African Literary Metadata

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 who wrote for these magazines to their other, formal, publications through their VIAF numbers, a service that links worldwide library authority files. By doing this, we will be able to trace a richer picture of this pivotal era of decolonization.

One example we worked on was a student magazine from the University of Dar es Salaam, called Darlite until 1970, when it changed its name to Umma. The magazine’s name-change signaled the decolonial thinking of the editor J.N. Birihanze, who expressed in its first number, how it is Umma’s “duty to effect the changes that will better the people’s lot”. Emphasizing the influential capacity and the responsibility of the magazine and its writers, Birihanze encourages its contributors to engage in their communities and provoke positive action.

The content of such magazines is saturated with direct and indirect commentary on the societal transformations that were underway during this time. We believe that cataloging metadata on such magazines enables greater visibility to the cultural significance of previously under-appreciated works.

During their internship at ALMEDA, Max and Malin catalogued thousands of individual works from Black Orpheus (Nigeria), Nexus/Busara (Kenya), Dhana (Kenya), Okyeame (Ghana), Odi (Malawi) and Umma/Darlite (Tanzania)They also produced a sizable data set on Swahili newspaper serializations, which is now available as a .csv file on our preliminary results page. 

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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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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