Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Center will host a reception Wednesday, March 16, to celebrate local contributions for an expanded “From Apartheid to Democracy” exhibit now on display at the museum.
Free and open to the public, the reception will begin at 4 p.m. on the second floor of Hunter Library and feature traditional South African foods.
The Mountain Heritage Center is hosting the exhibit through Friday, May 20, as part of WCU’s two-year interdisciplinary learning theme “Africa! More than a Continent.” Recent additions include a companion exhibit, “Cherokee Voting Rights: The Long Road to Suffrage,” created by WCU public history graduate students Justyn Kissam and Katie Welch, and a collection of South African cultural objects, music and books contributed by WCU faculty member Katy Ginanni.
Other exhibit extras are a map of South Africa’s provinces designed by WCU Department of Geosciences and Natural Resources faculty member Rebecca Dobbs, and a set of prison bars to depict Nelson Mandela’s Robben Island prison cell, constructed by recently retired WCU faculty member Luther Jones and WCU student Joshua Vanderpool.
Hilary Lindler with the WCU Office of International Programs and Services has loaned an original 1994 South African ballot and worked with center staff to create a mini-exhibit on the Amy Biehl Foundation, a nonprofit human rights group. Biehl was a white American student at Cape Town University killed during racial violence in South Africa in 1993.
In addition to looking at the struggle to end Apartheid, the legal basis for the segregation and brutal mistreatment of South Africa’s people of color, the “From Apartheid to Democracy” exhibit focuses on the country’s transition to democracy and explains parallels with the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S., said Pam Meister, curator and interim director at the Mountain Heritage Center.
April 1994 was a historical watershed for South Africa because it marked the end of the Apartheid era and dawn of a new democratic order, Meister said. The exhibit’s text and images show the similarities between the American South and the South African experience, and how each addresses legacies of poverty and racism, she said.
The Mountain Heritage Center gallery is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information, call the museum at 828-227-7129.