«Don’t say anything against Telephone Directories!» (Carl Schlettwein)

Fifty Years of Basler Afrika Bibliographien—Library, Publishing House and Archive on southern Africa

The Basler Afrika Bibliographien (BAB) celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2021. Founded by Carl Schlettwein as a private library and publishing house, the collection today includes an archive. As a centre of excellence on Namibia and southern Africa, the BAB collects diverse media and makes these accessible for research and to a broader public.



Basel is the city in Switzerland which has, within a network of numerous institutions, promoted diverse, previously colonial and now postcolonial, scholarship on Africa for decades.


Africa—a continent of 54 states and additional territories—is documented at Klosterberg 21–23 in Basel with a special focus on southern Africa. Namibia is our priority.


Bibliographies—comprehensive lists about a field of knowledge—were once indispensable tools of research. Today, they have been largely replaced by electronic catalogues and databases.



Carl Schlettwein collected publications about Namibia systematically. In 1988 he said about his library: “A few thousand books here are on Namibia. There is an entire row of telephone directories. Don’t say anything against telephone directories! This is an excellent source of information.”

The BAB was founded in Basel in 1971 in order to make comprehensive knowledge of Namibia—then a South African colony—both accessible and free from colonial control. The BAB’s tradition is thus rooted in the decolonisation of African knowledge. At the same time, it operates within a solid network of transnational African Studies. Namibia obtained its independence in 1990. Today, the BAB functions as a Namibia Resource Centre and Southern Africa Library.



For decades, we have collected and made publications from and about Namibia and southern Africa accessible. We accept archival collections with reference to Namibia and its neighbouring countries, we publish books by authors from southern Africa and from those who do research on and write about the region.





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