Introduction Oral History

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The former Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) was mandated by Cabinet to conceptualise and spearhead The National Oral History Programme (NOHP) for South Africa. The Programme seeks to yield information that will be added to the information already existing in the country’s archival holdings. This Programme is equally crucial to the effective realisation of sustainable development.

It started with a pilot project with the theme, “The 1956 Anti-Pass March to the Union Buildings by Women of South Africa”. This topic was chosen because it is one of the many inadequately documented historic events in our past. The DAC was well aware of the need to train DAC and National Archives and Records Service of South Africa (NARSSA) staff on oral history methodologies. A team of historians was appointed to oversee these two processes.

The White Paper on Arts and Culture sets out government policy for the promotion of, protection, creation and funding of South African arts, which includes: written and oral literature, culture, heritage and associated practitioners. The National Oral History Programme is therefore in line with the White Paper. The 1996 Constitution itself [Sections 30 and 31] affirms the right to one’s culture

In January 2000 the then Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology ,  Dr Ben Ngubane appointed a panel of experts to advice on the drafting of a comprehensive plan for a National Oral History Programme. This panel met in February 2000.  In March 2000 a consultation of over fifty stake holders took place.  Their input was included in the document. The panelists met the Minister in July 2001 and, on his recommendation, agreed to review some aspects of the document.

At this stage the NARSSA amongst others has collected stories of forced removals of communities in Marabastad, stories of forced relocation of people to make way for Game Parks such as the Kruger National Park.

The NARSSA have collected Stories of eyewitnesses who fought and witnessed the struggle against the introduction of the Homeland System and fought against land dispossession and the imposition of Bantustan leaders an example is the Ingquza Hill Peasant Revolt.

The NARSSA in partnership with Provincial Archives and the Oral History Association of South Africa (OHASA) have trained learners on the Oral History Methodology and on how to use the Oral History methodology to research or construct their family tree.

The NARSSA continues to fund the Oral History Association of South Africa to host National Annual Oral History Conferences which have been hosted in all Provinces and the 14th National Oral History Conference was held in October in Limpopo.

National Oral History Conferences

2004 & 2005: Gauteng

2006: KwaZulu Natal

2007: Limpopo

2008: Eastern Cape

2009: Western Cape

2010: Mpumalanga

2011: North West

2012: Free State

2013: Northern Cape

2014: Gauteng

2015: KwaZulu Natal

2016: Limpopo

The support of OHASA by the NARSSA is mainly to allow practitioners to engage and deliberate on contemporary trends in the theory and methodology of Oral History. The deliberations at conferences are to promote and facilitate the recording, preservation, access and popularisation of oral history (including poetry, music, oral praise, oral performance and oral traditions) in South Africa.

The hosting of the Annual Conferences has granted organic intellectuals a platform to share their knowledge with delegates and practitioners. School learners participated in the conference.

All Oral History Collections preserved at the National Archives are preserved for access. These collections are made available to researchers, students and members of communities.

These Oral History recordings are consulted for their research value. Scholars and practitioners use them for different reasons such as short story writing, drama, and filmmaking or for their historical content.

The NARSSA is responsible for the maintenance of a National Register of Oral Sources (NAROS) at which stories are registered. This database is managed to provide leads to interested parties about research conducted on subjects that may be of interest.