GCU unveils Scotlands anti-apartheid history

08 March 2016

Scottish anti-apartheid activist and GCU honorary graduate Brian Filling

Scottish anti-apartheid activist and GCU honorary graduate Brian Filling

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) is to make the full story of Scotland’s significant role in the anti-apartheid movement accessible to researchers and the community for the first time.

The University’s Archives and Special Collections  has appointed a Project Archivist to catalogue the records of the Anti-Apartheid Movement Scottish Committee, currently held at GCU, which includes papers, correspondence, posters, publications, photographs, ephemera and audio-visual materials.

The Glasgow Caledonian University Foundation has been awarded funding from the National Archives Cataloguing Grants Programme for a Project Archivist to spend ten months cataloguing the collection, which offers rich research potential. A hundred key documents will be selected for digitisation and promotion at the end of the cataloguing project next year.

Scotland’s role in the international anti-apartheid movement is also the focus of the ‘Forward to Freedom’ pop-up exhibition, which will make its journey to GCU between April 4 and 29.

Anti-apartheid activity in Scotland dates from the formation of the boycott movement in 1959 and the creation of the anti-apartheid movement. Activity continued throughout the 1960s and in 1976 the Scottish Committee of the Anti-Apartheid Movement was established to co-ordinate the work of local groups, trade unions, local authorities, churches, students and individuals.

This work involved meetings, campaigns, conferences, cultural events and demonstrations until the end of apartheid in 1994. Scottish anti-apartheid activist and GCU honorary graduate Brian Filling, Chair of the Scottish Committee, campaigned from the 1960s against the system in South Africa.

The exhibition features former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela’s visit to Glasgow in 1993 and Scotland’s role in the cultural boycott of apartheid in South Africa. It will be available to view in the University’s Saltire Centre.

The links between GCU and the new South Africa were forged when Mandela was released from prison and the University offered him an honorary degree - the first university in the world to do so. Part of Mandela’s acceptance of the honour was the condition that GCU offered concrete support for reconstruction and development in South Africa. Four Scottish local authorities gave Nelson Mandela the freedom of their cities.

A delegation from GCU, together with Brian Filling, visited South Africa in 1994 to meet with senior figures of the ANC, fellow academics in universities and political and trade union groups, leading to ongoing links between the two countries. Many key people at the centre of the rebuilding of South Africa have visited the University since, including Thabo Mbeki and Graça Machel, the widow of Nelson Mandela. 

Carole McCallum, University Archivist, said: “I am delighted that this internationally important archive will at last be catalogued. While we have made the material available to researchers and visitors over the years, a fully catalogued collection has the potential to help us better understand Scotland’s role in the fight against apartheid. I am excited not only to see how Scotland’s story will unfold, but also to see who will use the archive and what they will do with it in the future.”