Soweto History and Archives Project

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The conglomeration of townships known as Soweto has a history of more than a century, although its component parts have different historical timelines. These diverse timelines reflect and represent the growth and expansion of this landscape over time. Consequently, there are different views about when Soweto was founded. Soweto, the name and township, is widely known and identifiable, partly as a result of the leading role the sprawling township played in the student uprising that broke out in 1976 and as part of the township struggles across the country. It has over the years been a home to many household names in politics, education, sports, literature and the performing arts. But most importantly home to millions of ordinary people who have humanised it over the years and made it tick. Despite its prominence, Soweto’s history has not been chronicled in depth.

The aim of the Soweto History and Archives project, in collaboration with community organisations and the Wits History Workshop is to undertake and advance the work of researching, writing, recording and archiving Soweto’s history more systematically. The long-term objectives are to produce comprehensive histories of SOWETO (mainly by publishing monographs and edited collections, as well as through exhibitions and documentaries) and to create a substantive and accessible archive. In the short term – 2023-2024 – we aim to establish the foundations to achieve the aforementioned.