Staff writer Wandile Mavuso | 03/06/2015
The United States Ambassador to South Africa, Mr. Patrick Gaspard, alongside with Cheryl de la Rey, the University of Pretoria’s Vice Chancellor, officially cut the ribbon, opening the Lerapo Exhibit at The Old Arts Building in the University.
The U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation awarded a generous financial grant of $26, 300 to the University of Pretoria Museums. This funding has enabled the Lerapo Exhibit to represent the culmination of work on this significant project.
The Embassy funded this project two years ago to preserve an archaeological collection of bone and ivory recovered from the Iron Age sites of K2 and Mapungubwe Hill. The preservation project included documentation, examination, analysis and conservation, as well as improvements to the storage and display environment of this collection.
A team of University of Pretoria’s archeologists, museum scientists and students has worked to properly document, examine, analyze and conserve the more than 375 items in the collection. This has led to the compilation of hundreds of pages of data, the publication of several academic papers, and the creation of this stunning public display that will help school children and others understand the incredible technology and abilities of early African civilizations, information that was suppressed during the Apartheid era.
Speaking during the official opening, University of Pretoria Vice Chancellor, Cheryl de la Rey, expressed her gratitude to the U.S. Embassy for the generous grant. “Today we are going to be officially opening an exhibit that will help make future generations aware about the heritage of the people of South Africa, the grant will enable Lerapo to be put on permanent display”, she said. She added that the grant could not have come at a better time.
This museum project is part of an on-going curation, conservation and collections management to preserve the K2 and Mapungubwe archeological collection. “This project is also aimed at re-investigating and expanding our knowledge about Iron Age bone tools and ivory”, said Mr. Gaspard. He added that several South African projects have benefited from the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.
“We have also funded the conservation of the historical collections of the Nelson Mandela Center of Memory in Johannesburg for the preservation of important documents”. He mentioned that this speaks to the future of South Africa. Furthermore, he said he was pleased that young people who were involved in the project will be tour guides for the exhibit.
The exhibit is open to the general public, and over 10,000 student visitors and 2500 members of the general public have viewed the Lerapo exhibit to date.
A number of academics, departmental heads, as well as students from related fields attended this unique ceremony.