The Iziko South African Museum was established in 1825. Effectively, therefore, one might say that we are on the doorstep of having matured to the point where the institution has embraced a 200-year-old heritage of values, principles and historical records for South Africa. In the vast scope of geological time, this may seem like an insignificant duration, but the truth is that the past 192 years have recorded immense and far-reaching changes on this southern tip of the African Continent. South Africa has been resilient in surviving the scars of colonialism and the greed that drew so many exploiters to its treasure trove of natural resources. The historical processes of this materialism that has ravaged our social and natural environment has been and continues to be chronologically documented and displayed in Iziko’s museums. But there are still other challenges that the Iziko Museum takes seriously.

Today, there is a growing awareness of the fragility of the ecological fabric of our environment. We humans, in the period of the late Anthropocene, are seeing an accelerated acknowledgement of humanity’s need to integrate people and nature into a sustainable, co-operative management system for Planet Earth. The Iziko South African Museum has responded to our new continental and global responsibility by adjusting the nature and emphasis of its narrative from one that simply reflects history to one that actively engenders a sharp appreciation of the threatened environment in which we live. The medium of photography has assumed a pivotal role in giving visual impact to the issues of exploitation, regeneration, indifference, destruction and demise that affect our Continent of Africa.

Iziko is proud of its partnership with Nature’s Best Photography Africa, in a mutual endeavour to sensitise and make visible to people of all generations the challenges that confront our sustainability. In addition, the outstanding images, harvested from thousands of entries, can encourage ecotourism and ignite the potential for bringing more visitors to our continent, stimulating the regional economy and providing sustainable livelihoods.

In pursuing our several responsibilities as a museum, our work is made much easier by being able to exhibit these works, which are of a world class technical and artistic standard. The exhibition and this associated catalogue, showcase stunning moments in nature caught over thousands of hours of observation by these patient photographers and brought together through this cooperative venture between Iziko and Nature’s Best Photography Africa competition.

Rooksana Omar

CEO of Iziko Museums of South Africa