AWA Magazine: Building on online magazine archive

AWA: la revue de la femme noire was an independent magazine produced in Dakar, Senegal by a network of African women between 1964 and 1973. The magazine features poems, short stories, political reportage, and essays, alongside recipes, fashion, home-furnishings, and readers’ letters pages. It presents women’s lives as citizens, mothers, sisters, workers, and consumers against the global backdrop of Cold War politics, new formulations of Afro-modernity, and demands for women’s rights.

This magazine was digitised by the Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire-Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar as part of a Global Challenges project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK). This project was led by Dr Ruth Bush (University of Bristol, UK) and Dr Claire Ducournau (Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3). For more details, see the original project website

Technical summary

The site is built on WordPress, using a highly customised theme to display the various views of the scanned pages. This theme includes an index of all issues, galleries of pages within in each issue, and alternative views slideshows of the magazine pages. The pages can also be searched, and browsed by article, author or other keywords.

The Polylang plugin for WordPress is used to provide a bilingual site in both English and French translations.

A WordPress plugin was written to import the image data and automatically create fully populated posts (using a custom post type) for the 696 images in the collection.

Source data

A major challenge with the project was that the majority of the metadata for the images was only available in the filenames of the images. An example image would be labelled ‘awa196511_p26d.jpg’. From this, we can break this down as follows:

  • ‘awa’ = magazine title
  • ‘1966’ = publication year
  • ‘11’ = publication month
  • ‘p’ = page type (p = page, c = front cover, q = rear cover)
  • ‘26’ = page number
  • ‘d’ = scan type (this is not used)

The scanned magazine images contain IPTC metadata which was added (by hand) when the images were scanned, and this is extracted for keywords and author information.

Further data was also written to a spreadsheet (author and article data). 

Each scan was also run through OCR software and written as PDF documents.

The plugin

A custom plugin was written for WordPress which takes the directory of source images, PDFs and the spreadsheet and extracts the relevant filename data, the IPTC image metadata, and any relevant data from the spreadsheet and automatically creates a new WordPress post for each image to which the metadata (such as keywords, page number, issue date) is attached. The text extracted from the PDF documents is extracted and added to the WordPress post. WordPress can then index these posts and the built-in search can present the relevant images when they match search terms stored against each image.

The import plugin uploads and attaches each image to the custom post. WordPress converts this source image into several optimised sizes so we can display suitably sized images on index pages, or on full image views (thumbnail previews, or full-size images).

Presenting the images

Within WordPress a custom ‘AWA Image’ post-type was created, which when combined with the ‘Advanced Custom Fields’ plugin enables the creation of unique posts with the attached metadata. From these posts various views of the data were created, such as an index of the magazine covers, galleries of complete issues, or articles within an issue which span several pages (not necessarily contiguous – i.e. pages 2, 3 and 5) could be viewed together in a gallery.

In total five templates were created: a cover index page, an individual issue index, a single page view, a search results page and a template for displaying images matching keywords. A ‘slideshow’ tool was also incorporated which allows  images from these templates to be viewed full-screen and paginated.

The various views are created by querying the metadata contained within the custom posts. For example: show all the images which are ‘front covers’ and display them in order by year and month, or show all the images which contain the keyword ‘femme’. The templates then render the appropriate images and text.


The website was successfully launched in November 2017.