Groundbreaking digital collection of historical magazines of South African and Sub-Saharan African origin
Nov 22nd, 2023

Sabinet takes immense pride in announcing the expansion of Coherent Digital’s inaugural South African Magazines digital collection within South Africa and Africa. This extraordinary compilation presents a unique digitised collection of rare, historical, and out-of-copyright magazines.

The collection brings together nearly 50 000 pages of historically significant magazines, written and targeted specifically for readers in South Africa or Sub-Saharan African. Developed in partnership with Coherent Digital, the magazines were obtained with the assistance of library partners and meticulously digitised by the Sabinet digitisation team. Despite their broad cultural and historical value, the magazines resided in just a handful of physical repositories, remaining untouched by digitisation efforts until now.

At the heart of this compilation stands the iconic, Drum Magazine. Once regarded as the most widely read magazine in Africa, Drum reflected the heartbeat of African society at the time. The collection currently encompasses 277 issues of the famous magazine spanning 1955-1973 and will soon contain earlier issues (1951-1954). Drum journalists influenced political outcomes and are credited with changing the way South Africans of African descent were represented in society.

“The South African Magazines collection includes other titles such as The Township Housewife, Grace Magazine, Hi-Note!, and Contrast, among others,” say Sabinet Head of Product, Sanet Vos. “A number of additional out of copyright magazines have been identified together with Coherent Digital and hopefully the sourcing of these will happen soon,” she adds.

Much of the content was created by a new generation of journalists, writers and artists. These widely popular publications brimmed with investigative journalism, evocative photography, compelling fiction, reviews, biographies, fashion insights, lifestyle trends, advertisements, and more. Many of them were syndicated across the continent, their impact reaching most African English-speaking communities and offering insights into societies across Africa.

For Researchers and Students: Unveiling Rare and Unseen Materials 

Researchers and students in history, political science, culture, gender, education, and media studies will discover materials that they can effortlessly access for the first time. These magazines previously only existed in physical repositories and might not have been available to students due to their fragile state. Users can now find digitised versions of these rare and/or difficult to find historical South African magazines in one place.

Each magazine is meticulously digitised by Sabinet’s professional digitisation team at a high resolution and offers full-text search capabilities, contributing to the preservation of vulnerable physical archives. Users can seamlessly navigate the collection, accessing user-friendly flip-books and other formats, all organised by publication, year, and month.

The Coherent Africa Commons platform hosts these magazines and offers user-friendly navigation, enabling users to explore these magazines and the narratives surrounding major historical milestones like the Defiance Campaign, as well as profiles of prominent figures including Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Steve Biko. Sabinet has a distribution partnership with Coherent Digital to offer this collection to African and South African organisations.

Additional Collections on Africa Commons 

Africa Commons is a unique combination product that consists of three modules that digitise, disseminate and showcase African cultural materials. These modules encompass: South African Magazines; Southern African Films and Documentaries; and History and Culture.

The Southern African Films and Documentaries collection features over 100 films dating from the 1900s to the early 2000s. The films and newsreels cover key events from 1919 forward, such as the Rand rebellion, WWII, mining industry efforts, the Soweto uprising, and the Rhodesian Bush War. Exclusive interviews from the 1980s feature writers, journalists, and activists discussing first-hand accounts of censorship and apartheid.

The History and Culture module on Africa Commons stands as an invaluable tool in bridging representation gaps for librarians. It serves as a central hub providing access to over 450 000 digital cultural artefacts, sourced and thoughtfully curated from more than 4 500 collections worldwide. Organisations located in Africa can upload their relevant content for free to the platform to make it more visible and discoverable.

The mission is to preserve African content and simplify access for African scholars seeking to reconnect with their heritage within local and international collections. Digitising these resources not only grants access but also amplifies the global voice of the storytellers.

Users locally and internationally can find thousands of digital collections of African materials in one place.

For more information, please contact Sabinet directly at [email protected].

| Press Office.