Michael Jonas, Director, Die Afrikaanse Taalmuseum en Monument, Paarl, South Africa
A biography of the Afrikaanse Taalmuseum en-Monument
The Afrikaanse Taalmuseum en-Monument (Afrikaanse Language Museum and Monument) encompasses the Language Museum, Monument, an open air Amphitheater and 100 hectares of indigenous vegetation. It is located in the village of Paarl in Western Cape province, South Africa. We have a staff complement of twenty-six personnel.
The institution is declared under the National Cultural Institutions Act and serves as an agency for the national Department of Arts and Culture from who the bulk of the funding for the institutions operations are sourced.
Themes in the museum displays, located in a double-story Georgians-period house, portrays the narrative of the early development of Afrikaans, contributions from different users to the development of the language, and the different dialects spoken in the various Afrikaans communities.
Problem statement / Abstract
Museums as cultural institutions and public representations such as monuments are perceived as public spaces of authority. Through their museological core functions, programming and communication strategies specific messages and meanings are conveyed/expressed/communicated.
In the recent past the role and influence of these public spaces in the shaping of a past South African identity has come under scrutiny. University student campaigns such as #Rhodesmustfall marked the dawn of an era whereby institutions such as the Afrikaanse Language Museum and Monument need to conduct a thorough investigation into the reasons for our existence and perceived mandates. These interventions could assist the institution in staying relevant and enable it to address the everchanging needs of our societies.
In this paper, I will endeavor to contextualise the development of the institution against the socio-economic background of the period, illustrate how the development strategies conformed to the Afrikaner nationalist agenda and how the institution through its activities engineered a white identity based on common past.I will explore how community inclusive/exclusive participation was sought, display strategies, programming and communication strategies employed to portray and keep intact the dominant Afrikaner narrative, despite effort to upgrade and add new interpretations.
I will also attempt to offer key strategies on how to advance and realise the management board and Department of Arts and Culture’s strategic commitments to manage an institution that provide inclusive services and experiences to our clients. These key strategies could possibly assist the institution to stay relevant, deals with baggage and deconstruction of the past and foster a love/appreciation for the inclusive history of Afrikaans amongst its diverse users in a multi-cultural environment.