Africa Digitisation Project underway

Kivubiro Tabawebbula and Barry Craig Working on the Africa Digitisation Project October 2014

Kivubiro Tabawebbula and Barry Craig Working on the Africa Digitisation Project at the South Australian Museum October 2014

In the 1990s, When founding member and former AFSAAP president Prof. David Dorward photographed as many collections of African material culture as he could get access to in Australia and New Zealand, he may not of realised that these colour slides would need to be digitised 25 years later. Fortunately AFSAAP has been able to commit $10,000 to the initial stage of this wider project, to get the ball rolling. AFSAAP would like to invite sponsors to assist in completing this project. Australian resource companies working in Africa would benefit from participating as a sponsor in this project, to demonstrate their commitment to preserving African material culture. We would also invite small or large, individual or crowd funding to be able complete the project. Further details of how the project will unfold to completion are detailed below.

Background and Project Plan

Prof David Dorward visited the following institutions and photographed near 6000 items – Abby Museum, Caboolture, Queensland; Anthropology Museum of University of Queensland; Queensland Museum; Material Culture Unit at James Cook University; Australian Museum, Sydney; Macleay Museum, University of Sydney; Museum of Victoria; Queen Victoria Museum and Gallery, Launceston; Tasmania Museum and Art Galley, Hobart; South Australia Museum; West Australia Museum; Otago Museum, Dunedin, New Zealand; Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand; National Museum, Wellington, New Zealand; (The Museum in Auckland could not be accessed at the time; Similarly, photos of the objects in the National Galley of Australia in Canberra could not be taken, as they’d already been photographed).

There are about 6,000 35-mm colour transparencies; some objects boast multiple images. Objects were photographed against a uniform background, either matte white or light blue, and a scale accompanies most photos. Dr Barry Craig (SA Museum and AFSAAP Member) is has these photographs and datasets archived at the South Australian Museum, which has provided the space and with AFSAAP the equipment for scanning, and Barry Craig will manage the project.

AFSAAP has provided $10,000 as an initial seeding fund to get the project underway. This will see Stage 1 and most of Stage 2 completed.

Stage 1: Digitise the colour transparencies by scanning them at a high resolution, with each image given an ID code for the institution in which it is housed, and its registration number.

Stage 2: Create a dataset using the Institution ID and registration numbers and transfer basic data to the dataset from the registration information. Add a hyperlink from the dataset to the images.

Further funding is required for Stages 3, 4, 5, and 6 – please contact to become a Gold, Silver or Bronze sponsor.

Stage 3: Visit each institution (and those not already visited) to photograph all African objects not previously photographed and gather the relevant documentation.

Stage 4: Add the material from Stage 3 to the dataset.

Stage 5: Develop and code a hierarchy of geographical locations/polygons (villages/ethno-linguistic group/regions/countries) and apply these to the dataset.

Stage 6: Create a website (as an addition to the AFSAAP website) that enables the dataset and the images to be searched by ‘kind of object’ and by ‘geographical location’. For an example of what such a site might look like, go to, and click on Dataset.)

AFSAAP has provided a $10,000 grant to start the project, and now invites individual or corporate sponsors to make a financial contribution to this African Digitisation Project.

Please contact if you would like to become a sponsor.

All sponsors will be acknowledged in all of AFSAAP’s official communications – monthly newsletters, website, emails, and journal the Australasian Review of African Studies.

October 1st, 2014

South Sudan Crisis, a Political Dilemma

AFSAAP postgraduate representative Stephen Okello has released an updated analysis of the complicated political situation in South Sudan, and a summary of the options available to break the current impasse in the world’s youngest country. The report, following on from Stephen’s previous analysis, can be read here.


March 20th, 2014

AFSAAP now on Facebook

AFSAAP has expanded its online reach to Facebook. AFSAAP members are encouraged to like and follow the page to join in on discussions related to African-Australian issues and events. AFSAAP in also active on Twitter.

March 20th, 2014

AFSAAP Post-Graduate Prize Winners 2013

AFSAAP received many entries to the 2013 Annual AFSAAP Post-graduate Prize, which is awarded to the best paper presented at the annual AFSAAP Conference or Post-graduate workshop. The judges enjoyed reading the diversity of papers and quality of postgraduate research in African Studies in Australia.

The AFSAAP Executive are pleased to announce that the winner of the 2013 Monash/AFSAAP Prize – to the value of $3000, which includes a trip to Monash University’s South Africa Campus, and aims to encourage fieldwork in Africa towards the student’s studies – goes to Ms. Christina Kenny from the Australian National University, for her paper entitled “The ‘liberatory value of indigenous institutions’?: Cultural practice as resistance in the British Colony of Kenya.”

We are also very pleased to announce that Mr. Solomon Peter Gbanie from the University of New South Wales at Australian Defence Force Academy, has won the AFSAAP Postgraduate Prize of $500, for his paper entitled “ ‘The diamond of Western Area is land’: Narratives of land use and land cover change in post-war Sierra Leone.”


