56 Years to the Treason Trial is a beautifully made educational supplement publication that uses history and art as catalyst for engagement with social, economic and political conditions of young people. It is a result of a series of conversations between youth and historians between June 2011 and September 2012. Supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, the programme invites former Treason Trialists and other liberation struggle figures to engage with youth on the relevance of history today.
The publication consists of conversations between historians (including Ahmed Kathrada and Judy Seidman), After School Programme youth, educators and Grade 11 history class from Freedom Community College. The publication also includes essays and reflections on culture, history, education, youth and development by members of the Keleketla! After School Programme (KASP).
56 Years to the Treason Trial commemorates the Treason Trial not through historical information, but rather through the documentation of the dialogues between youth and historians within and engaging with the context of Johannesburg’s inner city and the country.
The publication presents as its contents narratives, questions, answers and issues by historians and youths, side by side. In reaching towards opposite ends of the spectrum bringing together old and young, those who fought for democracy and those who live in a democracy, the diversity of personal lives who shaped the struggle as well as those who shape the inner city today – the publication suggests the role of individual agencies and strategies for change.
It investigates the role of history, its relevance in creation and development. The format of the book places emphasis on the interdisciplinary nature of the programme, where inter-generational dialogue mirrors the multiple approaches used in the KASP projects. While the publication is chronological to reveal the scaffolding of knowledge within the programme, the dialogue itself travels back and forth, suggesting the role of history in imagining the future. Thus the title carries within it the continuum of oral tradition, dialogue as a stimulating, evocative tool for learning.
Richly illustrated and well designed by Natalie Edwards and Vincent Plisson, 56 Years is produced to speak to a challenging set of audiences as a mix between a textbook and a magazine, a journal and a notebook. It strives to be an educational resource as a well as an object of beauty.