby home at the time, but she kindly agreed to meet me there in half an hour. When she ar­rived in her wee car, she was as fas­ci­nat­ing a guide as you could wish for.

Within min­utes we’d learnt how she and

Jan had come to open this mu­seum back in 2000, and dipped into a seem­ingly bot­tom­less pot of eye­brow-rais­ing sto­ries about guano, seal culling, head­men, Black Sophie (a large rock 200 me­tres out to sea off Gans­baai), medicine and trea­sure chests, the wreck of the Birken­head and some of the ba­bies born on it.

To learn that the Fouries are both au­thors is no sur­prise, and copies of their books on the re­gion are to be found among the para­pher­na­lia on the tightly packed shelves.

Why go? A tan­ta­lis­ing repos­i­tory of nau­ti­cal nar­ra­tives. 028 388 0218, 072 267 5698 gans­baai­info.com/strand­veld-mu­seum

Mu­sic van de Caab Mu­seum Franschhoek

Vis­i­tors to Franschhoek gen­er­ally spend a lot of time eat­ing and drink­ing. But on the road to the gourmet cap­i­tal, Solms-Delta is not just another win­ery with a restau­rant, but one that hosts the well-re­searched Mu­seum van de Caab with full-on his­tory of slaves and slav­ery in the re­gion.

For me, though, the real bi­jou is the tiny stand-alone Mu­sic van de Caab Mu­seum, to which you can saunter af­ter a good lunch or make an ap­point­ment for a guided ex­pe­ri­ence. Once, vis­it­ing there with over­seas vis­i­tors, we were lucky to have a young lady guide sing and drum her her­itage mem­o­ries of grow­ing up in these parts. Mem­o­rable in­deed.

More re­cently, we ar­rived unan­nounced and, left to our own de­vices, were free to read the finely de­tailed pan­els de­signed to ‘ex­plore, hon­our, pre­serve and de­velop the di­verse mu­si­cal her­itage of the ru­ral Cape’ from Khoisan trance dances and Kaapse Klopse to other African in­flu­ences and jazz.

repli­cas of orig­i­nal an­kle rat­tles, mouth bows, gui­tars made from oil tins and more. There’s an au­dio-vis­ual pre­sen­ta­tion but lis­ten care­fully and you can hear the winds of change rustling through the trees here and pick up some key mo­ments in South Africa’s mu­si­cal his­tory. Why go? Small, but spe­cial for mu­sic lovers who like to know the back­ing tracks.

021 874 3937 www.solms-delta.co.za/mu­se­ums-ar­chae­ol­ogy

Motor Mu­seum, Franschhoek

Some years ago, on the way through the Winelands with car fa­nat­ics from the UK, we de­cided, as a sur­prise, to pop in to the Franschhoek Motor Mu­seum at L’Or­marins wine es­tate.

Our British friend thought he’d died and gone to heaven be­cause there were not only sev­eral hun­dred ve­hi­cles, motorbikes and mem­o­ra­bilia re­flect­ing 100 years of mo­tor­ing his­tory, but he was in­vited to have a spin in one around the im­me­di­ate prop­erty. It was duck­egg blue, I for­get what make it was, but even a decade later I’m sure he could tell you.

To­day the mu­seum houses around 300 cars, cat­a­logued in ‘li­braries’ – Stude­baker, Ford, Volk­swa­gen, Fer­arri, Porsche… the list is long and com­pre­hen­sive. The old­est is a gra­cious 1903 Ford Model A, and there are some specif­i­cally linked to South African his­tory – like the BMW used by Madiba on his 46664

cam­paign, and the Protea, the first two-seater sports car to be mass-pro­duced in the coun­try.

There are global-sig­na­ture cars like a vin­tage Bu­gatti and a sin­gle-seater For­mula 1 but, as cu­ra­tor Wayne Har­ley says, “Who­ever for­gets their first car?” So ev­ery ve­hi­cle has been a sig­na­ture to some­one.

Why go? To­tal in­dul­gence for car lovers.

Treat your­self to a glass of L’Or­marins wine af­ter­wards. 021 874 9002, www.fmm.co.za Tours by ap­point­ment only.

