Guide to museums you always walk past on campus

REBECCA WOODROW
Are you in the mood for silence, culture, and air-conditioning? UP’s museums are ready and waiting.

Old Arts Building

Highlights of what’s inside: Ceramic collections from Asia and the Netherlands, the Mapungubwe exhibit that houses the gold rhino, Dutch paintings, a pirate’s treasure chest, a beautifully crafted marijuana jar, and a thousand-year-old shopping receipt from Mesopotamia. The museum has shabtis – small funerary figures of Ancient Egypt – that were found in a rubbish dump in South Africa. They were taken from Egypt in World War Two and are thought to have been brought here by Italian soldiers.

“Am I even allowed inside? That building is old and intimidating.”

Yep! Admission is free and it’s open between 10:00 and 16:00 from Monday to Friday.

Old Merensky and the Eduardo Villa Museum

Highlights of what’s inside: Eduardo Villa’s psychedelic sculptures in bronze and plaster of Paris. If you are looking for something more real-life you can check out works like those of Anton van Wouw, who is described as the father of South African sculpture, dating more than a century. His sculptures include busts of Boers in the Vignali style of bronze-working and Hunter Drinking Water – another bronze work in the style of Marinelli, Vignali’s former apprentice. At the entrance you are greeted by an elegant domed ceiling and a piece by Lwandiso Njara. Njara, a Tshwane University of Technology alumnus whose works have also been displayed at Arts on Main and the Absa Art Gallery, combines the influences of his Catholic schooling and rural traditional upbringing in his work to make it both contemporary and a reference “to bygone times”. The museum welcomes you with Transformation of Identity, Njara’s sculpture of a goat that has been sawn in half, and its organs are cogs and machinery.

Curator of the Sculptural Collection, Daniel Rankadi Mosako, said, “I think the importance of understanding museums comes from how they came into existence because they have not always been publicly accessible like we are lucky to have today. ” He added, “Historically, museums existed as the private collections of individuals” who then “bequeath their collections to particular institutions like the University of Pretoria museums”. He emphasised those responsible for the collections as custodians – caretakers of valuable works that should be valued.

Sci-Enza

If you try and touch any of the exhibits at the Old Arts Museum or the Old Merensky and Eduardo Villa Museum, you will be tackled to the ground, or forcefully told to leave. So if you want your experience to be more interactive, Sci-Enza is the place to go. The manager of Sci-Enza, Puleng Tsie, said, “Anybody who walks in here can learn without even noticing. Whether [it’s] by the puzzles, at the exhibits or at the mirror maze, everything that you do here is a learning experience without you realising it. And that’s the thing for students I think. After sitting in lectures you need somewhere where you can just sit and relax your mind and explore different things”.

Sci-Enza has exhibits across multiple scientific fields including Mathematics, Geology, and Biology. Tsie is confident that the facilitators are approachable; most of them are Science graduates from UP.

Tsie also spoke about another must-see at Sci-Enza: the Camera Obscura: “It’s a dark room, but once you go into it you can see an overview of Hatfield Campus and also the Pretoria skyline”. She mentioned that Sci-Enza draws return visitors. The weather is warm and so is the welcome you’ll get at Sci-Enza. The enthusiasm fills the air thanks to people like its manager: “I love being here because it is a relaxing place to be at. No agendas, nothing, just walk in and explore”.

 

Photo: Kaylyn O’Brien

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