8/10/2007: Reply to Mr. Pigou (SAHA) regarding ownership of the Nkobi Archive

Dear Mr. Pigou,

Firstly let me apologize for the delay in answering your email. Thank you for informing us that you are now in possession of the photographs and documents. How appropriate that Zenzo’s body of work would end up in an activist archive. We did a little research about SAHA and liked what we discovered. Zenzo created some incredible images both it their historical reporting context and in their artistic power. It is great that the photos still had the power to move and transport you back to exile in the 70s and 80s.
Your website for “Traces of Truth” is a wonderful tool not only for its breath and depth but because at every step of the interaction with the material, the researcher/viewer is always clear what your copyright/intellectual property positions are. You relationship with University of the Witwatersrand is also reassuring because that would further ensuring that this work will continue to be a living legacy through potential institutional support and as a source of cutting edge scholarship surrounding the work.
Your understanding of our concerns is correct. When we originally discovered that Zenzo’s photographs were headed to SAHA, we did not know what the full extent of this transfer would be. Your email was appreciated because it answered several questions we had and put it put several things in the right context.

The three of us are the only copyright holders to Zenzo’s work. Our main concern was that the photographs were about to be used commercially and without an agreement with us. As you stated in your email, we are very open to making the photographs available for non-commercial and educational use, with the relevant copyright citations and acknowledgments of international copyright and property regulations.

As I understand it you have received the following items from Denis Goldberg:

  • several thousand photo negatives (black&white and in color) in approx. 4-5 folders containing the complete photo works of Zenzo Nkobi covering the period 1978-1993, stored in numbered pocket sheets
  • approx. 2.500 digital scans of the above collection stored on computer disc(s) or on storage media such as DVD, CD-ROM, USB devices, as digitized by Tina Nkobi and Mr. Eberhard Neugeborn of Bonn / Germany
  • contextual documentation / cataloging information in MS Word / MS Excel format in German language
  • journalistic publications and documentations of Zenzo Nkobi (e.g. “Zimbabwe in Struggle” published 1978 in the former GDR / East Germany).

(Not in scope of the planed agreement are any press writings, articles, photos, etc. authored by my mother Edelgard Nkobi – Goldberg; these are subject at the sole discretion of Denis Goldberg and have been granted in her name to the SAHA as well as to UNISA by Denis Goldberg – which we think is already the case).

We, of course, would like to support your in every possible way to make the photo collections of Zenzo Nkobi fully available to researchers and clients of the SAHA and enable educational and academic usage of the information material.

A few points to explore a priori would be:

  • details on your intended usage of the photo material
  • geographical scope of your license requirement
  • access right of us owners to the original material, specifically the negatives
  • privacy concern, i.e. removal of private photo items from the collection prior to hosting them publicly
  • feasibility of the project given the existing backlog, the storage room situation and budget and staff constrains of the SAHA
  • existing budget calculations regarding the collections, approval of budget by SAHA management committee
  • insurance regulations in regard to loss, theft or damage of the material
  • cataloging and documentation of the images

As you stated, this effort to preserve and take care of the photographs should sustain itself financially. Apparently a minor amount was already required to reimburse transportation and hardware cost to Denis Goldberg. How much will it cost initially to further digitize the photos? How much will the projected maintenance costs be over the next couple of decades? In addition to the costs typically associated with restoring negatives, creating high resolution scans, insurance, cataloging, administration, internet publishing maintenance and printing, we know that there might be other cost involved in this effort.

The other question we have it what fundraising ideas do you have and what has worked for you in the past? Knowing this and how much it will all cost will help us in terms of our input in with the fundraising effort and what we can do individually and collectively in terms of fundraising. The idea of a collective commons trust is a very interesting one that we would like more information about. We know that you are still in the formative stages around this issue. We would be interested to know what ideas come out of your discussions regarding this. We would also love to hear more about your outreach products.
The other important issue you brought up in your email was the one about cataloging. Judy Seidman’s credentials speak for themselves. Here is another place were we can contribute to this process because Tina has information about many of the photographs. You probably already have a lot of this information but every bit of meta-data and photo descriptions can help in this effort.
Thank you for offering each of us a copy of Red on Black: the History of the South African Poster Movement. We would love to take a look at your work. You can send copies to:
….
Again, thank your for your email. This is ultimately about preserving, protecting and presenting Zenzo Nkobi’s amazing body of work. We come to these discussions in good faith and look forward to working with you.
Please contact us with your thoughts when you get a chance.

Best regards

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