His­toric Vil­lage Mu­seum Ge­naden­dal

On each visit to Grey­ton I make a point of pop­ping in to Ge­naden­dal, the Mo­ra­vian mis­sion vil­lage down the road, be­cause I see some­thing new in their mu­seum ev­ery time, and it’s a com­mu­nity-run project.

Ge­naden­dal is said to be the old­est such mis­sion vil­lage in Africa and, stand­ing in the church square, with its sim­ple but dom­i­nant church and sur­round­ing white-walled, thatch cot­tages, it’s easy to feel that not much has changed since its es­tab­lish­ment in 1738.

Don­keys and cows con­tinue to graze in the werf. The wide range of mu­seum ephemera is housed in a clutch of build­ings de­pict­ing the trap­pings of ev­ery­day life as it was. But there are also care­fully cu­rated

pho­tog­ra­phy, ed­u­ca­tion, mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, help­ful lo­cals on hand to fill in the de­tails.

There’s a work­ing wa­ter­mill, and walks for when you want to breathe in the present. It’s too much for one visit, and so spe­cial a place that Nel­son Man­dela re­named his pres­i­den­tial res­i­dence af­ter it fol­low­ing his visit here in 1995 – Ge­naden­dal, Val­ley of Grace.

Why go? A gen­tle, peace­ful place to re­flect on the com­plex­i­ties of the past.

028 251 8582, www.face­book.com Ge­naden­dalMis­sionMu­seum

Toy & Minia­ture Mu­seum Stel­len­bosch

A sucker for kids stuff, I once took my boy to the War­rior Toy Mu­seum in Si­mon’s Town where he bought what he was as­sured was an in­vest­ment, a smartly pack­aged vin­tage ve­hi­cle. The vic­tim of a clearout, it’s long gone, but the fas­ci­na­tion for old toys stayed with me, so re­cently in Stel­len­bosch, I was not about to miss out on the Toy & Minia­ture Mu­seum.

In an old, Cape Dutch house tucked be­hind Tourist Info, it has the look of a gi­ant minia­ture it­self. In­side are lov­ingly cased rag to rosebud dolls, per­fectly 1:12-scale, replica room set­tings, even a kitchen in a match­box.

Among the mass of ted­dies, I found al­most a car­bon copy of my own from cen­turies past. For the boy in you, there are hun­dreds of care­fully cat­a­logued lit­tle cars (the do­nated col­lec­tion of Limpie Bas­son), but sur­pass­ing ev­ery­thing is the train set­ting.

For the price of R5 in the slot, wit­ness two in­trepid lit­tle en­gines wind their way over moun­tain passes, through tun­nels, across bridges, past a pint-sized Stel­len­bosch sta­tion and a ma­que­tte of Matjies­fontein. Don’t miss the fin­ger­nail-size cy­clists, for­est hik­ers, and farm scenes com­plete with chick­ens.

Why go? Se­ri­ous fun and mem­ory lane trip for kids of all ages. 021 882 8861 www.stel­mus.co.za/toy_minia­ture_­mu­seum.htm

SAPS Mu­seum Muizen­berg

I don’t know how many times I’ve driven the main road to the South Penin­sula and thought ‘I re­ally must visit the SAPS Mu­seum one day’. It is, af­ter all, rather up­staged by its neigh­bour, the el­e­gant Casa Labia, a tea stop with a prime view and touch of class.

I fi­nally did it one rainy af­ter­noon, when the of­fi­cer in charge in­vited me to ‘look around, take pic­tures, make your­self at home’. I had no idea that the po­lice wore so many hats – and uni­forms for all oc­ca­sions, crisp, pressed and medalled in rows of glass cases.

And just when I thought I’d seen it all, in­clud­ing Ch­ester the taxi­der­mied dap­ple-grey in his horse­box, the friendly of­fi­cer guided me through to the court­room scene, and the of­fice dis­play cel­e­brat­ing the Fin­ger­print Cop (the ‘first non-white foren­sic ex­pert’). And fi­nally down I went to the cells – dark and dis­mal as you would ex­pect. Good place to do some re­search if you’re writ­ing a crime novel.

Why go? Great for restor­ing re­spect for SAPS and to ed­u­cate selves and chil­dren.

