#WikipediaByUs: Celebrating South African knowledge creators
The International Day for Universal Access to Information is celebrated annually on 28 September — a fact many South Africans are not aware of, meaning the day often passes us by, without acknowledgement nor celebration. However, this year will see cause for celebration as Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organisation that operates Wikipedia, launches a campaign in collaboration with Bubblegum Club and the South African creative community.
Aimed at showcasing the power of knowledge and everyone’s right to access, create and share knowledge, #WikipediaByUs will see multimedia content built by South African creatives released across platforms in the coming weeks. This content will engage with and highlight a variety of topics ranging from misinformation to African sonic histories, and the evolution of African cinema, amongst an array of topics — and will build on African knowledge ecosystems often invisibilised or distorted in colonial knowledge systems.
The campaign, as the name implies, emphasises Wikipedia — the world’s biggest online encyclopaedia — as a platform to freely exchange information through its open collaboration model, which allows anyone, anywhere, to contribute well-sourced, impartial material to the site. #WikipediaByUs highlights thought leaders who engage with knowledge ranging across discourses and calls attention to knowledge production across both traditional and non-traditional forms.
With creative collaborators participating in the campaign including Monde Gumede, Zayaan Khan, Kabelo Kungwane, Amogelang Maledu, Khensani Mohlatlole, Ridhwaan Suliman and Zandi Tisani, a multitude of fresh narratives are explored. #WikipediaByUs encourages these collaborators to engage with their creative discourses as contributors to knowledge ecosystems, therefore, emphasising the link between knowledge production and creativity.
As Wikimedia recognises that South Africa has a history of societal inequality leading to barriers in accessing knowledge, the campaign not only aims to highlight the accessibility of knowledge through Wikipedia, but also aims to spotlight South African stories, histories and knowledge often missing in dominant knowledge systems.
In doing so, Wikimedia takes steps towards achieving their goal to break down the social, political and technical barriers preventing people from accessing and contributing to free knowledge. As stated by Khanyi Mpumlwana, the Wikimedia Foundation’s Global Creative Director:
Access to knowledge and information in South Africa has too often been limited by class barriers and divided along racial lines. Wikipedia opens an opportunity for anyone, anywhere to share and access knowledge. Through this campaign, we want to show all content creators across the country that knowledge can take various forms and that we can all play a part in its creation.
According to preliminary statistics based on research by the Wikimedia Foundation, 91% of South Africans feel that knowledge is associated with freedom, while 94.5 % believe that knowledge is power. Yet, often history and knowledge written about South Africa is documented by people outside of the country, thus leaving it susceptible to bias, making it less representative and causing large gaps in accessibility to knowledge.
Through collaborating with thought leaders to encourage South African knowledge production, the #WikipediaByUs campaign fills in these gaps. Wikimedia’s #WikipediaByUs campaign, which draws on the South African context, will provide South Africans a way to overcome disparities in accessing and sharing knowledge. The campaign urges South Africans to join the free knowledge movement and help expand Wikipedia’s cultural and linguistic representation of South Africa.
To learn how to get involved in the Wikimedia South Africa chapter, visit here.
Follow the campaign online using #WikipediaByUs