The present is always filled with spectres of the past, which slip in and out of view. Burdened by complex colonial and apartheid inheritances, contemporary South Africa negotiates these spectres in a highly charged manner.

The archives that impose themselves on, or lend themselves to, such negotiations are the focus of our enquiry, as are the B-sides, the archives that are unrecognised, neglected, disavowed or subaltern inheritances. In a project that is at once historical and contemporary – and that resonates in global discussions of memory, trauma, social justice, imperialism, indigenous rights, and the practices of history – we pay attention to the remixes of the record, in the past and in the present.


My very first question to you

‘My very first question to you’, a frequent opening phrase in the interviews Ruth Weiss conducted as a journalist, is the title of an exhibition and sound installation opening at the South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town on Sunday, 7 September. The exhibition is an acoustic portrait of Weiss and the role she has played in southern African liberation politics.

Her interviews, many of which she recorded on tape, took place in hotel lobbies, conference spaces, living rooms and cafés. Drawing on Weiss’s interview and image archive, this exhibition portrays the journalist ‘at work’ and acoustically explores the questions she has asked about (southern) African affairs over several decades.


South African-Swiss sound archives workshop rescheduled

The sound archives workshop, Knowing by Ear: Histories and Politics of Listening, Aural Knowledge, and Located Audiences, has been rescheduled to take place on 8 September, due to the change of date of the book launch of Ruth Weiss’s autobiography, A Path through Hard Grass: A Journalist’s Memories of Exile and Apartheid at the Jewish Museum. On the same day, workshop particpants are invited to a walk though the exhibition with Weiss and Dag Henrichsen.


Archives of the Non-Racial: Cape Town discomforts

Carolyn Hamilton

In July 2014, the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism, in collaboration with the University of California’s Seminar in Experimental Critical Theory, hosted a mobile workshop on the theme ‘Archives of the Non-Racial’. The workshop, which started in Johannesburg and ended almost two weeks later in Cape Town, sought to ‘assess the possibilities and limits of the “non-racial” in terms of the politics of the modern world and its core values: democracy, freedom, dignity, equality, the human, universality, justice’.


Reading the Robben Island Bible

Archive & Public Culture will be hosting a special event, ‘Conversation on the Robben Island Bible’ on Thursday, 21 August, from 1 – 2.30pm in the Jon Berndt Thought Space in A.17, Arts Block, Upper Campus, UCT.

British playwright and lecturer at St Mary’s University in London, Matthew Hahn, will introduce his play, The Robben Island Bible, in conversation with Robben Island CEO, Sibongiseni Mkhize, and leading Shakespeare scholar, David Schalkwyk.


'Goodbye Sandton, Hello Soweto'

Archive & Public Culture Associate Research Fellow Professor Njabulo Ndebele will be delivering the keynote address at the opening of 20 Years of Democracy in South Africa, a programme of concerts, films and debates, opening at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin on 28 August. The title of his opening address is ‘Goodbye Sandton, Hello Soweto’.


Swiss-South Africa/Namibia Exchange Programme

Memory Biwa

I have been based in Europe for several weeks for the first part of a research exchange programme between South Africa and Switzerland. In June, I visited ‘The Making of…Ghosts: Voices and Apparitions in Archives of the First World War’, a four-channel sound and video installation by Britta Lange and Philip Scheffner at the Anatomical Theatre of the Humboldt University.


Reminder: Esther Peeren to deliver lunchtime lecture on 26 August

Archive & Public Culture has invited Esther Peeren, author of The Spectral Metaphor: Living Ghosts and the Agency of Invisibility (Palgrave, 2014), for a week of intense discussion, academic exchange and engagement around the theme of the ghost/spectre both as archival metaphor and as conceptual figure in post-colonial and cultural studies.

Peeren is Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam, Vice-Director of the Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies (ACGS) and senior researcher at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA). Her current research projects explore global spectralities and rural globalization.