About the Archive of Kindness
Read about how the Archive of Kindness project came about and the team behind the book. Find out how you can be a part of the story.
The Story of the Book
This project came about through one great act of kindness in a moment of crisis at the beginning of South Africa’s National Lockdown, in March 2020.
Jess had just finished a book on beauty and happiness in Angola and had spent a lot of time thinking about how the stories we tell shape our reality.
In addition to the huge stress and anxiety of the time, she noticed people in South Africa coming together in remarkable ways.
She started recording the stories she was hearing, and set up a “pop-up” archive that recorded them. She called it the Archive of Kindness and wrote about it in the media.
The public soon started sending in stories of their own, and the project quickly grew. When Jess was appointed at North-West University, her students expanded the Archive.
Instead of an exam, students each collected 50 stories from around the country. In the process, they learned about informed consent, ethics, and how social media increasingly creates the world we live in.
The students found the work challenging and very rewarding. Many said it was the most interesting project of their undergraduate training.
They decided to find an emerging illustrator, and use the project to launch their professional career. After reviewing more than 50 portfolios Ruth Prowse graduate Jethro Longwe was selected to do the illustrations. A grant from the STEPI foundation allowed BK Publishing to commission the illustrations.
Universities and individuals from around the world have shown interest in the Archive of Kindness. Jess is now working to develop Open Educational Resources to allow others to begin similar projects elsewhere. Guelph University in Canada have already partnered with her, and she is in dialogue with several others.
Jess hopes to produce a series of books from around the world that focus on the impact of everyday kindness. She believes strongly that focussing on and amplifying the good is a critical part of societal and personal wellbeing.
If you would like to develop projects based on the ideas here, or have a conversation, please be in touch.
Dr Jess Auerbach
Dr Jess Auerbach is an anthropoloist, teaching at North-West University. She’s from Durban, spent ten years in Angola, Brazil, Mauritius, the UK and USA, and then came home to South Africa just before the pandemic.
Jethro Longwe is a graphic designer and artist, and a recent graduate of the Ruth Prowse School of Fine Art in Cape Town.
BK Publishing (pty) ltd is an independent publishing house based in Pretoria. Started in 2005 by Benoit Knox, they produce a range of world class publications for children and adults, both locally and abroad.
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