Living Archives: Constitution Hill in Johannesburg/South Africa, a co-presentation by Marie Kruger and Debora Matthews

Friday, March 2, 2018 - 10:15am to 12:15pm
136 South Dubuque Street
Iowa City, IA 52240

The subject of this presentation, Constitution Hill, is a unique “living archive” in the center of Johannesburg. It is a former prison complex that commemorates the experiences of those detained during apartheid; it is a multifunctional urban location that features the new Constitutional Court; and it is the home of the South African History Archive with its roots in the anti-apartheid struggle and its current task of managing the Constitution Hill Collection.​​

This event is part of the 2018 Provost's Global Forum and Obermann Humanities Symposium, Against Amnesia: Archives, Evidence, and Social Justice, in which practicing archivists, engaged scholars, and interdisciplinary artists will share projects from guerrilla archiving of climate data to mining corporate records for evidence of organized violence.

Marie Kruger is an associate professor of African and diasporic literatures and film in the departments of English and Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Iowa. She is the author of Women’s Literature in Kenya and Uganda: The Trouble with Modernity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). Her current book project examines the representation and commodification of traumatic memory in South African visual culture including feature and documentary films and a series of multi-media exhibits in the infamous apartheid prison complex in Johannesburg. She will be joined, in person or virtually, by colleagues involved in the management of the heritage installation and the archive on Constitution Hill.

Debora Matthews worked for seven years as archival coordinator in the Struggles for Justice Programme at the South African History Archive (SAHA), an independent activist and human rights archive in Johannesburg. SAHA is an independent human rights archive dedicated to documenting, supporting and promoting greater awareness of past and contemporary struggles for justice through archival practices and outreach, and the access to information laws. Established by anti-apartheid activists in the 1980s, SAHA was closely connected in its formative years to the United Democratic Front, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the African National Congress. Matthews archived the Constitution Hill Collection at SAHA. She is now an archives consult, currently working for the Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI), developing and implementing a records and research data management system. She will also be working as a contract archivist at the GALA (Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action) Archives at the University of the Witwatersrand.

The Provost's Global Forum and Obermann Humanities Symposium is co-sponsored by the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, the Ida Beam Visiting Professorships Program, the Provost’s Global Forum International Programs grant, the UI Center for Human Rights, Digital Bridges for Humanistic Inquiry, the UI School of Music, UI Libraries-Special Collections, the UI Department of History, and the UI Department of Cinematic Arts.