021 788 7035, www.showme.co.za/cape-town/ tourism/tourist-at­trac­tions/the-po­lice-mu­se­u­min-muizen­berg

Gen­eral Dealer Mu­seum Stan­ford

“It was orig­i­nally a gen­eral dealer, then a men’s bar, a wine bar, a place to buy pic­nics, a func­tion space – but it never quite worked. Then it oc­curred to me that Stan­ford didn’t have a mu­seum – so I turned it back into a gen­eral dealer – as a mu­seum.”

A com­pul­sive col­lec­tor, Penny van der Berg, owner of the Stan­ford Ho­tel, has had so much fun with this cor­ner-store mu­seum, sourc­ing good­ies from across the coun­try and de­scrib­ing it as, “A lit­tle bit Sel­fridges, a lit­tle bit Stuttafords, us­ing my own po­etic licence.”

When we vis­ited, it fea­tured 1950s cock­tail dresses, but Penny changes the dis­plays each Bastille Day. So from 14 July this year, over and above the hats, the hab­er­dash­ery, the garters and gloves, it is cel­e­brat­ing a cen­tury of vin­tage wed­ding dresses.

“The ho­tel turns 100 years old in 2020, and I can’t think of a bet­ter way to cel­e­brate,” says Penny, who has col­lected wed­ding dresses, one from ev­ery decade since 1920, from across the coun­try and from France, where her sis­ter lives.

The dis­play of man­nequins, some with glass eyes, moulded shoes, flex­i­ble limbs, even a Twiggy looka­like, are a story in them­selves.

Why go? A shop­per and fash­ion­ista’s de­light. 082 781 1704, www.stan­fordvil­lage.co.za

While work on the new hangar at the Air Force Mu­seum at Yster­plaat is in progress, re­tired planes like this De Hav­il­land Vam­pire are housed in the old one.

ABOVE: The num­ber 18 in the Gang­ster Mu­seum name sig­ni­fies that all the gang num­bers add up to 81 – the switch­ing of dig­its sym­bol­ises that they are turn­ing things around. RIGHT: “The pur­pose is to raise aware­ness, but more im­por­tantly to ed­u­cate, in­spire and up­lift young would-be gang­sters in the area,” says Siyab­ulela Daweti, mu­seum di­rec­tor.

ABOVE: Out­side the Strand­veld Mu­seum, the shoreline is the per­fect place to en­joy a pic­nic, and savour the sto­ries and the sea air. LEFT: With an eye and an ear for de­tail, Estie Fourie has a nar­ra­tive for ev­ery arte­fact at the mu­seum.

ABOVE LEFT: In an out­build­ing on the Solms-Delta wine es­tate, the mini mu­sic mu­seum is con­ve­niently next to the deli and cof­fee shop. LEFT: The long­ing to make mu­sic gave rise to cre­ative re­cy­cling pro­duc­ing oil-can gui­tars. ABOVE RIGHT: The grand old Ford Model A takes gleam­ing pride of place as the old­est motor on show at the L’Or­marins Motor Mu­seum. RIGHT: The Motor Mu­seum is spread among four large build­ings around a ded­i­cated cen­tral square on the L’Or­marins wine es­tate.

ABOVE: Spe­cial about the neatly painted but­ter and brown Ge­naden­dal com­plex, is the amount of care by the com­mu­nity that’s gone into re­search­ing, record­ing, and dis­play­ing. RIGHT: There is no talk of ghosts at Ge­naden­dal, but the spirit of res­i­dents’ past is al­most tan­gi­ble.

LEFT: Be­cause watch­ing the toy trains is com­pul­sive, you’ll def­i­nitely need more than one R5 coin. BE­LOW: Built around 1805, the Toy & Minia­ture Mu­seum is as cute as a doll’s house it­self.

ABOVE: Easy to miss the SAPS mu­seum as you drive the coast road to the Penin­sula, but so worth a visit. ABOVE RIGHT: Ch­ester the stuffed po­lice mas­cot horse, housed in a box of his own. RIGHT: From the till to the draw­ers and dolls, ev­ery­thing feels like the real deal at the Gen­eral Dealer Mu­seum in Stan­ford.

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