11 December 2014

The archival team reflects on 2014

This year proved to be jam-packed for the archival team - from archival processing duties, special project involvement, assisting researchers and responding to archival reference enquiries to outreach activities. Two of the biggest highlights of the past year were the implementation of the new archival internship programme and the team’s contribution to the Shifty Records Archive Project.

Archival intern Noorun-nisaa Delate working on the UDF collection

The year kicked off with the arrival of the first archival interns, Noorunisaa Delate and Jabu Chinamasa. After their week-long orientation, and ongoing training sessions on archival practice they performed varied archival-related tasks during their six-month internship. While both interns worked on SAHA’s Land Act 1913 Legacy Project, they were also offered the opportunity to work on a special project of their choice. Noorunisaa who is currently completing a MA degree in history did much needed retrospective work on SAHA’s United Democratic Front (UDF) collection while Jabu became involved in SAHA’s Struggle T-shirt Project. Noorunisaa said of her internship: “Working at SAHA has helped me think more critically about how we use, and work with archives in South Africa.”

Another highlight for the team was their work on the Shifty Records Archive Project and the subsequent processing of the independent, anti-apartheid record label’s endangered archive and project materials.  “Preserving, documenting and making accessible the non-traditional archives of ‘Shifty’ have been a great, yet at times stressful experience!  But it has indeed been one of the most rewarding projects I have worked on during my five years at SAHA”, says archival coordinator Debora Matthews.

Discovering exceptional gems in the collection, such as James Phillips notebooks, sourcing artefacts from ‘Shifty’ artists, former ‘Shifty’The processed Shifty Records Project collection (AL3296) workers, ‘Shifty’ friends and even ex-girlfriends of ‘Shifty’ founder Lloyd Ross to build on the existing collection and spending long hours digitising items from the collection all formed part of the great journey. The rich collection consists of digitised audio recordings, artists’ correspondence, lyric sheets, press releases, photographs and ephemera, as well as oral history interviews representing the following ‘Shifty’ artists: André Letoit (also as Koos Kombuis), Corporal Punishment, Illegal Gathering, James Phillips (also as Bernoldus Niemand), Johannes Kerkorrel en die Gereformeerde Blues Band, Kalahari Surfers, Jennifer Ferguson, Radio Rats, Simba Morri, Cherry Faced Lurchers, Mzwakhe Mbuli, Sankomota, National Wake, Tananas, Fosatu Workers Choirs, Lesego Rampolokeng, Noise Khanyile Vusi Mahlasela, Die Kêrels, Genuines, Urban Creep, Van der Want and Letcher, Robin Auld, Tony Cox, Warrick Sony, Winston’s Jive Mixup, Roger Lucey and others.

The Shifty Records Project collection (AL3296) has been processed and is accessible at SAHA’s offices at Constitution Hill in Braamfontein. A selection of digitised items and the transcripts of the oral history interviews are accessible on SAHA’s website, as is a virtual exhibition entitled ‘What you won’t hear on the radio’.

As a fitting end to this journey, Debora presented a paper ‘Shifting the boundaries through music: SAHA’s Shifty Records Archive Project’ at the Msunduzi Museum Conference in Pietermaritzburg entitled ‘Commemorating 20 Years of Democracy – a different dialogue’. 

Professor Shula Marks consulting SAHA archival collection, 2014Archival assistant Nonhlanhla Ngwenya organising exhibition materials in the new storeroom, 2014Researchers consulting SAHA archival collections, 2014

See inventory for the Shifty Records Project collection (AL3296)

Visit the online exhibition ‘What you won’t hear on the radio’