Performing the aporias of the archive : towards a future for South African music archives

Lambrechts, Lizabe (2016)

CITATION: Lambrechts, L. 2016. Performing the aporias of the archive : towards a future for South African music archives. Historia, 61(1):132-154, doi:10.17159/2309-8392.

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National memory is continuously contested in South Africa and archives and museums are often called upon to store objects or material remnants of similarly contested pasts or histories. In addition, these institutions may already have collections that could be seen as contentious. If we consider these institutions as places where history is produced, what should be done with these objects and collections in a democratic country? This article provides a critical enquiry into the systems through which these objects are produced/recorded, appraised, catalogued and preserved as one methodology through which we can engage more fully with how these resources can be mobilised in the present. As a case study, the article will look at the International Library of African Music (ILAM), arguably one of the most important music archives in South Africa. The largest portion of ILAM's holdings comprises field recordings collected by Hugh Tracey, a scholar who is both celebrated and contested. This paper proposes that through engaging with the processes and ambivalence inherent in Hugh Tracey's recording and classification methods, ILAM has the capacity to provide critical and nuanced insight into one of the most important collections of music in southern-Africa.

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