9/14/2007: Email received by Piers Pigou, director of the South African History Archive (SAHA)

My name is Piers Pigou, the director of the South African History Archive (SAHA) a small independent archive based at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. (www.saha.org.za)

As I hope you are aware, SAHA was approached by Mr Denis Goldberg in connection with the transfer of your father, Mr Zenzo Nkobi’s photographic archive / negatives. Mr Goldberg has sent us a copy of correspondence from your lawyers which I understand when roughly translated says; “On considering Mr Goldberg’s intention to transfer [the photo archive of Zenzo Nkobi] to the South African History Archive, my clients have no objection in principle to the non-commercial use thereof, provided that the intellectual property rights of my clients are acknowledged. A licencing agreement must be entered into with the holders of those rights, including my clients.”

We had expected that an agreement would be reached between yourselves and Mr Goldberg before the archive was transferred to Pretoria. I should point out, however, that Mr Goldberg has now couriered the collection which arrived a week or so ago and is safely stored in our ‘sorting room’. I understand he is keen for us to engage in a bilateral over the necessary arrangements vis-à-vis the materials. This letter, therefore serves as an opening engagement to get that ball rolling.

May I start by saying how delighted SAHA is to have the opportunity to act as custodian to this important and unique collection and I want to assure you that we are happy to agree to the conditionalities set out above. SAHA is a non profit entity that relies on donor funding for programmatic and operational activities. We are a somewhat unusual archive – an activist archive – established in the late 1980s to collect and document struggles for justice in the fight against apartheid, and since the mid 1990s, also struggles for justice in the making of democracy. Whilst we provide services to academics, researchers and other professionals we are also dedicated to taking the archive out beyond such ‘traditional’ users and seek to engage a number of communities and constituencies who would not ordinarily have such access. In this regard, SAHA is increasingly trying to get the archive utilised in a range of outreach products that can make struggle related materials accessible to a broader range of South Africans.

In terms of the longer term sustainability / protection of the collections, we have a standing agreement with the University of the Witwatersrand that should SAHA not survive financially our archival holdings will be curated by the University. SAHA’s archive (detail of our collections can be found on the website). Please also have alook at our joint TRC website (with the University), entitled ‘Traces of Truth’ – http://truth.wwl.wits.ac.za – that we are raising funds for round 2 at the moment.

We have started to look for monies to ensure processing (high resolution scanning) and preservation of the negatives (in appropriate folders etc which will be kept in appropriate archival conditions), and we hope the printing of a good selection of these remarkable images. We would then look at issues of arrangement and description, as well as dissemination and possible utilisation (which we very much like your guidance / input on). We have a wonderful person, Judy Seidman, who was involved in the ANC’s poster collective MEDU, based in Botswana during the 80s. She is the curator of our poster collection who is very keen to take a direct role in overseeing this project. She is also well placed to help develop the meta-data, in terms of developing / investigating further descriptions of the detail on many of the images (who is present etc)

SAHA appreciates your concerns about non commercial use of your father’s images, and it is a principle we follow, especially in terms of ensuring that archive is made as widely available as possible. We are, however, finding an increasing number of requests for use of images in the archive (especially relating to posters – SAHA has a unique collection of about 5000 struggle posters) by commercial entities. As such, we are currently exploring options for the creation of a collective commons trust that would enable any monies earned from the utilisation of images to be given back to the artists involved / and back into projects designed to promote the dissemination and accessibility of the archive. Our thoughts remain somewhat formative, so would certainly appreciate any suggestions you may have in this regard, both in terms of your father’s archive, but also more generically. We increasing live in an envoronemtn where we have to prove a certain amount of self-sufficiency, and as you can imagine, securing support for archival work is not always easy!

SAHA would like to send you a copy of it new publications ‘Red on Black: the History of the South African Poster Movement’ – please let me have a postal address so we can pop this in the post to you. On a more personal note, I wanted to say how evocative I found a number of the images I have seen from the collection. Having grown up in Zambia during the 1970s and 1980s, I found myself transported back to that time.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions and queries. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours truly,


(Director – South African History Archive)
Tel: +27 11 837 6683
Mobile: +27 83 381 7150
Fax: +27 11 837 1964

About this entry