Memory making in a pandemic: Glimpses of everyday life in Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic

As the world adjusts to the ‘new normal’ in the context of a global pandemic, questions have been asked and indeed addressed how African communities lived through the pandemic. The very tough lock down measures imposed in 2020 were accompanied by immense suffering, repressive police actions and increased reports of gender-based violence. This presentation explores how some of the experiences of the harsh lockdown were captured by communities. The interconnections of memory from lived experiences of the 19th century to more recent times are highlighted especially the ways in which the pandemic led to the reconfiguration of everyday life and interactions. It is noted that some of the traumas experienced over generations are being fabricated into lived experiences of recent and current social stressors such as war, coloniality and pandemics. Pandemic messages including the physical separation, isolation and loss that visits individuals and communities are woven into recovered and recollected memories and are finding expressions in new ways of making meaning and adapting to life during the COVID-19 pandemic. The presentation will draw on the themes of resilience and trauma in exploring how communities have transitioned the pandemic and what lessons can be drawn in building future livelihoods. Some of the notions held dear and deeply rooted as African cultural practice and values have been transformed and altered in ways we need to reflect on whilst appreciating some of the transformations which were already ongoing in the advent of change brought by new technologies. Among other things, the resurgence of online comic relief has brought some respite to what have been very difficult times. It is hoped that these brief reflections can shed some light on how people make adjustments and new meanings when faced with crises including life threatening events such as pandemics. In summary, the presentation will attempt to place the lived experience of African society in a global context and draw on threads of shared human experience to reflect on what key lessons can be drawn out for post-pandemic humanity.

June 3, 2021


Alinah Kelo Sgobye

Alinah Kelo Sgobye

Dean of Faculty - Human Sciences

Namibia University of Science & Technology