History of the Carl Schlettwein Foundation

The Carl Schlettwein Foundation was entered into the commercial register on 26 July 1994 with the mission of running Basler Afrika Bibliographien, that had been set up and led by Carl Schlettwein, promoting research projects on Africa and in particular Namibia, and supporting activities within the scope of the Foundation’s purpose with grants.

Collecting on the way to Namibia’s independence

It had all begun long before. Carl Schlettwein’s passion for collecting and his encounters with individuals from former South West Africa had provided Namibia with virtual spaces since the 1950s, well before the country gained its independence. This led to bibliographic and documenting activities and, working together with the International African Institute in London, the idea for an institution carrying the name Basler Afrika Bibliographien was born in 1971.

"African movement" at the University of Basel

The establishment of the Namibian state in 1990 and the growing African movement at University of Basel led to increased consideration of the structures available in Basel. Basler Afrika Bibliographien and Carl Schlettwein’s personal situation coincided with initiatives at the University of Basel that aimed to strengthen and root growing interest in Africa.

The result of these two converging paths was the establishment of the Carl Schlettwein Foundation in 1994 along with the integration of Basler Afrika Bibliographien as a trademark within the Foundation.

Further development of Basler Afrika Bibliographien

In the following 10 years, Basler Afrika Bibliographien developed into a Namibia Resource Centre and a Southern Africa Library. In this time, the volume of holdings tripled as did the number of employees, and an additional property was acquired.

The decision to endow a chair for the History of Southern Africa at the University of Basel and provide initial funding for five years opened up new directions for research into Africa in Basel. Already in 1997, the work of Carl Schlettwein was recognized with an honorary doctorate from the University of Basel. In 2005 Carl Schlettwein passed away. He had guided the fortunes of the Carl Schlettwein Foundation as the Foundation President and Head of Basler Afrika Bibliographien until shortly before his death.

Anchored within an international context

Led by new Foundation President Jörg H. Schwarzenbach, the following years were characterised by the development of an organisational model for the Basler Afrika Bibliographien, consolidating its expertise and positioning it internationally under the direction of Luccio Schlettwein.  

In 2012, the Board of Trustees appointed Christian Vandersee as the new director of Basler Afrika Bibliographien, who has gone on to further consolidate the position of the Carl Schlettwein Foundation’s documentation centre within a worldwide African Studies network. Since then, as the delegate of the Board of Trustees, Luccio Schlettwein has focussed on running the Carl Schlettwein Foundation. He is the first point of contact for all activities related to funding and support.