January 31st, 2014

South Sudan Crisis: A Summary

An AFSAAP member is following the South Sudan Crisis from Uganda. It appears that the conflict is seeded in the post John Garang arrangements in which power was reorganised in response to Garang’s absence. It is suggested that the reorganisation process was ethnically influenced in which sections of the South Sudanese felt left out. For instance, the Dinka have been long accused of dominating the state in which corruption has taken root and reached dangerous levels. State governors have accused the central state for not remitting funding meant to ensure service delivery. Tension has always existed especially in the army, but this particular conflict is an extension of internal SPLA infighting which resulted into the recent suspension of the entire cabinet by President Kiir.  Information out of Juba indicates that the attempted coup was ochestrated by forces loyal to the former Vice President including some governors. And that as of yesterday, the rebels had control of most of the oil producing region which also provides almost 90% of South Sudan state revenue.

December 26th, 2013

Final AFSAAP-IPCS seminar on Somalia: Nikola Pijovic and Ali Mumin Ahad

Nikola Pijovic talking on Somaliland The ASAAP-IPCS seminar series on African Studies has wrapped up in Melbourne with two papers on Somalia presented by Nikola Pijovic and Dr Ali Mumin Ahad. Since the collapse of the Barre regime in 1991, civil war has characterised life in much of Somalia in one way or another. Although the conflict has received much attention from international media, many of the political, historical and cultural complexities of the conflict have been profoundly misunderstood. With a new government in Mogadishu and recent military intervention by neighbouring states, it appears that the war is entering a new phase, making a better understanding of its causes and nature imperative. The recent attack on the Westgate shopping complex in Nairobi has also brought it to the attention of a new international audience.


November 2nd, 2013

Tony Binns seminar in Adelaide

BinnsAdelaideProf. Tony Binns, University of Otago, presented the 2013 South Australian AFSAAP Seminar “Africa Rising?” at Flinders University 22 October 2013. The audience of over 30 students and academics was impressed with his positive anecdotes and analaysis of African development, in particular in post-conflict societies.  Binns also gave a 2nd AFSAAP seminar to the University of Adelaide on his 40 years of research on Sierra Leone. This has been a great opportunity for students in South Australia to meet one the world’s more experienced Africanists, and highly published academics in the field of African Studies, Development and Geography.

An audio recoding of the seminar can be found at the recent events page.

October 30th, 2013

Critical Perspectives on Gender Violence in the Eastern Congo

Sara Meger (left) and Charlotte Mertens at the IPCS

The long running conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has become known to international audiences for the high rate of sexual violence and rape committed as acts of war. At the penultimate AFSAAP-IPCS seminar in Melbourne on Thursday 10th of October, two papers contextualised this phenomenon and critically appraised the global response.

Sara Meger, a researcher on gender and international relations at the University of Melbourne, presented the first of these papers under the title “The Fetishisation of Sexual Violence in International Security Studies”. The premise of Meger’s argument was that International relations scholarship has erred in treating sexual violence in war as an isolated, if not aberrant, phenomenon. The dominant narrative treats it as an exceptional form of gender-based violence, and the sole form capable of destabilising international peace and security. Conversely, her paper questioned the current fixation in international security studies and in policy on this particular form of gender violence and offered a critique of narrow approaches to understanding wartime sexual violence that ignore the larger social structures in which this violence is taking place. She advocated a structural perspective and situates this form of violence against women within the broader framework of international political economy and argued that violence against women must be understood in relation to material inequalities between genders: that sexual violence in war must be positioned on the continuum of violence used in the maintenance and (re)construction of the global gender hierarchy. Running through the presentation was a trenchant critique current UN framework for responding to sexual violence in war, claiming that it systematically fails to address the gendered social, economic, and political inequalities undergirding gender-based violence.

The second paper, “Rape Claims in the Survival Economy of the Kivus, Democratic Republic of Congo”, was presented by Charlotte Mertens, a PhD candidate also at the University of Melbourne. In harmony with the preceding paper, (more…)

October 13th, 2013

Kenya terrorist attack

AFSAAP is seriously concerned by the al Shabab terror attack in Nairobi. More innocent lives have been lost as the Somali conflict spills over the border into Kenya.

AFSAAP will be hosting a seminar at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies on Somalia soon, and will continue to provide expert analysis on the causes and consequences of violence in the East African region. Please contact the AFSAAP secretary at, or on (+61) 0406 334 620 for further information.


September 23rd, 2013

Sekai Nzenza and Veena Sharma Seminars

SekaiSekai Nzenza, well known Zimbabwean author and long time friend of AFSAAP, read two of her short stories and convened a long discussion on her country’s politics in the wake of its recent election on the 22td of August at the Institute of Poscolonial Studies (IPCS). The stories were organised under the heading “glimpses of the everyday in Zimbabwe”, and illuminated aspects of the daily struggle in contemporary Zimbabwe. While these ostensibly told the stories of daily occurrences, their deeper message resonated with racial, political and postcolonial notes. The first “Poverty, and the desire for something foreign” told of the search for second hand clothes in a Harare market, and how their European origins carry a sense of foreign panacea to local ills. Her second story, “African Beauty and the shades of blackness” revealed a conversation between the author and her niece about the use of skin lightening creams, and the racial beauty complexes that their use invokes. The stories can both be accessed at the page of the Zimbabwean Herald, where they were originally published.


August 22nd, 2013