Housed in a beautiful 1890 Dutch reformed church in Polokwane, the Hugh Exton Photographic Museum is one of the best Polokwane tourist attractions, and probably one of the best ways to understand the local history. Step back in time and catch glimpses of yesteryear through this authentic time portal, scanning over 23,000 astonishing negatives and original photographs taken by Hugh Exton (also spelled Hugh Eksteen), in Polokwane, "place of safety," then known as Pietersburg.
Hugh Exton, almost as fascinating as his work
Probably explaining Exton's scientific precision, the talented photographer was the son of Jacomina Hendrina van der Poel and his physician, anthropologist, geologist, and collector father, Hugh Exton. Exton moved north from Cape Town in 1886, visiting the Marabastad Goldfields near Pietersburg to eventually settle down in the town that was once called "the bastion of the north" by Paul Kruger (3rd president of South Africa) and has long been a center of Afrikaans culture. He photographed a variety of historic events, including the Anglo-Boer War. Self-taught photographer Hugh Exton lived to the age of 91 and during his lifetime, he carved out a unique position for himself within the local history. Have a look at the cameras he used and browse through Exton appointment books containing notes about every photo he took, the subject, and the cost. The Hugh Exton Photographic Museum is an incredible testament to the tireless work of a single man.
A rare historic perspective on life in South Africa
The valuable original glass negatives capture the fascinating first few years of the town's bygone history on celluloid and portray what the area of Polokwane looked like between 1892 and 1945 as well as provide an insight into the architecture, celebrities, clothing, industry, and trade of the time. Photographing the full spectrum of Polokwane residents regardless of race, age, or religion, Exton captured both black and white people, migrant laborers, and hunters. From formal portraits of young dandies in three-piece suits, to loving couples and demure farmers' wives, dive into this exceptional collection and get a better sense of South Africa's complex history.
A good starting point to explore Polokwane
The museum offers a self-guided tour for individuals and guided tours by trained guide can be arranged for groups. Why not visit the museum while the morning air is still crisp and then spend the afternoon relaxing in the tea garden found at WildThingz conveniently located in the Meropa complex?