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Motsane Getrude Seabela

Ditsong Museums of South Africa


Country: South Africa

ITP Year: 2016


Motsane Getrude Seabela works for the Ditsong Museums of South Africa (DMSA), an amalgamation of eight national museums in Tshwane (Pretoria) and Johannesburg, South Africa. Currently she is Curator of Anthropology at Ditsong National Museum of Cultural History (DNMCH). She is responsible for the caring of just over 25 000 objects mainly from Africa, Oceania and Asia. Her work includes exhibitions development, research and project management.

Motsane Getrude completed her Masters in Heritage and Museums Studies (with distinction) at the University of Pretoria and is currently in the final year of her PhD in Heritage and Museums Studies at the same institution in South Africa. Seabela researches the muted narratives pertaining to black people in museums and has contributed book chapters and articles researching public museums perpetuating colonial legacies in a democratic South Africa. Her recent creative work includes a co-curated exhibition entitled Inherited Obsessions and seeks to ask questions around the idea of preservation and its purpose. As a project collaborator, Seabela has recently concluded a community led indigenous architecture project entitled Bonwa ka Kgopa (A Place from where the Snail Drinks) with the Makgabeng/Thabananhlana communities in South Africa which sought to preserve and restore indigenous methods of the Northern Sotho earthenware. Among her research interests is dealing with attempted erasures in museums due to colonial violence and transformation of museums from places entrenched in violence to places of healing.

She also is involved in projects with local and international institutions such as Manchester University Museum, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and Institute of Creative Repair. Her work with these institutions relates to restitution (particularly epistemic restitution) of African ‘objects’ within and outside the African continent, provenance and biographical research.  Seabela also is interested in the marginalisation of women in the memory and heritage of the South African liberation struggle. Seabela continuously participates in and has been a speaker in various international and local conferences and seminars on heritage and museum related topics.

Her publications include:

Seabela, Motsane Getrude. 2020. Tracing Histories of ‘Black’ Servants at Zwartkoppies Farm through Narratives. Journal of Decolonising Disciplines. 2 (2).

Seabela, Motsane Getrude. 2021. Navigating through a Colonial Space: A Case Study of the Ditsong Museums of South Africa: Sammy Marks Site in Post-Apartheid South
Africa. Cultural History Journal. 12: 28-42.

Seabela, Motsane Getrude. 2021. Navigating through a Colonial Space: Sammy Marks Site in Post-Apartheid South Africa in Ndlovu, Sifiso Mxolisi. and Hlongwane, A. (eds).
Public History, Heritage and Culture in South Africa: The Struggle Continues. Skotaville. Johannesburg: 289-312.

Seabela, Motsane Getrude. 2022. Bulldozing and Violence Disguised in Preservation: Curating and Preserving the Confiscated Objects at the Ditsong Nation Museum of Cultural History in de Harde, L. (ed). Inherited Obsessions. Emerging Scholars.

At the British Museum
During her time on the International Training Programme in 2016, Getrude was based in the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas. Her UK Partner placement was spent at Manchester Museum and Manchester Art Gallery.

In 2016, participants were asked to develop a proposal for an Asahi Shimbun Display – a temporary exhibition in Room 3 at the British Museum – based around a single ‘spotlight’ object. Getrude’s exhibition project proposal was entitled Not only for its aesthetics: uncovering the South African Xhosa snuffbox.

Getrude’s place on the International Training programme was generously supported by the Leverhulme Trust.

Legacy projects
In 2023 Getrude was awarded an ITP Research Grant to support her project Not just a Supporting Act or a Backing Vocalist: Locating Gertrude Shope in the Memory and Heritage of the Liberation Struggle of South Africa: Towards a Biography.

ITP Newsletter Publications
ITP Newsletter Issue 7 (2020), Towards an inclusive museum A perspective on DITSONG Museums of South Africa