|After a period of renovation, the Origins Centre Museum reopened its doors to the public on the 9th of April 2021. An evening event was organised for the occasion, in the presence of the First Counsellor of the French Embassy in South Africa, Mr. Emmanuel Suquet, the Counsellor for Cooperation and Cultural Action, Mr. Bruno Asseray, the Director of IFAS-Research, Sophie Dulucq, the Dean of the Faculty of Science in Wits, Professor Nithaya Chetty, the Director of the museum, Amanda Esterhuysen, and the curator, Tammy Reynard.
The opening night was an opportunity to see the renovated premises and the extraordinary collections, which focus on South Africa’s ancient heritage and cultures. The museum exhibits many works of the San people. Opened in 2006 as part of the University of the Witwatersrand, Origins Centre aims to explore and celebrate the history of modern humanity on the African continent.
The museography highlights the earliest fossils found in South Africa, presents the first traces of man in the region and continues with rooms devoted to the emergence of art, symbolism and technology from prehistoric times to present day hunter-gatherers (numerous palaeo-anthropological and archaeological artefacts, including a wide range of ancient tools). Several rooms are devoted to rock paintings and engravings, with an important collection of engraved rocks (called Rock archive).
IFAS-Research has, in the past, established occasional partnerships with Origins Centre on the occasion of temporary exhibitions. In 2018-2019, the collaboration was of a different nature since, in conjunction with the « Lascaux » exhibition, IFAS-Recherche offered the museum reproductions of engraved ostrich eggs dating back 60,000 years, discovered on the French-South African Diepkloof site co-directed by Guillaume Porraz (CNRS). The engraved shells date back to the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic, and are of great scientific and heritage importance as they are one of the first examples of engraving by Homo Sapiens. Facsimiles were made by a South African artist under the supervision of Guillaume Porraz and with a grant from IFAS-Recherche. In 2019, they were shown to the public for the duration of the exhibition in the « Dawn of Art » room.
The renovation of the museum is a complete overhaul – museography, general design of the tour, choice of objects on display – which was funded by Wits University with a substantial grant from the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS), a public agency created in 2013 to support and develop the humanities and social sciences in South Africa. Teams from the museum and researchers from Wits (from the Department of Archaeology, the Rock Art Research Institute, etc.) have been working for two years on this project, which should have been presented to the public in the first quarter of 2020.
In this new museography, the egg facsimiles donated by IFAS-Research are now on permanent display. Just one year ago, we had planned to celebrate the entry of our donation into the permanent exhibition.
The museum is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm and on Saturdays and public holidays from 9 am to 4 pm. Tickets are only available online.