Original Research - Special Collection: Social Memory Studies

Transcending invisible lanes through inclusion of athletics memories in archival systems in South Africa

Joseph Matshotshwane, Mpho Ngoepe
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 78, No 3 | a7530 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i3.7530 | © 2022 Joseph Matshotshwane, Mpho Ngoepe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 March 2022 | Published: 10 October 2022

About the author(s)

Joseph Matshotshwane, Department of Information Science, Faculty of Arts, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Mpho Ngoepe, Department of Information Science, Faculty of Arts, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


In countries like South Africa, sports have the power to transcend invisible lanes of politics and race and thus inspire citizens to come together. Sport, including athletics, has been demonstrated as an instrument of solidarity of fragmented cultures. However, while sport is of such significance, it is still minimally represented in public archival holdings in South Africa. Despite the mandate to transform the archival system, evidence suggests that much of the memories of sports heroes, especially that of athletes, have not been recorded. This qualitative study utilised oral history as a research method to explore the feasibility of building inclusive archives through the collection of sports memories. Athlete participants were identified through snowball sampling and data were collected using both oral testimony interviews from athletes with first-hand information and oral tradition augmented through document analysis. The results of the study indicated that there are stories and memories of many great South African distance runners that must be told and included in the archive repositories. Sadly, these stories have not been recorded in written words, as there is a tendency to perpetuate elitism by documenting mostly oral history of prominent members of society with political power. The study revealed that most of athletes’ memories from their running careers include certificates, trophies, medals, Springbok jerseys, newspaper clippings and pictures in their possession. It is concluded that until these sports archives and objects are considered as an important and unique element of South African history, they will forever be lost.

Contribution: This study makes a contribution to the ongoing discourse of building inclusive archives in South Africa through the collection of athletics memories. The study is linked to the scope of the journal through propagating the inclusion of marginalised voices of athletics sports memories in mainstream archives.


inclusive archives; road running; memory; non-public records; sports archives; athletics; sports stories


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