South Africa

The South African team will work on two sites, namely the Hidden Years Music Archive (Stellenbosch) and the Kaapse Bossiedokters (Cape Bush Doctors) community in Cape Town, to study competing value constructs that impacts the preservation of heritage. While the bossiedokters, referring to indigenous healers claiming Khoisan ancestry, gathers plants with medicinal properties as part of their cultural practice, they are arrested and criminalised if they do so in protected nature reserves. 

Nature is being preserved at the cost of culture, and the question is, how do we think of heritage in this moment in such a way that it will serve the community, while also protecting the environment. 

In contrast, in the music archive, culture is effectively recognised as the object or frame of preservation. But in the Hidden Years Music Archive decay has redefined aspects of the archive into something different and unique, so we are asking if this could be a creative part of the preservation enterprise?


Lizabé Lambrechts

Lizabé Lambrechts is a musicologist and heritage practitioner, Associate Professor Extraordinary at the Africa Open Institute for Music, Research and Innovation, Stellenbosch University, South Africa. She also works as the Chief Executive Officer for Nuuseum, a cultural heritage organisation. She has been a STIAS Fellow, a Visiting Scholar, School for Oriental and African Studies, University of London and held two research grants from the Volkswagen Foundation. She previously worked as the Director of Archives at Africa Open (2020-2021), and as the Project Leader for the Hidden Years Music Archive Project, one of South Africa’s biggest popular music archives (2013-2021). From 2015-2018 she served as the Vice Chair of the South African Society for Music. She has set herself apart through entrepreneurial design and management of research projects that focus on the role that archives can play in the transformation of public discourse through activating community interaction. Her recent curatorial work and publications include “The Hidden Archives Vinyl Listening Sessions Vol 1 & 2”, "Record, Memory, Archive", a short documentary on the Hidden Years and “The becoming of an archive: Perspectives on a music archive and the limits of institutionality,” published in Social Dynamics 2022.  

About project

Research Director and Principal Researcher of the South African Incubator of the DECAY project, Lizabé Lambrechts is responsible for coordinating the South African team as well as overall research management of the DECAY team. She will use Hidden Years Music Archive as a space to map visual and auditory decay in the archive. Through collaborative experiments, her work will focus on the creation of academic and creative work that explore the generative potential of working with decay. These will include periods of focussed work with local artists and composers in circular processing of archive visits, feedback sessions and performances. She is particularly interested in unpacking the entanglements of archive, collector, archivist and decay, especially the stories that will be lost with memory decay, the collector’s mortality, and the impossibility of capturing a life as an archive.



Leif Petersen

Leif Petersen (Founding Co-Director of Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation NPC/ Extraordinary Senior Lecturer PLAAS; University of the Western Cape).Leif has 25 years’ experience in the development sector and is an informal economy value chain and natural resource specialist. He has conducted multiple conservation-related and informal economy projects throughout southern Africa, and particularly in the Cape Floristic Region, where he completed his PhD with the University of Queensland (Australia) on Cape Town’s informal economy of wild harvested natural resources. He is currently conducting a three year “UKRI-GCRF Water and Fire" climate change resilience and adaptation project in Cape Town with residents of three informal settlements. Leif is particularly interested in different ‘Ways of Knowing” nature and economies, and how these can be better embraced to increasingly support sustainable development. Leif has authored / co-authored 29 peer reviewed publications, and in 2020 co-authored “Township Economy”– an authoritative book on informal economies in southern Africa.

About project

The Cape Floristic Region is a globally unique landscape of critical biodiversity importance. It is also the home to Cape Town, a city of over 4 million residents of diverse economic, geographic and cultural backgrounds. There are diverse views around local biodiversity and its inherent direct and indirect benefits for these residents. To understand these perspectives, and what these mean for processes of ecological decay Leif and the team from SLF will be engaging with diverse Cape Town conservation stakeholders from BossieDoktors to nature conservation professionals. These engagements will explore the counterbalance between cultural and natural heritage protection in the unique Cape Floristic Region. The activities in this project will include conducting a Photovoice participatory community engagement process with a diverse group of nature conservation related stakeholders to explore the balance between protection and decay within the perspectives of these important values, and filming a documentary that showcases the intertwining stories of cultural and natural decay. It is anticipated that the project will further inform a range of academic inputs and peer reviewed papers, feeding an important perspective into the Decay without Mourning project.