south africa’s human spirit
an oral memoir of the truth and reconciliation commission
It is an honour and a privilege for me to introduce our five-volume CD collection south africa’s human spirit to you on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the Truth Commission’s first public hearing (15 April 1996).
The idea of a CD collection on the Truth Commission was conceived at the end of March 1998 – and it seems like a hell of long time ago – after a string of prodding questions. "How do we remember our history", "whose history do we remember" and one from my editor at the time, Franz Krüger, "have you guys thought of writing a book?" And my immediate answer to the latter question was No! Everyone’s going to be writing books. And that doesn’t mean that we don’t need books. I just felt that we as the radio journalists who had covered the Truth Commission … if we wanted to add value to what we had already done, it had to be based on sound. It had to be based on the people’s stories in their own voices and their own words because that’s what I think distinguished our Truth Commission from all the truth commissions that had preceded it. And so I suggested: "What about a CD?" And one CD became a CD collection.
In fact, south africa’s human spirit is a book. It’s a story made up of several chapters in sound.
I just want to give you a little bit of the background so that … I think you’ll understand better … where this product comes from.
We had no dedicated team to start off with, no advance budget or tried-and-tested formula. I sat down in front of my computer in April 1998, I slipped into silence and I started working furiously. And I soon discovered that only 52 of our English radio current affairs stories [on the Truth Commission] had been catalogued [in SABC Sound Archives] at that stage, which meant that I had to return to my original cassette recordings and start transcribing. It was an exhausting, but rewarding experience because it forced me to listen differently with the distance of time.
In August 1998, my colleague Darren Taylor arrived out of the blue to help me. And together we transcribed 750 cassette recordings. To get an idea of real time times that by four. We scripted the six-hour and 12-minute documentary, commissioned pieces for and wrote the accompanying 36-page booklet, and compiled the five [detailed] CD indexes. Then with the assistance of technical producer Danny Booysen and later sound engineer Brendan Farrell, we recorded more than 50 voices afresh in the studio, as well as edited, mixed and mastered the entire CD collection by April 1999 – exactly one year later.
While we waited for music copyright and recording right clearances, we carried on transcribing our remaining cassettes [and filing all our documents] with a handful of invaluable colleagues. We now, I think, stand at 900 cassettes transcribed for a database. Lots of loose ends still need to be tied together, but south africa’s human spirit has basically given birth to three other projects. As of now, and I hope I don’t speak under correction, we’re online atwww.sabctruth.co.za. We’re going to have computer database and a reference room in our library. All this is on the Truth Commission and the people of South Africa. It’s about you.
Now none of this would have been possible or accessible without the support, the encouragement, the understanding, the trust and the collaboration of so many people. What you see today is a culmination of that. And on behalf of everyone I’d like to say thank you for letting us lean so heavily on your shoulders!
It is to everyone’s credit that south africa’s human spirit has grown in the making and is a creation of evolution. It is a product layered with and shaped out of sound and silence. It is a profound rite of passage – a roller-coaster journey of the individual and the collective souls to wholeness with a "w".
south africa’s human spirit is dark, naked, raw and fragile, but it is also strong. It is courageous, resilient, indomitable and it is inspiring. And it is also healing. south africa’s human spirit is our book, our story, our gift … in memory of the survivor.
These scripts - © SABC 2000. No unauthorised use, copying, adaptation or reproduction permitted without prior written consent of the SABC.