New Exhibits at Dias Museum Complex

An isiShweshwe doll at the Dias Museum Complex.

The Dias Museum Complex has introduced two new exhibits – a temporary exhibition of isiShweshwe fabrics, and a revolving exhibition of local artefacts from its stores. 

“We’re on a drive to show the public – locals as well as tourists – that the Dias Museum Complex is a lively and active place, and that it’s not the kind of dark and dingy mausoleum that characterised so many museums in the past,” saidgeneralmanager Mbulelo Mrubata. 

“Particularly we want the citizens ofMosselBayto look on it as their museum, and that’s why we’ve started the revolving exhibition from our collection,” he said. 

“The primary reason for the existence of museums is to conserve and protect historical pieces, and many people might never see the full extent of our collections – but we’re hoping to provide a taste of what we have through this latest initiative.” 

The piece currently on display is an early twentieth century wood fired Johns Volldampf washing machine which belonged originally to Marie Antonatte Graupner, who brought it fromGermanytoSouth Africa. It was donated to the Dias Museum Complex by Ms. Graupner’s daughter, Hilda Lourence, in the 1980s. 

The revolving exhibition will change every month. 

Mossel Bay's isiShweshwe doll

The isiShweshwe exhibition comprises a number of miniature mannequins in traditional women’s dresses that were made by individuals in various towns of the Western andEastern Cape. 

“Shweshwe fabrics date back to the 17th century, when indigo cloth first arrived inSouth Africa,” said Mr. Mrubata. “The patterns were introduced in the 1850s by German missionaries, and the cloth became known as ‘German print,” but when French missionaries presented the cloth toLesotho’s King Moshoeshoe – which is pronounced ‘Mo-Shweshwe’ – in the 1940s, it became known as Shweshwe.” 

MosselBay’s contribution was created by KwaNonqaba resident Noyabathini Mina Mvulo, who set up a dressmaking business inMosselBayin 2003. 

The Shweshwe exhibition has been set up in the Granary, and the Johns Volldampf machine can be seen on the ground floor level of theMaritimeMuseum. 

Mossel Bay Tourism’s Marcia Holm said that the Dias Museum Complex remains one of the biggest attractions in the town. 

“With three museums (the Granary, theMaritimeMuseumand theShellMuseum) and a number of other attractions – like the historic Post Office Tree, the Braille Trail, and the gardens – this is the one icon that almost every international visitor (and most local visitors) want to see when they come toMosselBay,” she said. 

An early twentieth century wood fired Johns Volldampf washing machine

“It is consistently the most asked about attraction we have.” 

She said that the complex features prominently in Mossel Bay Tourism’s new guide to the museums of the town, which includes information about theATKV-HartenbosMuseumof the Great Trek and theGreatBrakRiverMuseum, and is available for free from the information office on the corner of Church and Market Streets, and from the individual institutions. 

Mr. Mrubata said that the Dias Museum Complex is a safe repository of local history, and that it welcomes contributions from local residents.

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