Meet our digitization and scanning manager: Fazlin van der Schyff

30 Aug 2019 - 16:15

Fazlin van der Schyff knows our archives almost better than anyone, not only because she has worked here for ten years but because she has single handedly scanned and retouched all of the images in our digital collections. Her first project at the CCA was working on the many Bleek and Lloyd dictionaries and, while, she found reading the original |xam words and their English translations more than interesting there are a few, other, collections she has felt a particularly personal connection to.

One such project was Movie Snaps: Cape Town remembers differently. When Dr Siona O’Connell asked her to help collect and scan old photos for the exhibition she came across a photo of a woman having her picture taken outside the Grand Parade. This immediately brought back memories of her childhood as she remembered a movie snaps image of her own mother taken at the same spot. Looking at this image she thinks back to times when her mother would go shopping on the parade while she waited outside the old post office and wrote letters to her penpals. The exhibition Martyrs, Saints and Sell-outs (2014), the photos for which she scanned and printed, also brought back memories, although of a different kind. Photos such as the one below by Benny Gool reminded her of a more turbulent time when, although she was too young to have really been a part of the school riots of the 70s, her sisters who attended high school in Bonteheuwel at Arcadia High were more involved as were many of the people she grew up around.

Student protest at Rocklands Civic Centre, Mitchells Plain. Benny Gool.

Perhaps, however, the CCA project that has resonated the most with Fazlin is the Spring Queen exhibition, archive and accompanying documentary (curated and created by Dr Siona O’Connell). The Spring Queen pageant came into being in 1978, amidst garment industry strikes against low wages and at the height of racial conflict during apartheid. The textile workers' union put Spring Queen into being as a way to alleviate this tension, giving the factory workers, who were women of colour, a chance to dress up and compete to be crowned the spring queen. The exhibition draws attention to this, in Siona’s words:

These images, the narrations and recollections of the pageant queen, appear at odds with that of the factory worker in overalls, as the former shows a woman in a moment of self-representation that argues against everything that a factory worker from the wrong side of the tracks is supposed to be. The snapshots of the Spring Queen weave a story of resilience and imagination that draws our attention to a brief moment grabbed on the ramp -- a moment that argues for liberation of a different sort, beyond emancipation at the polls.

For Fazlin, who worked on the archive in 2012, this project was particularly moving as she scanned the old newspaper articles and family photos from previous years' pageants and remembered going to the Good Hope Centre as a child to watch. She went almost every year with her sisters and father who worked in the textile industry at a factory named Rex Trueform in Salt River. Seeing the photos she had worked on printed and put up in the Good Hope Centre a part of the 2012 pageant was, in her words, “completely amazing!”. Today, coincidentally, her nephew works in a call centre in the same building that the factory existed in before closing down, like many other textile factories in Cape Town. Although she says she takes her daughter to the pageant some years when asked if any of her family members still work in the textile industry she replied, that after the factories started closing down her family members had to move on to other industries. When Faz thinks back on arriving at the opening night of the exhibition she says, “it was so exciting for me, to see local people from my area, to see their pictures up, that I had printed, I thought wow, look how beautiful they are and I know them,”.

As our digitization manager Fazlin continues to scan, print, and retouch all of the images in the CCA’s archives whilst simultaneously running the CCA’s printing business. A list of all the projects she has worked on can be found here. Below is a picture of her with the 2012 Spring Queen exhibition pamphlet that she helped create.