All posts by leadr

Constitutional Court Trust Oral History Project

Following up on Renfrew Christie’s comment that his signature is on the draft of democratic South Africa’s Constitution, I’d like to call attention to the Constitutional Court Trust Oral History Project.

This important project was carried out by the Historical Papers Research Archive, The Library, at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

It aimed to capture the memories and experiences of the people involved in the formative stages of South Africa’s Constitutional Court, to record in comprehensive, reliable and accessible form their memories of how an abstract constitutional ideal was converted into a functioning constitutional organism.

The 86 interviews were conducted between 2011-2012 and submitted by the Constitutional Court Trust in digital format. The transcripts can be accessed through this inventory from where they can be downloaded in PDF format. The audio recordings of the interviews are accessible at the Historical Papers Research Archive in Mp3 format.

For full inventory and links to PDF transcripts click here.

Shifting African Digital Landscapes – Video and audio – News and media – Home

Speaker(s): Dr Sean Jacobs
Chair: Dr Wendy Willems

Recorded on 17 March 2015 in New Theatre, East Building.

Developments in online media point to interesting possibilities for African engagement in the global public sphere. African subjects are taking their places as audiences and agents, rather than receivers of aid and information.

Sean Jacobs is a faculty member of The New School in New York City and the founder of the popular Africa is a Country blog.

Wendy Willems is a Lecturer in the LSE Department of Media and Communications.

Credits: Tom Sturdy (Audio Post-Production), LSE AV Services (Audio Recording).

Event posting

Is South African uranium the biggest threat to world peace?

South Africa’s nuclear munificence is stockpiled in the Pelindaba Nuclear Research Centre, just west of Pretoria. Within a secure vault smoulders almost a quarter of a tonne of highly enriched uranium, enough to make about ten cities go boom. Using diplomacy by other means—AKA an expose by an outfit called the Centre of Public Integrity, published in the Washington Post—the Americans have announced that they believe Pelindaba to be one of the world’s great security threats. How afraid should we be? RICHARD POPLAK dons a nuclear protection radiation suit and wades in.

Click here to read full text in the Daily Maverick


Heritage of Portuguese Influence

 Editor’s Note: This website crowdsources information about Portuguese influence (colonial or not) throughout the world. Again, for obvious reasons most of the entries deal with Angola, Mozambique and Brazil, but there are a good deal of other sites as well. The points are geo-pinned on a Google Map, and the entries are searchable by location, or type of architecture as well. Below is a reproduction from their “about” page. You can visit the site at (

Heritage of Portuguese Influence/ Património de Influência Portuguesa (HPIP) is the natural evolution of the project Portuguese Heritage around the World: architecture and urbanism directed by José Mattoso and undertaken by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation from 2007 to 2012. Its aim was to publish in three volumes, plus another with indices, a compilation of information on the subject in the form of a geographically arranged dictionary. This process is well described in the project’s introductory texts by Emílio Rui Vilar and José Mattoso, as well as in the History section.

It is a natural evolution because the printed work has a physical expression and price only readily available to the general public in libraries, but also, given the subject matter and its geographical scope, because it implies a need for continual updating. Despite the large team of experts gathered for the purpose, it is not possible to ensure coverage of all relevant available and updated knowledge for the entire planet. Two desirable project development axes became evident: more extensive dissemination and the integral gathering of scattered information. Once effectively brought together they could generate a reciprocal snowball effect, for dissemination can stimulate collaboration and vice versa.

An online website is the ideal means for achieving those goals, one presented and functioning as an interactive public portal for the geo-referenced database that concentrates and administers all the information collected. The books’ content comprised the start-up capital, certainly sufficiently attractive and stimulating to elicit contributions from all those around the world who have something to add or correct, by means of either written or graphic (photos, drawings, etc) content.

Together this will enhance self-identification of the community that has inherited these assets resulting from various and mixed influences. Knowledge and its globalisation in a post-colonial environment is the basis for identifying communities with their heritage(s), thus encouraging efforts to safeguard, value, use and integrally develop same.

A compilation with all these characteristics will also certainly be significant for the scientific community, not only by making data available but also due to the cross-referenced and integral way it is provided by means of the geographic-based information system (GIS), easy access, continual updating and the inclusion of new material, etc.

The GIS not only ensures fully effective information management, but also facilitates searches via the more common alphanumeric input (box with magnifying glass symbol in the upper right corner) or by clicking on a GoogleMaps satellite image or a map. Each item listed is indicated by a pin with the HPIP logo. For some major urban centres a superimposed picture shows essential features of the early layout, defence structures and/or the location of the buildings covered. It is also possible to directly search the pre-formatted indices (geographic/toponymic, onomastic, original author, chronological) via the menu CONTENTS>NAVIGATION. Another way to search is directly via the images from the sub-menus in IMAGES: click on the image to access all content pertaining to the respective entry.

