Africa-Press – South-Africa. The doors of the Jagger Library were opened to the public last night (Tuesday 18 April) – exactly two years after the devastating fire that tore through there on 18 April 2021.
Congregating in what was once the Jagger Reading Room, the small crowd of guests, UCT alumni and members of the press – all wearing hardhats – could still see burn marks here and there where the fire licked the now stripped-down walls.
Addressing the group, Michal Singer, Principal Archivist at Special Collections, UCT Libraries, explained that Special Collections covered a broad spectrum, including African Studies, government publications, manuscripts and archives, as well as rare and antiquarian books. She said the sense of loss was incalculable.
“Over the past two years, we have been very sensitive to just how meaningful this is. We are in the process of calculating the losses, informing depositors of those losses and those losses are being shared as we finalise them,” said Singer.
The tour of the construction site formed part of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) launch of the Stories from the Ashes project.
With DSTV as a partner, five tonnes of ashes and remnants from the burnt stacks of African Studies literature in the Jagger Library were collected and turned into a unique ink.
Last night’s launch event included readings by UCT alumni from the first book printed with this ink.
Titled Stories from the Ashes – Africa’s Story Through the Last Millennium, the book includes visuals and reprinted extracts tackling different subjects such as African history and identity, politics, gender and identity, performing arts, literature, language and linguistics, to name a few.
Speaking at the launch, Ujala Satgoor, executive director, of UCT Libraries, said that the one-of-a-kind book served as a reminder of their renewed commitment to continue collecting our different histories and rewriting new African stories.
Justice Albie Sachs was one of the UCT alumni who did a reading of his contribution to the ledger-sized book.
The now-retired South African lawyer, activist, writer, and former judge was appointed to the first Constitutional Court of South Africa by the late Nelson Mandela.
Sachs shared that in his years as a student at UCT, he loved spending time in the Jagger Reading Room.
“Not to study, not for a career but to read poetry. Not to gain anything, just for me to go and to dream.”
Satgoor said that a digital copy of the book would be available on the university’s website shortly after the launch.