27 February 2015

Art and history students visit SAHA during study tours to South Africa

During February two groups of students prioritised a visit to SAHA during their respective study tours to South Africa.

A visit from Geneva/London based Swiss artist Uriel Orlow, who had previously visited SAHA during a research trip, with a group of postgraduate art students from HEAD, the University of the Arts in Geneva and Wits School of Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand formed part of a project, entitled ‘Poetics of Relation’, which included a week-long workshop on creolisation (after Edouard Glissant). Access to a selection of struggle posters, t-shirts and stickers from the SAHA Poster collection (AL2446) and the SAHA Ephemera collection (AL2540) sparked overwhelming interest from the students, confirming Orlow’s sentiment that “it would be good for them to see the energy of the materials, the crossover of creative/aesthetic work and politics”.

A group of history students led by Dr. Erik Ching from the History Department at Furman University, Greenville in South Carolina participated in a research workshop at SAHA. As part of a bi-annual study programme to Southern Africa, the Travel Study in African History gave the twenty students the opportunity to consult SAHA’s Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) collection (AL3290) during the one-day research workshop held at the Constiution Hill Women's Jail Lekgotla. The aim of workshop, Dr. Ching explained, was “to introduce the students to the concept of gathering and interpreting archival evidence”. 

The workshop was organised and facilitated by the archival team in collaboration with Dr. Dale McKinley, an activist, co-founder member and elected leader of the APF, as well as donor of the APF collection at SAHA. As an alumnus with a long-standing relationship with Furman University, he also helped set up the university’s study programme to Southern Africa over a decade ago.

Introducing the students to the APF, Dr. McKinley spoke of the many challenges faced by social movements on the whole and he stressed how important it has become to preserve the archives of these movements. He also highlighted the role SAHA plays in documenting histories such as the APF in order to record aspects of South African democracy in the making. Archival coordinator, Debora Matthews gave an introduction to the APF collection and the work of SAHA, while SAHA director Catherine Kennedy was also on hand to answer interesting questions from Dr. Ching and the students during a lively discussion.

Collage of images from the Furman student research workshop at SAHA, February 2015

Logo of the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF). Archived as SAHA collection AL2446_AL3290_B11.6.1.3

The first of its kind at SAHA, the research workshop was organised around the topics of interest identified by each student prior to the visit from the APF online collection inventory and virtual exhibition. Research interests included the APF’s involvement and protests around water and electricity issues, xenophobia, the 2010 World Cup, community struggles, and youth involvement in the APF. Keen interest in the visual aspect of the APF archive was also demonstrated in a number of students who requested access to photographic collection materials. Kate Causey explained her interest in APF images as follows, “I am interested  in photographs as evidence and/or social documentary for change”, while Julia Roberts’ interest in APF-related images in newspaper clippings stems from her belief that “photo’s themselves tell an interesting (though narrative and biased) story of the most recent history of South Africa”.

Access and handling of the archival materials generated a lot of discussion amongst the students, and the lecturers, while the facilitators were on hand to answer multiple questions on the APF and the collection. 

The workshop was concluded with lunch at Constitution Hill’s brand new restaurant, The Hill, followed by a guided tour of the Constitution Hill heritage site.  

See inventory for the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) collection

Visit the APF online exhibition