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We aim to develop a multilingual metadata ontology specifically designed for the large body of oral, unpublished, and informal literary materials that have been, and continue to be, a major part of literary production on the continent.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Our major outcome will be a linked open repository of metadata on oral, unpublished and informal African literatures.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

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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Events: African Digital Humanities Symposium, Accra 15-16 February 2024

ALMEDA is proud to co-sponsor this year’s African Digital Humanities Symposium, Digital Humanities, African Stories and Agency organised by Brian Rosenblum and James Yékú of the Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Kansas. The ALMEDA team will also partner with Karen Ijumba (Poetry Africa, Open…

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Case Study: Zimbabwean Theatre Manuscripts

In August 2023, Ashleigh Harris partnered with ALMEDA researcher Pedzisai Maedza (University College Dublin), Nkululeko Sibanda (University of Pretoria), and Kelvin Chikonzo (University of Harare) to catalogue the manuscript collection of Rooftop Productions’ Theatre in the Park, directed by Daves Guzha. In addition to cataloguing the 253 manuscripts in Rooftop…

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Case Study: Staffrider Magazine

Staffrider was a South African literary magazine that ran in 37 numbers from 1978 to 1993, published by Raven Press, Johannesburg. The magazine has been digitised and made freely available by Digital Innovation South Africa at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (see the full collection here) The ALMEDA project is…

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Our team

Read more about our researchers, digital engineers, metadata experts and admin.

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Read about the progress of the project

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