The National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) with its partner the University of Hamburg on Wednesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), formalising the start of a new project that aims to make oral collections at the Centre more accessible to students and researchers.
The NCAC archive holds a collection of more than 5,000 oral recordings that cover various aspects of history, genealogies and folklore of the country and the sub-region. The collection started in the 1960s and is of international significance; more importantly it came at a time when Guinea Bissau lost all its archive to fire during that country’s turbulent years.
However, in the last 3 years the collection has been digitised thanks to the support from the British Library Endangered Archives Programme and Music Development and Heritage in Sweden.
The newly signed MoU between the two partners was supported by Garda Henkel Foundation of Germany and is expected to add value to what has already been achieved by facilitating a digital repository which can be accessed through an online research permit, with conditionality including payment of fees for accessing particular corpus of data that may be required by a researcher.
The grant has facilitated inter-alia, the acquisition of equipment needed for refining the digitalisation of audio and paper files, including computers, scanners and software. Aside from NCAC staff, UTG students have been co-opted into the project to work on the transcription and translation of the data
The signing ceremony chaired by Baba Ceesay, Director General of the NCAC, was attended by Prof. Victor Owhotu, who represented the Board of Directors of NCAC, Prof. Henning Schreiber of University of Hamburg, Dr Katrin Pfeiffer, representing German partners on the ground and as well as NCAC officials, UTG students and Faculty staff, and representative of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.
Speaking at the ceremony, Professor Schriber underscored the importance of oral collections, noting that they are invaluable assets for researchers in Africa, as they provide the version of the people concerned, “even though there is very little citing of such material in publication”.
The project package, he went on will create and increase awareness, recognition of the source and encourage more researchers to use and acknowledge it in their publications.
Professor Schriber added that the project will also make provision for research grants for students, whose work require the use of archives, or can add value to the archive by bringing new works, especially work that can fill the gaps in the collection.
“Also planned for early 2017 is an international symposium on ‘Oral Tradition in the Digital Age’, which will bring scholars from all over the world to speak on the subject,” he announced.
by Yunus S Saliu