In April 2019, a group of nineteen Zulu community experts, anthropologists, scholars, entrepreneurs and museum professionals convened at the Iziko Museums of South Africa—arguably the oldest museum in Sub-Saharan Africa—to conduct a three-day encounter with Zulu belongings.

Comprising of beer-drinking vessels, headdresses, earplugs, snuff spoons, spears, beadwork, medicine containers and more, the former South African Museum (SAM) classified this collection as “Zulu” during the colonial and apartheid periods.

Our group engaged directly with these belongings in the museum storerooms and boardroom, and more conceptually during an afternoon art session and, on the final day, as part of the storytelling session held in the gardens of Rust en Vreugd, a historic house set against the backdrop of Table Mountain.

As well as fostering connections between originating community members and their belongings, the various workshop encounters disrupted colonial-style narratives about the collection by challenging museum naming, classifying, cataloguing, conserving and storing practices.

With an emphasis on sharing knowledge produced during the encounters with various audiences, we photographed and audio-visually recorded the workshop experience. From this, we developed an online exhibit and our “Museum in a Box”—a resource that pairs 3D scans and prints of belongings with sound recordings collected during the encounters—that will circulate museums and schools in KwaZulu-Natal, the South African province from where the belongings largely originated.

The “Museum in a Box” cards are now also available online and you will find them linked to different parts of this website (access the collection cards at the Collection Page and the participants’ cards at the People Page).

You can access different workshop sessions’ cards in Museum in a Box at the links below:

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