The First Twenty Years: 1991 – 2011

Roots

The Vukani Zulu Cultural Museum or, more properly, the Vukani Collection Trust which is the governing body, owes its inception to the work done by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zululand from 1972 until 1982.

In the small mission station of Rorkeâ��������������������s Drift run by the Swedish Lutheran Church, Reverend Kjell Lofroth aided the starving rural communities by buying and re-selling their craft.  The success of this project was overwhelming, particularly in overseas markets, and Rev Lofroth assisted the crafters to form a self-help association.��  They named it Vukani – “letâ€���s wake up and get going”.  The superb personal collection that Rev and Mrs Lofroth amassed during this period was left behind when they returned to Sweden, for the purpose of creating a museum.

A museum is born

 

In 1991, the Vukani Association was experiencing financial difficulties.���� Needing funds, they looked at Rev Lofroth’s personal collection and decided to sell it to their overseas markets.  When word got out, a group of Eshowe residents, members of the Zululand Arts Society, decided that it was too valuable a resource to be allowed out of the country.  They formed the Vukani Collection Trust and the museum finally opened its doors in the Old Post Office in 1994, using the Lofroth family collection as the core.

Financing

From the beginning, the Trust has been fortunate enough to secure an annual subsidy from the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Administration through the Museum Services Department.  This amount covers 80 – 90% of the museum’s running costs.  The remainder is raised through entrance fees and sales of high quality work from local craft artists.  Special projects are funded by grants from various donor bodies.

Staffing and volunteers

When the museum opened in 1994, it had one part time curator and opened for a few hours every week.  Today, the museum has three fulltime staff and a team of seven part time staff who ensure that the museum is open to the public seven days a week.�� This has allowed us to undertake projects that the first curator must have been only able to dream about.

All of the accessioning done before the museum was opened was undertaken by dedicated volunteers, as was the setting up of the Trust.  A huge debt of gratitude is owed to these people who spent hours ensuring that the records of the museum were established in a professional and orderly fashion.

 

Accommodation

In 2001 the Umlalazi Municipality advised that they required the Old Post Office building and��  funds were raised for a purpose-built home for the collection in the grounds of Fort Nongqayi, where the Zululand Historical Museum is situated.  This attractive building is a wonderful showcase for the collection itself, but more space is needed for archives and educational facilities.  Because of its pro-active work programme, Vukani has already had to take over an archive, a digitization centre and the museum shop from the peripheral buildings of the Fort Nongqayi Museum Village.

Development

Since 2005, Vukani Museum has built up a four-pronged programme of development:

a)Â��  ������������ Â �� Â Â  Collection growth: Limited funding has hampered this area of work but the collection has grown by the addition of some traditional old items of beadwork and clothing.������  At the same time the collection of basketwork, for which the museum is famous, has been increased by the specific work of some of the most admired crafters such as Reuben Ndwandwe and Angeline Masuku.  The pottery collection consisted mostly of the work of Nesta Nala and this has been increased by the addition of the work of her five daughters, the Magwaza clan and Brian Mkhize.��  Some superb contemporary beadwork has been added as well.

In view of the construction at the Museum Village of a hall intended for the display of traditional and historical artifacts, it is probably that Vukani will concentrate in the future in the best of contemporary work.

b)   �� Â Â Â Â  Income generation: ��  Since its very first days, Vukani has helped local crafters by creating markets for their work.  This has developed to the extent that the museum now runs the visitor shop at the Fort Nongqayi Museum Village and has instituted a policy of ‘local crafters first’ in the place of the previous policy of purchasing from all of Africa.  Whilst this project obviously assists museum funds, the primary object is to ensure a market for the many rural crafters, who are mostly single women supporting an extended family.

c)     Â��   Educational enrichment: The schools of the rural area around Eshowe work in dismal poverty.  There are no resources such as libraries and computer rooms and teachers are often poorly trained although many are dedicated to their task.  Through close collaboration with the Zululand Historical Museum and the Dlinza Forest Aerial Boardwalk, funded by the Johanna Bode Foundation of Holland, Vukani is part of a project which brings busloads of children from the poorest schools to Eshowe to visit the forest and the Museum Village.��  Here they take part in craft tasks or watch videos that explain the disappearing culture and heritage of the Zulu people.  The irony is that these particular children grow up in a very rural and conservative ambience but are turning their ideals more and more to a technological and urban future.  As a result, they tend to dismiss their own roots as beneath notice.  Vukani is attempting to re-awaken pride in the values they have inherited.

d) �� Â Â Â Â Â Â  Youth engagement: Â�� A museum which stays within its doors cannot serve the needs of Africa.  The collection-based ethos which came with our colonial forebears is too rigid, too insular and too elitist to appeal to a people who were deliberately kept as uneducated as possible.  Museums are still seen as â�����˜white people’s business’.

Vukani has therefore linked with a local community based organisation called Senzokuhle to accompany them into 32 schools where we will be opening ‘museums clusters’ –  focus groups that will have open discussions on what Vukani can do to assist them and what they expect of a museum when they visit it.���� Out of these groups we are also hoping to train some field assistants who will help to record and collect their own vanishing culture, as well as assisting us to develop our own policies.