Re-Placing the Past – Opinions – Archival Platform

Re-Placing the Past

Every time I return to Berlin I am struck by the dynamics of heritage formation that have played out there in comparison to those at play in South Africa. 20 years into the democratic dispensation in South Africa, and with this week marking 25 years since the Berlin Wall came down, I would like to think about what kind of comparisons we can draw. Specifically, I want to briefly reflect on the work of two important German artists to think about urban, conceptually driven heritage practise in South Africa.


Duane Jethro, is a PhD student in social and cultural anthropology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and an Archival Platform correspondent

Re-Placing the Past – Opinions – Archival Platform.

Why I’m Moving Back To South Africa

Award-winning journalist Jonny Steinberg on the man who inspired him to write his new book, A Man of Good Hope, as well as return to his home country.

I am not a person prone to smugness. When I say that my life is the sanest and gentlest a person in our times can hope to live, it is with gratitude, not self-satisfaction. My house is near the center of Oxford, a famously old and beautiful city, and I commute to work each morning on a bicycle alongside a quiet canal. The journey takes no more than seven minutes — eight or nine if I stop to admire the swans; I hardly remember what it is like to sit in traffic or to grind against a stranger on public transport.

I teach at Oxford University where I have a tenured job — a rare privilege in this day and age. The students are clever and hardworking, my colleagues considerate and sane, my days never less than interesting.

Work seldom ends after 7 p.m. On summer evenings, my partner and I often stroll along the Thames into Port Meadow, cross its 300 acres of ancient pasture, and eat in the village on the other side. The light in the meadow is gorgeous from May through September, turning the grass a luminous green I last saw in childhood dreams.

I have just resigned from this job and am giving up this life. In a couple of months, my partner and I will be moving to Johannesburg, South Africa, where I was born. It is a city that heaves with umbrage. “There is a daily, low-grade civil war at every stop street,” the artist, William Kentridge, recently remarked. Sometimes, the war moves up a grade; many friends and family members have stared down a gun barrel over the years, and each act of violence is relived in conversation a hundred times over. It is a city where being white or well-heeled attracts some to beg from you and others to insult you, where life is so palpably unfair that the rich live in a state of astonishing denial while among the poor antipathy runs so deep that if you listen you can hear it hum.

Continue reading here.

ilissAfrica – Internet Library Sub-Saharan Africa

Editor’s Note: Reproduced below is part of the search engine “Internet Library Sub-Saharan Africa” (ilissAfrica). The project links a number of online catalogs. Some of the catalogs link to full-text, or else WorldCat. Of particular significance is the Frankfurt Colonial Archive which has photo-scans. Follow to ilissAfrica from this link.

About the project

The internet library sub-Saharan Africa (ilissAfrica) is a portal that offers an integrated access to relevant scientific conventional and digital information resources on the sub-Saharan Africa region. Information scattered on private or institutional websites, databases or library catalogues is brought together in order to facilitate research. Without ilissAfrica this information has to be collected in a laborious and time-consuming process.

ilissAfrica allows simultaneous searching (“General search”) in the following electronic resources:

  • Library Catalogue UB Frankfurt (mainly books)
  • Africa Section of the database World Affairs Online incl. the Africa library catalogue of GIGA Hamburg (books and journal articles) as from 1985
  • Library Catalogue of the African Studies Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands (books and journal articles)
  • Library Catalogue of the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) in Uppsala/Sweden
  • Library Catalogue of the Department of Anthropology and African Studies at Mainz University with Jahn Library and AMA
  • SSG-Section of the Swets database “Online Contents” (titles of journal articles)
  • Database on internet resources with more than 5.000 websites on sub-Saharan Africa
  • Africa section of Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE)
  • Colonial Picture Archive with 50.000 digitized historical pictures of Frankfurt University Library, Germany, and the Sam Cohen Library, Swakopmund, Namibia.

Furthermore an Africa Section of the Electronic Journals Library (EZB) to search E-Journals is provided.

ilissAfrica is a project of the Africa Department of the University Library Johann Christian Senckenberg in Frankfurt on the Main in cooperation with the GIGA Information Centre: Africa Library in Hamburg. Together they are in charge of the DFG Special Collections on sub-Saharan Africa.

The project is financed by the DFG.

ilissAfrica supports the association “European Librarians in African Studies” (ELIAS) as a european network aiming to promote professional exchange and cooperation among its members. The “Africa Section” of the Electronic Journals Library (EZB) was one source for the Wikipedia-article “African Studies Journals“.


schliessen des div-Bereichs content und der Content-Zelle


ilissAfrica – About the project.

