African Literary Metadata

Events: Researching Ephemerality – The Street as Archive. November 1–3, 2023. Machakos University College, Kenya.

In November 2023, ALMEDA team member Nicklas Hållén co-organized a PhD and M.A student workshop at Machakos University with Dr. Charles Kebaya (postgraduate co-ordinator in Literature and Cultural studies, Machakos). The workshop was sponsored by ALMEDA, STINT, Karlstad University and Machakos University, and brought together 14 students for a three-day workshop.

The students were divided into three groups and each group developed a research project which is to become the basis of a co-authored research article. The general topics the students proposed for their projects were the evolution of the aesthetics of Nairobi’s famous matatu culture, an exhibition by Nairobi-based artist Fayth Wanjala, and social critique in the popular Youtube comedy show TT Comedian. Hållén and Kebaya plan to collect the papers into a joint publication. The next on-site workshop in Machakos is scheduled for April 2024. 

One topic that came up in the discussions throughout the workshop was the unevenness between institutions in the Global North and in Africa when it comes to students’ access to necessary resources like databases, digital archives and published research. While the participants felt that they are in many ways perfectly situated to study ephemeral material created and circulated in working class neighbourhoods in Nairobi, their work is made very difficult by their limited access to international research in the field. Some of the students were interested specifically in studying material in Sheng (, a vernacular slang-language that combines mainly Swahili and English and is spoken by youth in Nairobi’s informal and working class neighbourhoods. Sheng evolves so rapidly that only young people can understand its current idioms and vocabulary. Therefore, one can argue that only a small number of people can study this material, since it requires that the researcher can access, understand and have the necessary academic skills to analyse these materials. However, this is made difficult by the fact that a successful PhD or Ma project focused on popular culture in Sheng requires access to recently published research, opportunities to travel to international conferences in Europe and North America and other forms of academic infrastructure. 

It is partly for this reason that all of ALMEDA’s method pamphlets will be published as fully open-access PDFs on this site.

Photo by James J. Kasyoka

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…

Read more

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”…

Read more

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