Creating and caring for feminist digital archives in Africa

As a teenager, when my friends swapped fantasy and sci-fi books, I was engrossed in online forums. While they would lose hours devoted to fictional worlds, I was fascinated by the snippets of everyday life I found on the web. There were many "worlds" out there – so many lives I wanted to imagine – and on the internet, I could access them in a matter of clicks.

There was a website I particularly liked to visit, full of submissions about first times. I read and re-read accounts of first sexual experiences, queer attractions and a multitude of other milestones. In my university days, I would occasionally return to the blog, phone in hand, when I couldn’t sleep. I felt a connection to the anonymous submissions and liked to imagine who might be on the other side. I gave the voices the faces of people I knew. While I was uncomfortable to talk about sex and sexuality openly, even with my friends, in this corner of the internet, I had found a portal into those conversations.

The online world gives access to narratives that make us feel validated in our skin. We make homes out of the sites we frequent, and develop kinships with people we will never meet, perhaps. Because of this, I was distraught last year when greeted with an error message on the faithful first-times. After years of finding the blog a soothing space, it was gone. The administrator had deleted it.

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