A wildfire that engulfed Cape Town, South Africa, has decimated valuable historic archives of African history at the city’s university. The University of Cape Town (UCT) is home to one of the largest collections of first-edition books, films, photographs, and other primary sources documenting African history.
In a letter to students and colleagues on Sunday, April 18, UCT Libraries’ executive director Ujala Satgoor wrote that his staff watched the library in flames “with horror and helplessness.”
Satgoor confirmed the Jagger Library Reading Room was “completely gutted,” but said that a fire detection system in place prevented the spread of the fire to other parts of the library. Several other buildings on campus and around the city, including a historic mill, were damaged in the fires.
The blaze, which erupted on Sunday on the slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain, has largely been contained, according to the latest reports. However, authorities remain on high alert, fearing that high winds and hot, dry conditions might cause flareups.
The mountain blaze had spread to the city’s center, causing the evacuation of residential areas and injuring five firefighters. So far, no deaths have been reported. Local authorities are investigating the cause for the blaze, though wildfires in the mountains around Cape Town are common during the arid summer months. An unidentified man in his 30s was arrested on suspicion of arson, but it remains unclear if he was responsible for setting the blaze on Sunday.
About 4,000 students were evacuated from their campus residences on Sunday, and the university suspended all operations until at least Tuesday. Meals are being provided to the students, who reported food shortages.
While unconfirmed reports have speculated that the library’s basement, which houses the bulk of the archive, may have been flooded during the firefighting effort, Satgoor says that “a full assessment can only be done once the building has been declared safe and we can enter the building.”
Pippa Skotnes, a curator of the school’s archive, said on Monday that the university’s African film collection, one of the largest in the world, had been lost to the fire. The collection included about 3,500 archival films made in Africa or featuring Africa-related content.
“We are of course devastated about the loss of our special collection in the library, it’s things that we cannot replace. It pains us to see what it looks like now in ashes,” UCT’s vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng said to reporters on Monday. “The resources that we had there, the collections that we had in the library were not just for us but for the continent.”
The committee’s main responsibilities will be to shape policy goals, stimulate arts philanthropy, and advocate for the expansion of federal backing of the cultural sector.
Some museumgoers pointed out that the museum’s label omitted discussions of HIV/AIDS, which are at the heart of the work.
Featuring over 70 installations and performances at the George Washington University’s historic Flagg Building, the Corcoran’s end-of-year showcase is now available for virtual viewing.
But a museum in Harvard is still named after a member of the disgraced family, notorious for its role in the opioid crisis.
Parker’s stories bring so many of her works alive, give them meaning, and make us warm to her and to them. Is that a problem?
Artists reflect on histories of oppressive power structures in Brazil in this exhibition at the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
The works, and worlds, on display in Hancock’s exhibition seem saturated with a desire for narrative redemption through self-observation and aspects of his Christian upbringing.
The problem with Andrew Dominik’s biopic Blonde is its assumption that Monroe’s victimization was the most fascinating thing about her.
When I recently came across Sandra Cattaneo Adorno’s photo book Águas de Ouro, I could hear the waves and boomboxes, and even taste the salt on my lips.
Works by over 70 artists of the pan-South Asian diaspora were up for auction to help Pakistan’s most vulnerable communities in a women- and queer-led initiative.
The board of 70 Washington Street in Brooklyn, which previously housed an artist residency, is weighing the replacement of Helen Brough’s “Emulated Flora” with generic photographs of Brooklyn landmarks.