Constitution Hill in Johannesburg has started a new project titled My COVID-19 Story South Africa. The project aims to archive and share lockdown stories of ordinary South Africans. Dawn Robertson, CEO at Constitution Hill explains details of the project.
Constitution Hill, also home to the Constitutional Court of South Africa, is popular for archiving the country’s history dating back to the 1800s. Now, the institution is archiving your Covid-19 stories by simply asking the public to share their experiences – good or bad. This came about after the team had to put a hold on all work that was being done at the precinct before lockdown, including the construction of a new museum and the Human Rights Festival held annually on 21 March.
Collecting has been part of Dawn’s life and she still has posters and other material from protests of her youth years, as she was part of the 1976 era. “One of our core functions is archiving content. Covid-19 is history in the making. If we don’t document it, it could be lost in 100 years,” said Dawn.
“When archiving, you’d normally be looking for actual objects, but with the nature of Covid-19, I can’t ask you to share with me a [physical] letter or piece of work. You can’t collect due to sterilisation being the number one factor, so maybe at a later stage, we would be able to ask people to bring in physical objects that we can archive. For now, we are saying bring us your stories and let us digitise them. Everything we see on social media platforms is contemporary history in the making and it’s in real-time, which is why institutions like ours need to recognise and collect immediately.”
My COVID-19 Story SA can also be interpreted as a way of exploring creativity, as the project has had social media challenges encouraging people to be creative when sharing their stories.
“We are interested in knowing how the public is adapting [to lockdown regulations]; how are you coping with home-schooling; living in isolation; has this had a negative impact on your employment status; have you lost income?
“Our website has been updated; we have added a portal allowing people to upload their stories, which can be anything from pictures, videos or writing. We’ve encouraged citizens to tag us on their social media posts because we want to continue the conversation. This also helps with creating some work for our tour guides at Constitution Hill who are now at home with no tours to work on. They are tasked with sourcing stories that we can archive for this project and approach the social media user to let him/her know that we will be using their work.
“Our goal is to have the voices of ordinary South Africans out there; the ordinary Mrs Dlamini on how she has been coping with Covid-19 and not just how President Cyril Ramaphosa handled this situation. Our children deserve to have a 360 degree-view on this in a few years to come. In the spirit of the creation of our Constitution, this is a people’s story and will be written by all South Africans,” Dawn concluded.
With the hope that we will have some sort of normal by the end of the year, celebrations of the Human Rights festival have been postponed to International Human Rights Day from 10 to 13 December 2020. Constitution Hill plans to exhibit the My COVID-19 Story SA project for public viewing then. If celebrations don’t take place on 10 December, they will be moved to the first week of February 2021, which is Constitution week.
Share your Covid-19 stories
WhatsApp on 081 252 4153
Upload to Constitution Hill’s website www.constitutionhill.org.za/share-your-story
For social media tags, find them on Facebook @ConstitutionHill, on Twitter and Instagram @VisitConHill. The project is also reaching out to neighbouring African countries to keep in touch with how they are doing through these trying times.
Author: Yonga Balfour