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Transforming the museum sector

Ernestine White-Mifetu fine artist curator
Ernestine White-Mifetu

CF: You are currently the director of the William Humphreys Art Gallery in Kimberley and have an extensive history working as a fine artist, curator and within museum spaces. Could you tell us a bit more about your current role? 
EWM: My current role is to provide the strategic direction within the organisation in terms of its internal processes and its programming in order to ensure that the institution remains relevant to the communities it serves.

CF: What excites you about heading up this museum and what challenges do you face?
EWM: The most rewarding component of heading up a museum is that I am afforded an opportunity to encourage and inspire a new generation of creatives to grow in the sector through our varied public programmes and to see how our initiatives are making positive contributions in the professional development. 

CF: What role do you think museums play in South African society and how do you think/hope this will change in the near future? 
EWM: As indicated above, in recent years, South Africa has seen an influx in the building of museums. So it is clear that there is an understanding of its importance in highlighting national identity, promoting national pride and encouraging notions of social cohesion. On a more cellular level, museums also have an ability to create opportunities for visitors to dream, to be inspired and to learn. In the future, I see museums incorporating technology more holistically through visitor engagement enticing a younger audience to engage with the creative arts in its varied ways.

CF: What are some of your favourite pieces in the William Humphreys Art Gallery permanent collection?
EWM: We just acquired a photographic work by the artist Thando Mama titled Izingqi Zesikhumbuzo (2016 – 2017), which explores notions of place, memory and the memorialisation of forgotten African histories. The work speaks to a national debate on the representation of diverse histories through public monuments. 
     The three-channel video projection titled Interlaced (2011) by Berni Searle is truly an immersive museum piece that speaks to the effects of colonial histories and traumas on the current lived realities of Africans. 
     And lastly, a work by Bettina Elten titled As We Are is a beautifully rendered painting of two young men, they are best friends, one black and one white. The depiction of the familiarity and ease with each other and genuine friendship speaks to the kind of South Africa that is yet fully actualised in which, despite our diverse histories, and socio-economic differences, we are able to embrace the positive qualities in ourselves and each other that can move a nation new in its democracy forward.

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