Cape Town - Looking ahead at the next 30 years, District Six Museum’s newly appointed executive director, Zeenat Patel-Kaskar, said that it was important to remind the public, current and future funders, about why the museum was so important.
“We are currently living through the largest eviction in contemporary history with the war that is happening in the Middle East, and here is an opportunity to remind people how 30 years later, after forced removals, look at what we are dealing with.
“Do we really want this to continue? And that’s a conversation we have,” she said.
Patel-Kaskar’s appointment fills the position that had been vacant since the unexpected loss of the museum's former executive director, Siddeeq Railoun, to Covid-19 complications in 2021.
Her appointment comes at a time when the museum marks a significant milestone as it celebrated 30 years in existence.
Patel-Kaskar attended Livingstone High School, for which she credits her political awakening.
This was further affirmed as a social sciences student at the University of the Western Cape.
Her work has mostly been in the NGO space, development and community development.
Patel-Kaskar previously worked at the Shuttleworth Foundation, heading up the education programmes.
She also worked at Islamic Relief South Africa and is currently an ambassador for the Amy Foundation.
At the Homecoming Centre, the lively and vibrant Patel-Kaskar shared that she took office in mid-January.
“This position has been vacant for a few years. We lost our previous director during Covid-19, sadly … So what happened after his departure was, our management team stepped up and the portfolios had to be assigned to what needed focus first … and they rotated the job of the executive director, so they took responsibility for the entire Homecoming Centre, museum, programmes and exhibitions. And I think that the management team performed an unbelievably difficult task and I sit back in awe.
“Human rights are being violated in the world, this is the trigger point, this is where we talk about it and that is why we must become sustainable and we will become sustainable.”
The museum experienced a busy December period, with visitor numbers comfortably back to pre-Covid-19 days.
Visits by international universities have returned and hundreds of Cape Peninsula University of Cape Town students are expected to visit as part of their orientation.
The museum also prepares customised programmes visits and school programmes tailored according to specific Grades.
The Homecoming Centre, acquired by the museum in 2002, through a grant received from Atlantic Philanthropies, has been abuzz with events and programmes by artists, musicians, bands, plays and solidarity events. Some of these are held in partnership with a number of organisations.
“Part of my appointment is to work on sustainability and there are new ways that we are going to be doing that. My appointment here is really to look at some key things while my management team is released to do the work that they’re supposed to be doing. It’s to lend capacity to the management team.”