03 July 2014

Personal account of Tembisa township life delights visiting US students

On 20 May 2014 the Struggles for Justice Programme (SFJP) archival team with the help of a Freedom of Information Programme (FOIP) team member, hosted a group of seven students and two professors from the Psychology Department at Keene State College, New Hampshire, United States of America.

Learning about the legacy of apartheid in general, their main point of interest was the impact of the psychological trauma of apartheid on communities of people in South Africa; how it impacted on people’s lives and their way of living.

Students from Keene State College during a visit to SAHA, 20 May 2014. Photographer: SAHA internThe archival coordinator welcomed the visiting group, and gave an overview of SAHA’s history and the work of the two programmes. An outline of SAHA’s mandate served as a departure point for discussions around past and present project work and archival materials relevant to the visitors’ key areas of interest. They were keen to learn about the Khulumani art/memory workshops, the Tembisa community history project, the ‘Forgotten Voices’ project, the Land Act project as well as the Constitution Hill collection as each of these projects and/or collections document a painful past.

Archival assistant Nonhlanhla Ngwenya shared her involvement as interviewer in the Tembisa and Land Act projects:

“I could get a sense of how people were really affected by the system and the scars it left, some of the people I have interviewed are still bitter and they haven’t really forgiven what was done to them.” she said.

As a resident of Tembisa, Nonhlanhla treated the visitors to a personal account of township life in Tembisa – to their delight.

A presentation by Lwazi Mtshiyo on the work of the Freedom of Information Programme sparked a discussion around freedom of information legislation in South Africa and the States.

Interactive discussions were followed by a tour of the archives and an introduction to SAHA’s website, especially the collection inventories and the online exhibitions.

Professor Karen Jennings response to the visit:

“Thank you for the fantastic visit! We hope to return for another visit within a couple of years.

The archival team thoroughly enjoyed the visiting group of students and felt that they too had learnt a lot from the discussions and sharing of information. Nonhlanhla says of the visit:

“I must say that the Keene State College visit to SAHA really got us excited, as we were sharing our history with them and them sharing with us as well. It turned out to be a very informative session as we were sharing different stories about both countries.”