Archives and Public History

Current Research

Students, academics and other scholars are in the process of doing research within the SHAP project. Below is a brief synopsis of each of the current projects.

  • Amanda Xulu

    Nizalwa Ngobani[1]?:African women, motherisms, and the struggle against apartheid in Soweto, c.1960-1990

    In South Africa, collective recollections concerning the history of Black women’s participation in the struggle against apartheid have arguably been weighted in favour of narratives that privilege the experiences of women activists based in urban areas, or women that are/were married to, or closely associated with, prominent male activists and political organisations (Hassim, 2006; Gasa, 2008). This has arguably resulted in the marginalisation of literature and oral histories centred on the historiographies of women’s political activism in townships, peri-urban and rural areas (Magubane, 2010; Magadla, 2023; Gasa, 2008). To counter this perceived imbalance, the proposed research project will use oral histories gathered from twenty women activist mothers from Soweto; and will explore the motivations, challenges and experiences within Soweto that influenced these women towards political activism between 1960 and 1990. Central to these oral histories, the research will examine to what extent these women’s identities as mothers, understandings of motherhood (Bridger, 2021; Magadla, 2023) and motherisms in their socio-political context (Gasa, 2008; Kimble & Unterhalter, 1982) were used as political and social mass mobilisation strategies against the apartheid regime.

    [1] Thandiswa Mazwai, Nizalwa Ngobani, Zabalaza, 2004. Gallo Record Company

  • Antony Kaminju

    Every year, two of South Africa’s biggest soccer clubs, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, clash at the Soweto Derby held at the FNB Stadium, Soweto. The mood on the day of the derby resembles that of an unfolding carnival. But what stands out are the fans from the two teams. Their theatrics and performances within and out of the stadium are unique. The two clubs have a huge fan base that seems to easily overfill the 95,000 seats at the stadium. These images are a highlight of Antony Kaminju’s ongoing research of Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates fans during the Soweto Derby that takes place every year at the FNB Stadium Soweto. This research is in two tiers: The making of a documentary and a written thesis. For more of his work:

  • Bahima Mandelisa

    Domestic work becomes a site of struggle between women in severely unequal relations to one another as a result of distinctive differences in race and class locations.  This study will explore the transition from the tradition White ‘Madam’ and Black ‘Maid’ relationship to the Black ‘Madam’-Black ‘Maid’ relationship by reflecting on the presence of the past in the present, by a closer investigation of some of the objectives that could assist in exploring the prominence of the figure of domestic work and the somewhat less visible part of the institutional relationship, Black employer, Black families in the contemporary South African public sphere. This research project seeks to contribute to the history of domestic work in South Africa by exploring lived experiences of Black ‘Maid’ and Black ‘Madam’, the relationship between the ‘Maid’ and ‘Madam’ in Soweto, particularly Dube in the two decades between the 1990s.

  • Daniel Lee

    Dan’s MA focuses on queer nightlife and social life in Soweto, and the shebeens, stokvels and pubs that hosted queer people throughout the late apartheid era. Their research seeks to understand where and how Soweto’s LGBT residents fought for space and freedom following the Soweto Uprisings. They are particularly interested in exploring what it meant to be part of the queer ‘scene’ as a resident of Soweto, and establishing a history of the community’s queer life.

  • Dr Ali Hlongwane

    Dr Hlongwane is currently conducting two projects. The first is a biography of Khabi Mngoma, the legendary music teacher and educator. The second project is a biographical profile of Ingoapele Madingoane, popularly known as the “Poet Laureate of Soweto”.

  • Kasonde Mukonde

    Kasonde Mukonde’s research looks at resistance theatre from the 1970s until 2000 in Soweto. He uses a variety of archives including the Amazwi Museum, National Archives, the private archives of theatre practitioners and oral history interviews. His key contribution to the SHAP project are the oral history interviews of little-known theatre practitioners.

  • Laurence Stewart

    Laurence Stewart is interested in what is termed urban nature, or urban environmental histories. His focus on Soweto aims to understand the multiple facets of Soweto’s environment from 1904 to the present. Some key questions are related to environmental injustice and the histories of environmental organisations.

  • Lungile Butu

    This essay entitled: “Ingenious Architects: Pimville’s Improbable  Business Origins”  looks at the milkmen of Pimville.  They operated in close proximity and collaborated while competing. Their story is told through verbal accounts of a 100-year-old lady, children and neighbours. The narrative is interested in the background history of the entrepreneurs: where their parents came from, what they did and why and how they came to the urban area of Johannesburg. The narrative will assess how the British and later the National Party tried to throttle early African entrepreneurship. The essay explains how the entrepreneurs whirled around these laws and thrived.

  • Nhlanhla Manana

    From Township Grooves to Cultural Movements: A Journey through the History and Significance of Jazz Appreciation Societies in Soweto.

    This research project aims to explore the history and significance of jazz appreciation societies in the vibrant township of Soweto. Jazz, as a genre, has played a pivotal role in the cultural and social fabric of Soweto, and it is crucial to understand the influence and impact of these societies and venues on the development and preservation of jazz music within the community.
    The study will employ a historical research approach, utilising archival materials, oral histories, and interviews with key stakeholders in the jazz community of Soweto. By delving into the past, this research aims to uncover the origins of jazz appreciation societies and venues in Soweto, their establishment, growth, and their contributions to nurturing local talent and promoting jazz culture.
    The project will also investigate the socio-political context in which these societies emerged, highlighting the challenges faced by jazz musicians and enthusiasts during apartheid-era South Africa. Additionally, the research will examine the role of jazz appreciation societies in fostering community engagement, cultural exchange, and the preservation of jazz heritage in Soweto.
    The findings of this research project will contribute to a deeper understanding of the historical significance of jazz appreciation societies in Soweto. The insights gained from this study will not only shed light on the evolution of jazz in the township but also provide valuable knowledge for the preservation and promotion of jazz culture in Soweto and beyond.

  • Sekibakiba P. Lekgoathi

    Hostels have been an integral part of the urban black working class in South Africa for many decades. These institutions were established by the municipalities to accommodate black migrants from the rural areas who saw themselves as transient workers destined to go back home in the countryside upon retirement. This project explores the history of hostels in Soweto from 1945 to the 2020s. It seeks to probe the political and social relationships between the hostels and surrounding milieus in the township. These dormitories were established as part of the apartheid government’s social engineering project of ethnic separatism, of keeping large sections of African workers (mostly males) in the country as “temporary sojourners” in “white South Africa”, with nominal access to single-sex rental accommodation for as long as they ministered to the needs of the white urban economy. The hostel dwellers were to remain politically and culturally rooted in the rural reserves-cum-Bantustan areas.

  • Sihle Luma

    Sihle Luma is doing his MA through the History Workshop. His research focusses on the history of tennis in Soweto from the 1930s into the 1980s. His focus is on the relationships between tennis, class and leisure. His research aims to recapture the “forgotten history” of the participation of Black people in the sport of tennis. In doing so, it looks to focus on the key figures of black tennis such as Richard Mogoai, Elizabeth Mogoai, Jane Muso, Grant Khomo, Herman Abrahams, Hoosen Jaybhay, Winnie Masoea, and Sompi Madika.