Partner projects: An overview of the fourth Afridig Consortium Workshop

14 Jun 2021 - 11:15
Screenshot of presentation by Stefania Merlo on georeferencing tools. The National Library of Scotland is being used to demonstrate how georeferencing tools can be used. Image courtesy of the APC.


On 30 and 31 March 2021, the APC’s Five Hundred Year Archive (FHYA) project participated in the fourth of a series of African Digital Humanities workshops together with its consortium partners, the Digital Bleek and Lloyd, and the Metsemegologolo Project.

Each of the partner projects is committed to the production of archival materials in a digital setting and to the development of pioneering digital research tools. The workshops, the first of which dates back to July 2019, offer opportunities for co-operation, knowledge exchanges, and for constructive critique.

The latest workshop enabled the consortium’s partners to report back on the progress their projects have made since a presentation to funders back in September 2020. The Metsemegologolo Project, based at Wits, has made headway with its tools for examining space and landscape as an organisational principle for a digital archive. The Digital Bleek and Lloyd, a project of the Centre for Curating the Archive (CCA) based at UCT, has been introducing improved points of access to its dictionary and notebooks on |xam and !kun.  Meanwhile, the FHYA presented an update of its new EMANDULO website, which now has the capacity to exhibit specialised presentations. The workshop was held online via Zoom.

The first day was given over to reporting on progress and achievements.  The focus of the opening session was georeferencing. Metsemegologolo’s Stefania Merlo presented an uMgungundlovu georeferenced storymap, in which elements of the map are linked to related materials in the digital archive. Anton Coetzee, also from Mestsemogologolo, then presented a further prototype storymap by means of which georeferenced objects can be placed within a three-dimensional landscape.  An important point raised here concerned the Euro-American orientation of the visual elements, which the storymap software offers, and their lack of fit with the local historical context. Much discussion ensued about how georeferencing is being incorporated into further subprojects being undertaken by the FHYA and CCA.

In the second session, UCT Computer Science’s Professor Hussein Suleman, who works closely with the FHYA and The Digital Bleek and Lloyd, presented his new Simple DL software. As he explained, Simple DL is a “ground-up” software toolkit that allows for the simplest possible management of digital objects, including their sustainable preservation. In the next part of the session, Professor Carolyn Hamilton, with support from Chloe Rushovic, presented on the progress the FHYA team has made with their EMANDULO website.  In particular, the presentation showcased EMANDULO’s capacity for hosting curations with links into the archive. These curations are exported to EMANDULO from the FHYA’s new WordPress site, The Studio. In the final phase of the session, Professor Pippa Skotnes, with input from research students Magdaleen du Toit and Nina Liebenberg,  presented on the CCA’s work with |xam and !kun linguistic data and how it links to The Digital Bleek and Lloyd. Their presentation involved issues to do with navigating dictionary translations, exhibition histories, and the reorganisation of exhibition material.

The second day of the workshop was largely devoted to planning for the future and discussing issues such as the promotion of the projects and funding.  Much of the discussion focused on stimulating further collaboration between the different projects, particularly with respect to georeferencing tools. The issue of sustainability, as it arises within each separate project, but also in terms of how it demands collaboration between projects and institutions, was also discussed at length.