Speaker spotlight: Linda Chernis

Archiving an Icon: GALA’s Simon Nkoli Collection

The archival collection of the late activist Tseko Simon Nkoli (pictured below) has become GALA’s default ‘flagship collection’. Twenty percent of GALA’s researchers in 2015 accessed this collection, and all three long-term researchers came to South Africa specifically to look at the Nkoli collection. This raises some interesting questions: Why does this collection hold such interest, and what we can learn from this? What are the pros and cons associated with a single collection receiving such intensive attention and how is the GALA archive complicit in this?

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Nkoli combines the compelling mix of sex and the politics of the anti-apartheid struggle: he came out as gay while a political prisoner, forcing the African National Congress to put sexual rights on their agenda, and ultimately included in South Africa’s new constitution. Nkoli was also an HIV/AIDS activist and founding member of GLOW (Gay & Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand) – one of the first predominantly black gay and lesbian organisations in South Africa.

Linda Chernis (Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action GALA)

Linda Chernis is an archivist and heritage practitioner who has worked in museums and archives for the past 12 years. She has a passion for bringing history, heritage and the arts to the public – this has taken various forms during the course of her career and includes creating website content, researching, writing and curating exhibitions, developing and writing catalogues and brochures, facilitating public research, creating databases and archiving and preserving material. Linda became the archivist at GALA in January 2015.

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GALA is a centre for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) culture and education in Africa. As the only dedicated LGBTIQ archive facility in Africa, GALA is committed not only to preserving individual and community histories but also to ongoing knowledge production and dissemination.

Website: www.gala.co.za

Linda will be speaking on day three of the conference.

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