CFP: Black Code Studies | Diaspora Hypertext, the Blog

Black Code Studies
The Black Scholar Special Issue on Digital Black Studies

Mark Anthony Neal, Professor, Duke University
Jessica Marie Johnson, Assistant Professor, Michigan State University

The editors of this special issue argue black studies, activism, and life online and off have reached a critical point of convergence. Technology has irrevocably changed the way artists, activists, scholars, and users rage against codes and binaries of race and tech. People of African descent around the world have appropriated digital and social media as tools for organizing, self-actualization, consciousness-raising, community building, and outright political revolt. At the same time, organizing strategies and intellectual production across digital media and platforms traffic in racializing assemblages rooted in both antiblackness and historic modes of black resistance–even among users who do not identify as “black.”

CFP: Black Code Studies | Diaspora Hypertext, the Blog.

Cedric Nunn: Gazing at the South African Landscape to Reconnect the Present with its History « The Leica Camera

Cedric Nunn, born in 1957, is a South African photographer. In the course of the interview, he connects his past steps as an engaged photographer against apartheid with his current concerns for social justice in his country and beyond. He also focus here on his latest project “UNSETTLED: One Hundred Year Xhosa War of Resistance,” claiming the urgent need to reflect on the past traumas to understand contemporary South Africa. A first portion of this work was shown during the 2013 Rencontres d’Arles as part of the French/South African photographic mission, “Transition”, and will soon consist of a complete touring exhibition and book.

Loza Maléombho’s #AlienEdits series elevates the selfie | Africa is a Country

Susan Sontag declared in her discerning 1977 book On Photography, “Photography has become almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex or dancing – which means that, like every mass art form, photography is not practiced by most people as an art.” Indeed with the proliferation of powerful cameras and smartphones, most anyone can access the tools to take a picture. Now, what qualities allow a photograph to enter into the realm of art may be highly subjective, but what is clear is that within the medium of photography, some images clearly have greater social resonance than others.

This is especially true in the world of instagram where there are an estimated 70 million photos uploaded to the social image sharing network daily. Many of the images merely serve as evidence of the users’ daily lives, but a few imagemakers go beyond this memorialization of mundanity by sharing works that seek to affect social consciousness.

Loza Maléombho’s #AlienEdits series elevates the selfie | Africa is a Country.

What is the significance of an Identity Document in post apartheid South Africa? – Opinions – Archival Platform

The introduction of identity documents can be traced back to the British statesman and governor of the Cape Colony in 1795, Earl Macartney, who suggested in the late 1800s, that deaths, as well as births be recorded.  One of the early population regulation legislation was the Ordinance 49 of 1828, which allowed African people to enter the Cape Colony to seek work provided they took out passes and carried them as they moved within the colony. In 1866, the law stipulated that any Black person found outside the allowed residential area without a pass from an employer, a magistrate, missionary, field cornet or principal chief could be arrested. With the growth of the diamond, as well as gold mining sector in late 1900s in South Africa, the laws regulating movement would prove convenient for controlling workers mobility and enforcing contracts. Black men streamed the mines to make a living.  Housed in compounds which were located away from their families, they had to carry passes. .A series of legislations that regulate the South African population would soon be enacted. In 1923, the Urban Areas Act was endorsed. This law prohibited black African men over 16 years of age, from entering urban areas (deemed as white areas). Pass raids became a feature of daily life. Building on this law, was perhaps one of the most well-known population regulation laws, the Population Registration (Act No. 30 of 1950). It required that people be identified and registered, from birth, as belonging to one of four distinct racial groups: White, Coloured, Bantu (Black African), and other. Indian was added as a racial group later. The Act was accompanied by humiliating tests which determined race through perceived linguistic and/or physical characteristics. Not only were people classified according to racial groups, but were also expected to live in these racial categories under the Group Areas Act, 1950.

What is the significance of an Identity Document in post apartheid South Africa? – Opinions – Archival Platform.

Zadie Smith on Life Writing

For a long time, I’ve wanted to keep a diary. I tried throughout adolescence but always gave it up. I dreamt of being very frank, like Joe Orton, whose diaries I admired very much; I found them in the library when I was about 14.

Full text here.

Zadie Smith is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, and NW, the novella The Embassy of Cambodia, and the nonfiction collection Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays.

Copyright © 2015 by Zadie Smith

Connecting-Africa: Digitization and Repositories

Researchers at the African Studies Centre (Leiden, NL) have been developing since 2006 a project titled “Connecting-Africa,” which is meant to provide information about Africanists, organizations, and published (scholarly and non-scholarly) materials. In addition, the researchers have organized nearly 100 digitized repositories, hosted mostly at universities around the globe. They primarily provide links to dissertation and theses, although there are some other sources of research as well. For sheer size, I have chosen not to reprint the page verbatim here. For those interested in the repositories, follow this link to the website.