African Literary Metadata


ALMEDA addresses African Literary Metadata through three interlocking work packages.


In this work package the team investigates the history of how African orature, literature and performance cultures have entered into catalogues, libraries and archives across the continent’s colonial history, through its period of decolonisation, and through to the current period.

We investigate the ways in which various kinds of classification of African cultural forms have impacted their collection, preservation and visibility. We will also explore how cataloguing systems have prioritised book-based literature over other cultural modalities and will consider the consequences of this for African orature and performance cultures.


In order to correct the ontological split in the field of African literature between oral and written forms (which has fragmented the field in multiple ways), ALMEDA will explore ontologies that do not reproduce this split and that attempt to disentangle colonial taxonomies of African literary and expressive culture. This collaborative work will be based on a wide variety of case-studies managed by researchers working on various regions of the continent and focusing on a range of different languages and literary modes across those regions.

The ontology will be multilingual and will be developed in such a way as to open to wider inclusion of African languages in future versions. You can follow our public-facing discussions on data modelling on our Wikidata project page.


The most important output of the ALMEDA project is the data repository of metadata that the project will collect and then make available through a linked, open and searchable database. In this work-package, team members collect extensive data on previously uncatalogued materials. This data will be entered into our database where it will be searchable through an interface (to be launched in 2025) that will also be able to visualise data for easy exploration. The interface will further allow for entry of ground-up metadata, meaning that the repository will continue to grow beyond the five years of the project’s funding.

Formal collaborations

The ALMEDA project is based at Uppsala University and has formal collaborations with:

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…

Read more

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:…

Read more

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…

Read more

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…

Read more