Mapping Soweto

Mapping Soweto is envisioned as part of a collaborative project to map historic sites across South Africa’s townships.

The primary focus of the proposed database is the history of Soweto’s built environment and the role of its historic resources in the liberation movement. At this time, the proposed database provides a framework for further research. Included are primary and secondary sources already vetted and assigned to a specific building or historic site.

In order to fully develop this database, GIS applications must be used through a methodological framework in the spatial humanities. Historic sites listed in the proposed database are not only limited to currently existing resources, but also describe sites that are no longer extant.

The proposed database also includes a description of the historic site, details of sources with expanded documentation, photographs and related finds, and, if possible, a site history. Through an “ICT for mapping liberation” I am seeking to understand the values and assumptions embedded in both the technology, and the community served by the technology (ie. the digital tools being developed, the use of interactive multimedia websites, etc.).

My previous work on Soweto ’76 (www.soweto76archive.org) has sought to address the ways in which the creation of new digital tools and archives can help to foster a social justice-based agenda for marginalized communities, particularly those in South Africa’s former all-Black townships. Applying spatial methodologies to our historical and cultural landscape research will allow us to “critically map” the varying forms of textual data often overlooked in the study of women’s social movements across the Global South.

Mapping Soweto challenges our understanding of memory and the role that virtual heritage can play in providing justice and reconciliation. In the near future, we hope to develop Mapping Soweto into a collaboratively edited, peer reviewed, online database of historic sites related to the anti-apartheid movement.