E10 Sonya Solanki : Curating History and Heritage in Simonstown

Sonya Solanki, a distinguished researcher and independent curator, recently unveiled a compelling exhibition in Simonstown titled “A History of 130 St George’s Street: The Simonstown Clothing Store (1962-1998).” This exhibition, held in collaboration with the Simon’s Town Museum, marks a significant milestone in her journey of exploring and preserving cultural heritage.

Solanki’s academic journey is deeply intertwined with her formative years at school, where she actively participated in a wide array of activities such as Jazz Band, Orchestra, Wind Band, Guitar Ensemble, Choir, and the School Magazine Committee. This diverse involvement has undoubtedly shaped her multifaceted approach to curating and research.

The exhibition itself is a manifestation of her Master’s thesis, which meticulously delves into the history of her late grandfather’s men’s outfitters. It offers a poignant glimpse into the store’s operation over three decades and its role as a cultural cornerstone in Simonstown. Sonya illuminates various aspects of the town’s complex history, particularly its multicultural fabric before the era of Apartheid’s forced removals.

Central to the exhibition is the exploration of how clothing served not only as a commodity but also as a symbol of identity for the store’s diverse clientele. By weaving together familial narratives and collective memory, Solanki’s work underscores the profound impact of personal histories on broader societal narratives. Her approach highlights the importance of preserving and understanding our shared past through nuanced and inclusive perspectives.

The exhibition, prominently displayed along Simonstown’s main road, invited visitors to engage with these narratives until February/March 2024. Through Sonya’s dedication and scholarly rigor, “A History of 130 St George’s Street” not only celebrates her grandfather’s legacy but also enriches South African heritage by amplifying multiple voices from a singular entry point.

Sonya Solanki’s exhibition stands as a testament to the enduring relevance of local heritage in a global context.