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Phansi Museum, Durban

#1 of 17 in Museums in Durban
Specialty Museum · Hidden Gem · Museum
Phansi is pronounced ‘punzi’, meaning ‘below’ or ‘beneath in IsiZulu, after the basement location where it began. ‘Phansi’ is also traditionally known as the place beneath, where the ancestral spirits dwell.

The museum was started in 2000 as a small private museum, and has since expanded to host one of the biggest and most spectacular collections of African arts and crafts in the world.

The collection is held in Roberts House, a fully restored Victorian national monument, in Glenwood, Durban, South Africa. Three floors of the Victorian mansion are packed with Zulu beadwork, earplugs, wire baskets, milk-pails, beer-pots and fertility dolls ; Ndebele blankets and ceremonial items, and artefacts from the eastern Cape, Namibia and Kenya. The most popular exhibit is the life-size marionette room, where thirty life-size puppets are adorned with ceremonial dress from all over Southern Africa. This collection was exhibited at ABC Home, in Manhattan, New York, over the festive season 2008/2009, to great acclaim.

Museum hostess and tour-guide, Phumzile Nkosi, is a real treasure. Descended from Swazi Royalty,she is the ‘human face’ of the museum, and is extremely popular with visitors. Tours can last between 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the time-constraints of the visitor. The museum hosts cultural workshops and functions.

The publishing division, Phansi Publishing, publishes short runs of specialist-interest arts, crafts and cultural literature. It has for the last 10 years produced an annual calendar which has become an iconic collecters item, adorning the walls of rural schools and boardrooms alike.

The museum has a partnership with the Amazwi Abesifazane (Voices of Women) memory cloth project, and houses an archive of over 2000 memory cloths, exhibiting groups of these on a rotating basis. The BAT Shop has recently relocated from the BAT Centre to the museum, and sells funky original contemporay local crafts
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Phansi Museum reviews

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67 reviews
  • we were privileged to be show around this amazing collection by Phumzile ( i wanted to take her home) she had a great way of tell a very moving story about so many of the items, there are so many...  more »
  • We had a guided tour and learned so much during our visit which was over 1 hr long. The owner has many interesting stories to tell so, so if he is around you are in luck. This is a place where you...  more »
  • Really informative and interesting tour of southern african art! Everyone who works there is super passionate. Insipiring to experience the wealth of our people’s heritage and hear the stories behind each piece of art from beer pots and milk jugs to beaded stories and to all the different traditional dresses.
  • Wonderful display of African clothing and culture!

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