Community Archives, Collaborative Curation, and Creative Connections

Music; Social and Cultural (Anthropology); Speech and Rhetorical Studies; American Popular Culture; African Languages and Societies; Ethnomusicology

The proposed project aspires to engage and support connections between community-based archives, arts, and oral history projects in South Africa, Tanzania, and the United States.

Research Interests
  • Collaboration
  • Ethnography
  • Charlottesville
  • cultural heritage
  • Archives
  • oral history
  • hip hop
  • sound art
  • ethnomusicology
  • curation
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania

The proposed project aspires to engage and support connections between community-owned archives, arts, and oral history projects in South Africa, Tanzania, and the United States. It supports the work of communities in curating and representing their own cultures and values (especially in terms of language and place) memories and histories, by telling their own stories (through art, music, literature, performance and audio-visual media). It is also centrally concerned with connections to important social issues such as land rights, housing rights, education, public health, food sovereignty and early childhood development. Community-based locally-driven archives hold significant potential for articulating and amplifying these kinds of issues. They are moreover spaces of collective memory making, in which people draw from their own experiences and traditions to imagine and pursue desirable futures. This new collaboration revolves around three nascent initiatives: 1. The Charlottesville Hip-Hop Oral History Project, in connection with the work of A.D. Carson; 2. Grassroots heritage and community performance spaces in Grahamstown/ Makhanda, South Africa, in connection with the work of Noel Lobley; and 3. Community-based media centers and knowledge archives in Northern Tanzania, in connection with the work of Jim Igoe. Three Cavaliers funding would enhance these projects and their connections through the production of web-based platforms, including real time video conferencing. It would also facilitate exchanges and visits across these diverse spaces. These will take two forms. First, scholars and organizers from Charlottesville and Northern Tanzania will visit South African projects, to share experiences, ideas and skills, as well as to plan future collaborations. Second, UVA students will join collaborative research teams with local students and community organizers at each of the three sites.

Desired outcomes

This project will promote and foster trust and build mutually-beneficial relationships among diverse communities in South Africa, Northern Tanzania and Charlottesville. Scholars and community organizers in South Africa, for instance, are keen to learn about land rights activism and related modes of representation in Tanzania. Tanzanian scholars and community activists are likewise interested in learning about the experiences of community archives and performance spaces in South Africa, and how they might serve as models for community-based knowledge archives and community centers in Tanzania. The Charlottesville Hip-Hop community is engaged in ongoing conversations about its history and legacy in the shadow of the University of Virginia, and are interested in working on a digital archive that contains oral histories alongside university students and organizers. Scholars and organizers from all three sites are interested in creating sustainable collaborations, based on long-term relationships of trust and decolonizing research methodologies. Accordingly the ongoing long-term goal of this collaboration is to create and support South-South networks, which listen closely, and proactively respond, to local concerns and priorities for current and future equitable curation initiatives. It will produce and develop a cutting edge curated interactive online presence for all three collaborative sites, amplifying and sharing cultural content, and exploring the possibility for designing and developing course curricula shared between community archives and school, student and research communities in South Africa, Northern Tanzania and Charlottesville. The project will increase the capacity to communicate across the field sites about local arts, education, and social issues. The collaborators will develop a grant proposal to seek ongoing funding to build further infrastructure for sustainable multi-sited collaborative curation.