CONTENTS>CONTEXTS contains a set of texts that provide a synthesis and historical background regarding four major geographical regions: South America; Asia and Oceania; North Africa, Persian Gulf and Red Sea; and Sub-Saharan Africa. For each of those four regions a longer general text is provided, along with smaller ones which detail aspects associated to HPI in each of the sub-regions in which that information has been arranged.

The COLLABORATE menu can be used to propose a change, indicate an error and correct it, submit an image, propose a new entry or add items to the bibliography. It appears on the main bar and often as a clip elsewhere in the website. No prior registration is necessary; some identification information must be filled in, along with a brief description of what is intended. The respective attached file(s) should be in an editable format (jpg, doc, etc). The proposal will be evaluated in accordance with a pre-established certification process; the person who submitted it will be informed of the result within a maximum of 45 days. If approved, the content will be immediately posted on the website.

The scientific quality of the information is one of the fundamental values underlying this project and is assured by the participation as authors, though essentially as certifiers, of the broad range of experts comprising the Editorial Council. In line with current standards for scientific publications, the verification process is conducted anonymously, i.e. the certifier does not know who submitted the proposal and the latter does not in the end know who evaluated it. This ensures maximum system objectivity and transparency, as well as the quality of the approved contribution.

The print version’s texts are signed by the respective authors, as are the texts for new entries proposed after the HPIP became operational. But after a suggested change is included, the name of the original text’s author will appear in an attached list along with those of new contributors. The original text with duly identified authorship will nevertheless still be available via an adjacent menu.

As an interactive non-profit database maintained on the basis of collaboration from all interested parties, and notwithstanding the certification system, the posted content is the responsibility of the respective authors, whereby they must all be aware that the HPIP is an open database whose content (text and images) is provided in the most intuitive manner and open formats available to any interested party. All one needs to do is enter the website via

For more information, please consult the Terms and Conditions menu in the lower left corner of the page.

The Executive Council composed of scientific and academic experts oversees all the HPIP’s operations. It also includes representatives from the four universities which signed the protocol founding the HPIP with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Lastly, we ask for your understanding regarding any eventual problems that occur in this early stage, regarding how the website functions as well as presentation of its content. Efforts have been made to ensure a smooth transfer of content produced for presentation in book form to another entirely different format, but the results of this process are not always linear or predictable. Fortunately, this kind of support has the huge advantage of allowing continual updating and correction, not only by the team that created it, but essentially through the collaboration of all those who visit and use it.



Heritage Virgins Come of Age


We set out to celebrate, commemorate and mark key news figures and moments, writes Sunday Times editor MONDLI MAKHANYA, but it was only a billion meetings later that we realised how much these memorials meant to how many people.

Earlier this year a colleague and I headed down to the Eastern Cape for a “summit” with stakeholders in our Eastern Cape heritage project. These included family members, community representatives, government officials and church elders. We spent half a day in a meeting that definitely ranks as one of my most memorable experiences of 2007.

Click here to read on.

The Nordic Documentation on the Liberation Struggle in Southern Africa Project

Editor’s Note: This site provides access to a number of archives in Finland, Norway, Sweden, as well as some Danish and Icelandic sources. Most of them are only finding aids, but there was some digitization work done on the Finnish sources. This was an effort led by the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala.


The Nordic Documentation on the Liberation Struggle in Southern Africa Project

This historical site is a reference source for everyone interested in the late 20th century history of national liberation in Southern Africa and the role of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden).

The site provides finding aids of primary source materials that can be found at the different Nordic archival institutions, NGOs and archives of individuals who have been involved in the liberation struggles in Southern Africa. (See map of countries covered.) The available materials are mainly in the Nordic languages, but where possible, English is indicated. The website holdings include interviews with important actors, photographs, publications and posters and pins from 1960-1996. The finding aids are meant to facilitate information search on the Nordic countries’ involvement in the liberation struggles and directs the information seekers to where the information can be found. It also makes available some archival materials in a pdf-format for downloading.


About the Nordic documentation on the liberation struggle in Southern Africa.

The project started in 2003 and was completed in 2009.

The Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, Sweden, has for a number of years played an important role in documenting the Nordic involvement in the National Liberation Struggle in Southern Africa. In the present process of state building in Southern Africa, there is a search for history and its role in forming and reforming national consciousness. In this respect, it has become evident that the background materials that have been collected in the Nordic countries have an important role to play in filling the gaps that might exist in the search for a new “liberation history”.

In 2003 the Nordic Africa Institute initiated a project to identify archives in the Nordic countries, that cover documentation on anti-apartheid resistance and the liberation struggle in Southern Africa, mainly South Africa and Namibia, during 1960-1990. (Other countries are covered, see the information box in the right hand column.) Around this time, a large number of organisations in the Nordic countries e.g. government bodies, youth and church organisations, political parties and solidarity groups participated in the struggle. As a result, vast bilateral cooperation emerged and many well documented conferences and meetings were held in the Nordic countries and in Africa. Several visits to refugee camps in Africa and encounters with different leaders were also documented on videos, tapes and in pictures. Another result was this website that works as an reference source. It was launched on 24 April 2007. (More about the website.)

Organisations in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have localized, catalogued and organized archives on the liberation struggle. The archival lists are available in a database, found on this website, that has been created to make the materials known and easily accessible for researchers, students and others who are interested in this part of the world history.

The project was concluded in November 2009 with a workshop held in Pretoria, South Africa.

Archives de l’Afrique Équatoriale Française Brazzaville

Editor’s Note: Although this page doesn’t explicitly deal with South or Southern African history, It’s still useful to look at this digitization initiative. Archivists Jean-Pierre Bat and Vincent Hiribarren have built a small website to show some of the holdings of the French Equatorial Africa Colonial Archives in Brazzaville. They chose not to digitize all of the materials for obvious reasons, but they did provide us with some scans. And most importantly, they uploaded summaries of the inventories and some of the finding aids. Perhaps this is a good compromise to the dilemmas of “digital imperialism.” 


Ce site est dédié aux archives coloniales de l’Afrique équatoriale française (AEF) conservées à Brazzaville aux Archives nationales du Congo.

Ces archives de l’AEF (fonds dit de gestion) constituent un patrimoine partagé entre la France et les Républiques issues de l’ancienne AEF : Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Centrafrique, Tchad.
Elles constituent la partie complémentaire du fonds AEF conservé aux Archives nationales d’outre-mer à Aix-en-Provence (fonds dit de souveraineté).

Ce site a été créé par deux historiens spécialistes de l’Afrique, Jean-Pierre Bat (CNRS-Institut des mondes africains) et Vincent Hiribarren (King’s College London), en accord et avec le concours des Archives nationales du Congo en la personne de Raoul Ngokaba (directeur des Affaires administratives et financières à la direction générale du patrimoine et des archives) et en la personne de Brice Owabira (directeur des Archives nationales du Congo), et de l’Institut français de Brazzaville en la personne de Richard Mouthuy (conseiller de coopération à l’action culturelle et directeur de l’Institut français).

Archives de l’Afrique Équatoriale Française Brazzaville | Ce site présente les archives du gouvernement général de l’AEF conservées à Brazzaville. Ces archives constituent un patrimoine partagé entre le Congo-Brazzaville, le Gabon, la Centrafrique, le Tchad et la France..

Kenya Coast – Social Sciences Portal | African Studies Centre

The Kenya Coast – Social Sciences Portal is a service provided by the African Studies Centre Leiden for students, researchers, development workers, government officials and all others interested. The Kenya Coast is a region with distinct geographical, economic and social characteristics. It has a long history of intercontinental trade and cultural exchange with other communities along the East African coast as well as with the Middle East and South Asia. In particular the coastal strip with the seaports of Mombasa and Lamu very much belonged to the political and cultural world of the Indian Ocean, but at the time of Independence the region was incorporated into the Republic of Kenya. Due to its cultural diversity and varied history, the Coast has attracted the attention of many researchers over the years.

Map Kenya Coast

The Portal provides digital follow-up to the Kenya Coast Handbook (Hoorweg J., Foeken D. & Obudho R. eds., 2000) and incorporates the disciplines of anthropology, economics, education, geography, health, history, languages, law, political science, religion and sociology. It consists of four parts: a section with topical reviews by different authors; a bibliographical section with literature references; a section of tables and maps offering statistical information; and a section listing open-access publications.


The Portal is not designed to be a static body of knowledge but should be seen as work-in-progress. Readers are invited to provide further information in the form of literature references, statistical data and/or full-text publications. For suggestions or contributions, please contact the editor, Prof. Jan Hoorweg:


Posted on 23 February, 2015


Now online: Kenya Coast – Social Sciences Portal | African Studies Centre.

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.