Teacher, lecturer, political activist, family man and humble pragmatist. These are the traits of Robert Sobukwe as he is shown at an exhibition currently underway at DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History in Pretoria.
Visitors will be able to glimpse the PAC founder from a number of vantage points, along with the beliefs and background that shaped him and his life, and the role that the party he later formed, the PAC, played in the struggle.
One gets to see Sobukwe among the pioneers of the ANC Youth League in 1944, of whom one Anton Muziwakhe Lembede was first president, from the activism and leadership skills within the ANC throughout the 1940s and 1950s, up to his branching away to form the PAC in 1959. What emerges is the figure of a true visionary, one who believes steadfastly in the collective destiny of the African continent and the need to strive for its identity as a coherent polity.
Most significantly, the exhibition opened just weeks after the passing away of Sobukwe’s wife, Mama Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe in August 2018. Throughout his incarceration and eventual demise, Sobukwe is portrayed as a loving husband and father for whom the family came first, in a classic case of charity beginning at home.
As Thando Sipuye, Programme Coordinator for the Robert Sobukwe Trust, poignantly points out, many in South Africa are still unaware that Sobukwe succumbed to covert poisoning at the hands of apartheid-era government, and not the supposed lung cancer from which he was known to suffer.
The Sobukwe exhibition is, from this perspective, part of the vanquished of history stepping up to reclaim their past and tell their own story and not have it told to them by an observing third party, says Lemohang Zincume, Marketing Manager of DITSONG: Museums of South Africa (DMSA).
The exhibition has been twinned by a related display titled Poisoned Pasts, which chronicles how biological and chemical warfare was used covertly to annihilate political activists and struggle leaders, in terms of the infamous Project Coast.
The Poisoned Pasts display was inaugurated with a public lecture and dialogue on 30 November at which students, diplomats, public officials and academics engaged in dialogue about the need for diverse narratives in conformity with a 21st century art scene.
The DMSA’s mission is to transform DITSONG: Museums of South Africa into a catalyst for nation building, social cohesion, cultural diversity and economic development. This is achieved through active conservation, innovative research and relevant public programmes for the benefit of present and future generations.
The Robert Sobukwe Exhibition will be on display until 28 February 2019. The Poisoned Pasts exhibition will be on display until 29 November 2019.
To read more about DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History and the Poisoned Pasts exhibition, purchase the February 2018 issue of Creative Feel or, to continue supporting the arts and culture sector in South Africa, subscribe to our monthly magazine from only R180 per year.