Mossel Bay’s Bartolomeu Dias Museum – which was opened in 1989 in celebration of the 500th anniversary of Dias’ landing in Mossel Bay – will celebrate its 25th birthday this year. Although the landing itself happened on the 3rd of February, 1488, the party will take place on the 2nd of February in order to coincide with the town’s annual Dias Festival.
“We felt that since this is a special birthday, we wanted to ask someone to talk about the evolution of the museum,” said Mbulelo Mrubata, the manager of the Dias Museum Complex.
“For this reason we’ve asked Dr. Noeleen Murray, a senior lecturer, architect, and academic in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of the Western Cape, to be our keynote speaker for the day.”
He said that the consul-general of Portugal, Jorge Fonseca, will attend the event as a guest speaker, and that the executive mayor of Mossel Bay, Alderlady Marie Ferreira, will open the proceedings – which will include the giant birthday cake that has become something of a tradition at the Museum’s annual celebrations.
“As a student studying architecture in the 1980s, the Dias Museum figured in our education as an example of modernist architecture by prominent South African architect Gabriel Fagan,” said Dr. Murray.
“My interest is in exploring how this project has stood the test of time in post-apartheid South Africa, and how the narratives of the past that the museum represents have changed (or not) in the ways in which the museum presents itself.
“As an active participant in debates around heritage and identity in South Africa, and in particular having been involved in the development of museums such as the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum, revisiting the Dias Museum presents a particular set of representational questions worth exploring anew in the contemporary context.”
The Dias Museum Complex – centred around the Post Office Tree, where early Portuguese navigators would leave letters for one another – includes The Maritime Museum (originally built in 1901 as a grain- and sawmill); The Granary (a replica of a building erected here in 1786 by the Dutch East India Company for the local grain and wool trades, and now used as a reception, information, and education centre); The Shell Museum (also built in 1902, originally as an extension of the old mill); and The Munro Cottages (replicas of two Cape Dutch-style houses built on the original foundations of structures erected by Alexander Munro in about 1830: one a his home, and one as a seamen’s canteen).
The graves of two unknown Muslims are situated in the Museum grounds, which also house a Braille Trail, and the spring where Dias and his colleagues restocked their water supplies.
Mossel Bay Tourism chairperson Jeanetta Marais said that the Museum Complex has become one of the Garden Route’s iconic attractions.
“It seems that everyone knows about the Post Office Tree and the Dias Museum: whenever we exhibit at shows or talk to tour operators anywhere in the world, these are the first things they ask about.
“The Museum is a unique attraction, and it forms a vital part of the backbone of our tourism economy.
“Mossel Bay Tourism wishes it a very happy 25th birthday.”
The Museum is open to the public throughout the year (except on Christmas Day and Good Friday). The 25th birthday celebrations will take place on Sunday 2 February at 1:00 p.m.
Mossel Bay Tourism: www.visitmosselbay.co.za
Dr. Noeleen Murray
Dias Museum Complex: www.diasmuseum.co.za
Dias Festival: www.diasfees.co.za
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