2018 marks the fifth year of the Durban Local History Museums’ ‘Passbook Competition’. The competition takes its name from the apartheid ‘dompas’, an internal passport of sorts that was required to be carried by all black South Africans over the age of 16. Children participating in the competition are given a mock-up of a passbook that they must have stamped at the museums that they visit. The books help children to understand the concept of apartheid in a non-threatening way.

The Passbook Competition, which is centred around the arts, and includes categories for essay writing, poetry and poster making, amongst other things, began in 2013. One of the primary aims of the competition is to encourage schools and educators to visit our museums, and to allow children to experience the history of our country in an engaging and experiential way that they can relate to. Attendance across the museums has increased dramatically as a result of the Passbook competition, which has opened up a whole other world for both children and teachers, many of whom were unaware of the treasures and wealth of information housed in our museums. As one teacher commented:

What a brilliant concept to entice schools to visit these museums and heritage sites that we did not know existed. I will make a plan to visit these museums in future, competition or no competition, as my learners had a great time.

Children visiting the KwaMuhle Museum as part of the Passbook competition

Children visiting the KwaMuhle Museum as part of the Passbook competition

To celebrate five years of the Passbook Competition, the Durban Art Gallery will be hosting the exhibition, Vision: Interpreting History Through the Eyes of the Child. The artworks on display have all been created by the children taking part in the competition, and include collages, poetry, essays and posters. Video clips from group performances, centring around the 2016 and 2017 competition themes of Freedom is not for free and Finding your voice, will also be screened. The theme for this year’s competition, Birth of Change: Life and Legacy of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918 – ∞), is inspired by our former president, who this year would have been celebrating his 100th birthday.

The exhibition opens this Thursday, the 12th April at 10h00. For further information on the exhibition, or to find out how to take part in next year’s Passbook Competition, please email Ayanda Ngcobo: ayanda.ngcobo@durban.gov.za

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