On the “Archival Sliver” and Audio-Visual Africa, Part 2

Last week, we summarized South African archivist Verne Harris’s notion of the “archival sliver”, the belief that archives are only capable of capturing “a sliver of a sliver of a sliver” of the past (65). Harris developed his argument with reference to the apartheid regime in South Africa, citing instances in which government institutions expunged marginalized social and ethnic groups from the archival record. For a more detailed introduction to Harris’s argument, please refer to On the ‘Archival Sliver’ and Audio-Visual Africa, Part 1.

It is unrealistic to expect that the Audio-Visual Africa project will create archives encapsulating more than a sliver of African history and culture. The project rests on the assumption, however, that the sliver we archive will, in Harris’s words, “giv[e] voice to the voiceless” on a number of different levels (74).
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On the “Archival Sliver” and Audio-Visual Africa, Part 1

The Audio-Visual Africa project is rooted in a recent archival movement toward championing social memory and representation within the archival record. Advocates for social memory and social justice present Africa as a compelling case study due to its long history of authoritarian rule, warfare, and colonialism. One of the most influential figures in this conversation is South African archivist Verne Harris, former deputy director of the National Archives of South Africa. Harris’s article, “The Archival Sliver: Power, Memory, and Archives in South Africa” (2002) strongly relates to the Audio-Visual Africa project and its objectives, namely to preserve, repatriate, and provide access to African audio-visual materials.

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