New Alex museum keeps township's heritage alive

In a bid to preserve and promote history and heritage, Alexandra township has launched its own museum.

The Alexandra Museum at the corner of 7th Avenue and Hofmeyr Street opened to the public three weeks ago.

The museum, which is situated a few metres away from the women's hostel, is one of the noticeable and appealing features in Alexandra.

Initially, the plan was to name it after Nelson Mandela but the former president turned down the offer, feeling the township and its people deserve to be celebrated.

The museum consists of offices, a restaurant, space for small businesses, educational spaces, archives and an internet cafe.

An exhibition of photographs that tell the history and culture of the township, known as Gomora, is currently on. Among the pictures on exhibition are those of the Alexandra massacre in 1986.

There is also a jukebox section where visitors can choose songs to listen to. The jukebox section wall was curated by seasoned township disco star Condry Ziqubu.

It features artists such as Caiphus Semenya, Ziqubu, Mahotella Queens and Mahlathini, Sophie Mgcina, Dark City Sisters, Hugh Masekela and other stars.

There is also a section where portraits of local residents - Simon Nkabinde aka Mahlathini, Linda Twala, Sam Bhuti and Arthur Magerman, among others - are displayed.

Another section of the museum allows visitors to listen to interviews of legendary residents of Alexandra.

According to curator Prince Dube, the main purpose of the museum is to make sure that the institution promotes the history and rich heritage of Alexandra. Born in KwaMashu, Dube grew up in Gingindlovu. He received his BA Fine Arts degree at the former University of Durban-Westville and has previously worked for the Johannesburg Art Gallery.

"This museum will benefit the community because people are hungry to learn [about] their own history.

"They [school kids] don't have to travel to other parts of Johannesburg [to learn about their history]. Most importantly, the community will benefit because it [the museum] promotes the area," says Dube.

Though the museum has recently opened, it already has a busy programme until the middle of next year.

Dube says art classes for children and workshops for teachers will start soon.

"We want to have workshops where we educate the community and teachers about the importance of building a collection from your own items.

"Our biggest mission is also to work with arts and heritage groups, mentor them until they can stand on their own. We then release them and get new ones," said Dube.

Alexandra was established when a white landowner started selling stands in 1912, just a year before the Land Act became effective.


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