Africa Open Institute (AOI) is an independent and autonomous interdisciplinary institute in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Stellenbosch University.
Founded in 2016 as an independent entity from the Music Department, the institute developed from the Documentation Centre for Music (DOMUS), to which it remains connected through its funding of the DOMUS archive, its intellectual and creative programmes, curating activities, archival collection initiatives and core vision of creating in DOMUS the largest open-access archive for music on the African continent. The intellectual and creative programmes of Africa Open Institute focus on music, research and innovation, which includes music research, research innovation and innovative approaches to musicking. The institute provides an institutional home to postgraduate students, postdoctoral and research fellows, associated composers, performers and academics; it especially sets out to make institutional space for important musical voices outside academe. We are particularly interested in creating a space where advanced students can do experimental work that crosses boundaries between music research, composition and performance, but also between these music-centred
activities and other disciplines like history, or geography, or literature, or complexity studies, etc. In addition, we are interested in pursuing work that explores conversations between musical silos that still exist between essentialist notions of ‘Western art music’ or ‘African music’ or ‘Popular music’ or ‘Jazz’. We encourage students and researchers to work in all these fields, and freely to deconstruct and reimagine these categories. Africa Open hosts the Andrew W. Mellon Delinking Encounters Project, the Volkswagen Stiftung Hidden Years Music Archive Project (HYMAP) and the British Academy Newton Advanced Fellowship South African Jazz Cultures and the Archive project (2015-2017), as well as lending support to and promoting important research and musical projects like the African Composers Edition and the Sterkfontein Composers Meeting. Africa Open is a structural response to the imperatives for institutional change at South African universities and a critical reappraisal of the way music functions and is valued in university spaces. It embraces the openness of enquiry, experimentation, creation and discovery, aiming to support and develop not only the creative and intellectual potential of musicians and music scholars who work in academe, but engaging with the rich forms of musicking that constitute South African and African musical heritage and practices in society generally.