Museums & Galleries

The National Heritage and Cultural Studies Centre (NAHECS) was established in 1981 on the basis of the former Xhosa Literature Centre, attached to the past Faculty of Arts. The objective of the centre was to accumulate, document and preserve oral and written literary material pertinent to the isiXhosa Language with the purpose of making it accessible to various researchers and the public. In 1991 the Centre‟s name was changed to the Centre for Cultural Studies (CCS). This name change brought new objectives, namely to promote the knowledge and understanding of material and human resources pertinent to heritage and culture in South Africa through the collection, preservation, study, exposition, enrichment and advancement of material evidence.

In 1998, Council approved a second change of name to the National Heritage and Cultural Studies Centre (NAHECS). NAHECS thus became a broad-based heritage institution which focuses on  archival, museum, academic and  heritage transformation, as well as a developing research unit. In the same year its significant museum collections were  unanimously declared a  „national cultural treasure‟  by Parliament.


 The National Heritage and Cultural Studies is a bona fide academic unit of the university.   It envisions itself as the premier conservation, academic and research institution in heritage and cultural studies and liberation history in Africa, accessible to  both the scholarly community and the public, and as a  centre of  excellence engaging in national and international scholarly discourses, producing critical knowledge, and expanding the intellectual capacity of the South African nation.


NAHECS, working with academic units, interdisciplinary programmes and strategic partners pursues the mission of acquiring, conserving, processing, developing and managing liberation history and cultural archives, literature, works of art, artifacts and intangible heritage materials. The Centre will recruit students, researchers and scholars to explore, research and study materials in its care in order to produce knowledge and intellectual capacity in a manner that will empower participants in its programmes and projects to contribute towards the process of defining or redefining social relations, issues of identity, heritage and cultural policy, and also if vivifying the historical role and expanding the critical intellectual tradition of the University.




Estelle Hamilton-Welsh Collection

This museum serves as custodian of the University Museum collection. It houses the indigenous African collection named the Estelle Hamilton-Welsh collection, collected between 1880 and 1940. It consists of objects from the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu Natal. It includes Xhosa, Mfengu, Thembu, Mpondo, Zulu and Ndebele beadwork, as well as costumes from different ethnic groups, grass work, wooden artefacts, chains, medicines and weapons.


F S Malan Collection

This collection dates back from the mid-1930s and contains a wide range of Southern African ethnographic artefacts. It includes mainly beadwork, cloth, animal skin bags, traditional skirts dyed in red and yellow ochre for girls and women, agricultural implements, traditional hunting weapons, medicines, specimens of  edible plants, indigenous divining bones and equipment, as well as carved wooden walking sticks. It reflects the diversity of culture of Xhosa, Mfengu, Mpondo, Zulu, Shangaan, Swazi, Venda, Pedi, Sotho, Tlokwa and Ndebele peoples of Southern Africa. The artifacts were collected as far as the Mpumalanga Province, Limpopo Province, the North West Province and the Free State.


Black Contemporary Art

The Contemporary South African Black Art Collection covers a wide range of fine art disciplines such as etchings, woodcuts, wood blocks, linocuts, serigraphs, drawings, paintings and sculpture representing more than 150 artists, including internationally recognized personages such as Gerard Sekoto, George Pemba, Sydney Khumalo, John Muafangejo, Lucas Sithole, Ephraim Ngatane, John Mohl, Cyprian Shilakoe, Ezrom  Legae,  Louis  Maqhubela  and  Dumile  Mhlaba  Feni.  The  most  important section of the collection dates from 1930 to 1950 among which Sekoto and Pemba represent the pioneers of township art. The paintings and prints produced between

1960 and 1970 are complex in content, and lay the foundation for the development of art in the following decades. The third period covered by representatives of this collection is between 1970 and 1990. It covers a wide range of subjects of historical importance.


Archives of the Liberation Movements

The University is the custodian of the archives of the Liberation Movements which include the records of the African National Congress (ANC), Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), the Azanian Peoples Organisation (AZAPO), the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), the  Unity Movement (UMSA), and  the  New Unity Movement (NUM) as well as the Sport and Liberation Materials Collection.


The personal papers of a number of activists and the records of the Federation of

Seminaries (FEDSEM) are in the archives. The University Records also form a large


collection. NAHECS is currently embarking on acquiring, processing and developing a Sports Liberation Materials Archive.




NAHECS staff service the research needs of scholars and students interested in South Africa‟s liberation history, heritage and culture, and participate as lecturers, supervisors and facilitators in appropriate academic disciplines at the University.


This division further initiates, promotes and facilitates research based on its archives, artefacts and art works. NAHECS encourages research on living heritage subjects, including Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Indigenous Music and Orality.


Appropriately qualified NAHECS staff members teach undergraduate courses and modules and supervise students pursuing thesis-based MA and PhD degrees in the Humanities.


NAHECS is developing a Master of Studies (MSt) degree in Liberation Studies.


Members of staff:

Director:                                              Prof. L. Wotshela
Senior Manager and Curator:               Mr VG Booi
Archivist:                                             Mr M Monsanku
Assistant Archivist:                              Mrs V Feni - Fete
Secretary:                                            Ms N Jaza


Contact details of the Unit:

Telephone: +27 (0) 40 602 2277