Myself and Prof Graham Stewart will be presenting a paper at the upcoming Art and Social Justice Conference based on our work with the Encyclopaedia of South Africa Art, Culture and Heritage. The title of the paper is “Tribe of colours – reclaiming identity via the Web” and the abstract is below.
“ …straight ahead
the memory beckons from the future
you and I a tribe of colours
this song that dance
godlike rhythms to birth
footsteps of memory
the very soul aspires to.”
(Keorapetse Kgositsile, “Origins”, 1969:3)
Now in the second year of its development, the Encyclopaedia of South African Arts, Culture and Heritage (ESAACH) is both traditional encyclopaedia and hypertext web. Published volumes will emerge from the collaborative writing space provided within the wiki database. “You and I a tribe of colours” – by tapping into the collaborative spirit of social networking, ESAACH is emerging as a communal knowledge base that is far more than the sum of its parts.
ESAACH is intended as a work of reclamation scholarship to address the dearth of reference material in South African arts, culture and heritage studies, and flights a number of concepts of importance in knowledge production for social transformation – notions that represent a fundamental shift in perspective: “panoramic, inclusive, democratic, and non-canonical”.
An encyclopaedia, by its very nature, can never be complete. An online encyclopaedia never needs to be complete. Users can continually add entries or edit existing ones while an open-source community, (e.g. Media wiki) is continually improving and developing the management framework. An active community that has bought into ownership of the encyclopaedia, and has an interest in maintaining and growing its content, ensures its sustainability.
This paper reports on work in progress, outlining the founding principles of the encyclopaedia and presenting the current state of the development and usage of the Verbal Arts section of the wiki. Later phases of the project include the Performing Arts, Visual Arts and Heritage.