An historical overview of major South African artists, 1000-year-old clay figurines from Limpopo Province and an apartheid exhibit about the forced removals of people from Marabastad in Pretoria are just some of the highlights of a visit to the most extensive collection of cultural records in South Africa.
The National Cultural History Museum houses a large collection of art, historical documents, photographs and archaeological objects from around South Africa. It is regarded as one of the most dynamic, innovative heritage institutions in South Africa.
Its permanent display, which includes exhibitions documenting our stone and iron-age history, as well as an impressive collection of South African art, is complemented by regular temporary exhibitions and events to bring South Africa’s rich history to life. These include song, dance, drama and film festivals for which this cultural history museum in Pretoria is famous.
Housed in the Old Mint, a building of historical importance in South Africa’s capital city, the museum’s art collection includes works by iconic South African artists like JH Pierneef, Coert Steynberg and Noria Mabasa. These works are on permanent display and give visitors some insight into the artists’ perceptions and interpretations of the local landscape.
South African crafts are also given exposure in a separate display which includes beading, weaving, basketry and embroidery. There is also a large display of rock paintings and engravings that document the unique spiritual world of the South Africa’s earliest inhabitants.
Another exhibit, titled ‘Schroda’ after a site in the ancient kingdom of Mapungubwe, displays early Iron Age clay figurines excavated from this World Heritage Site. Over 1 000 years old, the sculptures relate to cultural practices such as initiation and lobola.
The country’s more recent apartheid history is also documented in an informative exhibition on the forced removals of the Indian, African and Asian populations from the Pretoria neighbourhoods of Lady Selborne and Marabastad in the 1960s.
The Pretoria Cultural History Museum forms part of the Northern Flagship Institution (NFI), a group of eight Gauteng-based museums. It was formed through an amalgamation between the Transvaal Museum, the National Cultural History Museum and the South African National Museum for Military History.