The Iziko Museums of Cape Town are an amalgamation of national museums located near the city centre, along what has been dubbed the “Museum Mile”.
Iziko is an isiXhosa word meaning “a hearth” – the traditional centre of the home where families would get together to share oral histories. The Iziko Museums continue in this vein, with 12 museums across three spheres – natural history, social history and arts – coming together to share and celebrate Cape Town’s and South Africa’s heritage.
The natural history collections comprise:
The social history collections comprise:
• The Iziko Rust en Vreugd
• Iziko Koopmans-De Wet
• Iziko at the Castle of Good Hope
• Iziko Groot Constantia
• Iziko Bertram House
• Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum
• The Iziko Slave Lodge
• The Iziko Maritime Centre
• The Iziko Social History Centre
Comprehensive art collections are displayed at the Iziko South African National Gallery and the Iziko Michaelis Collection at the Old Town House in Greenmarket Square.
The museums are a great way to explore Cape Town’s rich cultural history, and a major highlight for visitors is the Iziko South African Museum, which has exhibits ranging from almost 700-million-year-old fossils to insects and fish, dinosaurs and wildlife menageries. There are also stone tools dating from 120 000 years ago, traditional clothes from the last century and authentic African beadwork.
If social history is more your style, then a trip to the Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum is not to be missed. Established in 1978, it was initially a depiction of a house and the lifestyle of a 19th-century Muslim family. Today it continues to highlight the history of the Cape Malay and Muslims in Cape Town and includes exhibits of the Bo-Kaap, presented in a national socio-political and cultural context.
The Iziko South African National Gallery is home to an impressive collection of South African, African, British, French, Dutch and Flemish art, with more recent exhibitions focusing on South African history through art. The gallery has permanent collections, which are stored in the archives, while the exhibitions include paintings, modern installations, photography, sculpture, beadwork and architecture, among others.
Most of the museums are open Monday to Sunday from 10h00 to 17h00, but some operate on a slightly different time scale. Admission for 18 years and younger is free and booked school groups also enter at no charge. Prices for adults vary according to the different sites, with admission being free on certain commemorative days.
Martin Melck House is one of the oldest colonial homes in South Africa named after its first owner. Its history is intimately entwined with that of Cape Town itself.
PRINS & PRINS DIAMONDS MUSEUM OF GEMS AND JEWELLERY
This unique museum project takes visitors on a journey from when diamonds first began to form three billion years ago and their 150 km journey to the surface, following the unique path of South African diamonds from their origin in extinct volcanoes to the deposits along our coastline. Learn about unique and rare gemstones, and see how jewellery has changed through thousands of years. The story about South Africa’s mineral wealth is told, not only for diamonds, but also for our Platinum and Gold deposits.
This cultural village aims to remind us of our origin and serves as the reservoir for African knowledge pertaining to nature and traditions, giving us an opportunity to celebrate who we are through music (wonderful sounds from live bands) or from its’ distinct fineness of cuisine, topped up with African (local) arts and crafts.
Hot summer sun, extra long days and warm nights, sun-kissed skin and time to spend with loved ones; summer in Cape Town is the ideal time to get outdoors and enjoy getting closer to the spectacular nature that is within minutes from the bustling city.
Diamonds were formed three billion years ago by molecular-changing heat of around 1 300 °C, deep within the Earth’s crust. If you didn’t know that, then you have not been to the Cape Town Diamond Museum.
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