MATRIX launches Web sites on apartheid history of South Africa

MATRIX, the Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online, held a ribbon cutting ceremony and reception on Friday, May 2, to launch two new Web sites that provide information about the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. They are: (1) South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy, an online resource for high school and undergraduate students; and (2) the Community Video Education Trust (CVET) Archive, which contains 100 streaming videos documenting the anti-apartheid struggle in Cape Town during the 1980s. The MSU African Studies Center and MATRIX have been working together for a decade to create multimedia projects on South Africa. These Web sites are a joint effort of the two centers.

MATRIX ribbon cutting
Left to right: Jeff Riedinger, Dean of International Studies and Programs; Satish Udpa, Dean of Engineering; Melanie Foster, Vice Chairperson, MSU Board of Trustees; The Honorable Yusuf Omar, South African Consul General in Chicago; Mark Kornbluh, MATRIX Director and Chairperson of History; and David Wiley, Director of African Studies Center.

About forty people gathered at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference center to witness the official launch ceremony and hear remarks from The Honorable Yusuf Omar, South African Consul General based in Chicago. Omar is one of the 45 South Africans interviewed for South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy.

Omar explained the value of the Web sites to South Africans like him, describing his own family’s struggle under the tyranny of the apartheid system and his fruitless search for records of his uncle’s arrest. He said there are "thousands of stories without any recollection, people without any of their journeys recorded." He said these new Web resources will allow future generations to hear first-hand accounts of apartheid. "Those [stories] you don’t hear mentioned will be acknowledged—won’t be overlooked; this is truly a meaningful project for us."

While visiting MSU, Omar accepted the honorary degree awarded to Nelson Mandela, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of South Africa. Attendees at the ribbon cutting viewed Mandela's videotaped comments acknowledging the honorary degree.

"MATRIX is creating a new model for scholarship," says Wayne Dyksen, professor of computer science and engineering and co-director of MATRIX. Computer science research in pattern recognition, software engineering, data mining, and high performance computing has made it possible to create the tools that are enabling new discoveries in the humanities. He says the work of MATRIX holds immeasurable value. For example, another MATRIX project, American Black Journal, is reviving records that have been gathering dust for decades. "We’re bringing back voices that have been silent for forty years."

MATRIX was cited in 2006 by the American Council of Learned Societies Commission on Cyberinfrastructure as one of four exemplary models for centers that promote experimentation and invention in the humanities. Mark Kornbluh, MATRIX Director and MSU Chairperson of History, says the Overcoming Apartheid site "permits democratization of technology and information. It is accessible anywhere in the world."

"The sites clearly have a huge societal impact," says Dyksen. "This is cutting edge research with humanitarian value that people can relate to."

Honorable Yusaf Omar
The Honorable Yusuf Omar, South African Consul General in Chicago addresses the audience at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

(Date Posted: 2008-05-07)