African Literary Metadata

African Literary Metadata (ALMEDA)

ALMEDA is a five-year research project with three interlocking ambitions:


By researching the history of literary metadata about African expressive cultures in libraries and archives, we aim to understand the ways in which colonial cataloguing constructed the idea of the ‘literary work’. How did colonial catalogues classify oral and performed expressive cultures and how has this impacted our continued understanding of the literary field up to this day?


We aim to develop a multilingual metadata ontology specifically designed for the large body of oral, unpublished, and informal literary materials that have been, and continue to be, a major part of literary production on the continent. By rethinking the organisation of the literary field around published books, we aim to improve the visibility and authority of non-book literatures in the field of African literary studies.


Our major outcome will be a linked open repository of metadata on oral, unpublished and informal African literatures. By creating and linking metadata on this body of work, this repository will make these literatures searchable and visible despite their structural ephemerality. This will be the first time that such works are put into a structured dataset at this scale, which will enable new research.

News, Case Studies, Events

Student interns reflect on their work for ALMEDA

By Max van Loenen and Malin Runefelt During the spring of 2024, we collected metadata on African literary magazines published during the decolonization period of the 60s and 70s. ALMEDA creates data on and then links these ephemeral works. An important aspect of the collection process has been linking authors…

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ALMEDA Kick-Off Meeting, 13–14 May 2024

ALMEDA was officially launched with a meeting of all team members and some of the members of our distinguished advisory board. We were also joined by Tinashe Mushakavanhu, who presented a lecture titled ‘Metareading a Country’, in which he spoke about the value of “rogue archival” methods, which create “interference”…

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Zonk! African People’s Pictorial

The South African magazine, Zonk! African People’s Pictorial, ran from August 1949 until June 1964, during which time it published 298 literary works, predominantly short stories and photo plays. The rise of the popularity of the photo play in the 1960s is evident in Zonk!, which began publishings 23-page photo…

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Data modelling: Edi Ganzel’s serialised Swahili novels

Edi Ganzel was a prolific writer of serialised novels in late 1960s and early 1970s Tanzania. Ursula Oberst has been using his work in Kenyan magazine Taifa Weekly to model serialised fiction in our metadata ontology. Give her feedback and see her current modelling on our Wikidata project site. Image:…

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Texts Catalogued Thus Far: 6522

Includes texts in English, Swahili, Xhosa, Yorùbá, Zulu

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Our Team

Find out more about our researchers, digital engineers and information experts.

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