P159 – Mobilizing the Archive in Africa: Visual Archives, Historical Consciousness and Political Action
9 July, 09:00-10:30

Fouéré Marie-Aude / IFRA/EHESS


What is an “archive” in today’s context of globalized public debates on history and memory in which the “right to memory” is increasingly tied up with claims for a “right to the archive”? Who makes it and how is it made? What forms does it take and what kind of effects does it have? This panel looks into processes of constitution, appropriation and use of archives in Africa by social actors who are not academic historians (e.g. artists, journalists, activists, etc.) in situations of collective action and mobilization that are supported by the creation of historical narratives and the rewriting of history. It aims to interrogate the archive as an object used, distorted, recycled, tinkered with, displayed, put into words or texts, and last, dematerialized. A pragmatics of the archive reveals efforts undertaken by social actors to understand the social world and act upon it, which produce their historical consciousness and political subjectivities. Abstracts submitted shall present case studies based upon field work and open up to broader considerations on these non-academic uses of the archive. The focus is placed on visual/iconographic archives (photographs, videos, movies, etc.) and, if considered relevant, on the role of the technologies of information and communication in circulating and making use of these types of materials.

Mobiliser l’archive en Afrique: archives visuelles, la conscience historique et l’action politique

Qu’est-ce qu’une « archive » dans le contexte actuel des débats publics mondialisés sur l’histoire et la mémoire, où le droit de mémoire s’appuie de manière croissante sur la revendication d’un droit à l’archive ? Qui et qu’est-ce qui la constitue ? Quelle forme prend-elle et quels effets engendre-t-elle ? Ce panel place l’accent sur la constitution, l’appropriation et les usages des archives en Afrique par des acteurs non historiens de métier (artistes, journalistes, militants, etc.) dans des situations d’action et de mobilisation collectives prenant appui sur la production de récits de mémoire et de réécritures de l’histoire. Il vise à interroger l’archive comme un objet manié, détourné, recyclé, bricolé, exposé, scripturalisé, oralisé, et enfin dématérialisé. C’est à travers cette pragmatique de l’archive que se donnent à voir les efforts d’intelligibilité du monde social par les acteurs sociaux, mais aussi leur action sur le monde social, qui produisent leurs consciences historiques et leurs subjectivités politiques. Les propositions de communication doivent s’appuyer sur des cas d’étude tirés de recherches de terrain pour élaborer des réflexions plus générales sur ces usages non savants de l’archive. L’accent sera mis sur les archives visuelles / iconographiques (photographies, vidéos, films, etc.) et, si pertinent, sur le rôle des technologies de l’information et de la communication dans la circulation et les usages de ces types de matériaux.

Paper 1

Greven Katharina / Iwalewahaus, Bayreuth

The Nigerian Nostalgia Project – Resisting Prescribed Histories and Perceptions

The Nigerian Nostalgia Project (NNP) was initiated by the management consultant Etim Eyo as a “social enterprise”; its aim was to produce alternative narrations as an expansion to the national archives and to resist prescribed histories and perceptions. It gives Nigerians the possibility to share their personal narrations within the dominant history canon.
The main platform for this slowly growing archive is Facebook, where these “images” (sensu lato) are collected and which makes this collection accessible to a large community, therefore contributing to a collective memory. This archive is constantly and actively used by more than 10.000 users, who are members of that project (or Facebook group). Images, mostly photos and documents, about the past and recent history can be uploaded and shared. They will be automatically integrated into a digital archive with the goal to “create, manage and preserve Nigerian intellectual property, iconography and histories” (NNP). Thus, this visual archive (and other archives) is an overall image, which manifests visions, dreams, fantasies, desires, ideas, and longings of the author(s); they may shape a re-reading of the collective memory (in and outside of Nigeria).
This paper takes a close look at the type of images (iconological approach) which are uploaded and their usage on Facebook as a possible contribution to a historical consciousness.

Paper 2

De Jong Ferdinand / University of East Anglia

Negating the Colonial Archive: Postcolonial An-ārkhe in Senegal

In Saint Louis, Senegal, members of the Sufi brotherhood commemorate a prayer said in 1895 by the founder of their brotherhood when he was summoned by the French colonial administration and condemned to exile. In their quest to authorize the commemoration of the prayer, members of the brotherhood have researched the archives to support their claim to the prayer’s historical authenticity – but at present no supporting evidence has been found. For the followers of Cheikh Amadu Bamba, the colonial archive shows a gap. In the absence of historical documents relating to the prayer, the brotherhood recreates the prayer through its annual re-enactment and the production and proliferation of visual representations of the Saint. Alongside a series of sites that commemorate the Saint’s life, this postcolonial ‘archive’ enables the followers of the Sufi leader to imagine a past that the colonial archive does not authorize. In the process, the brotherhood assumes the authority to institute an alternative archive. This paper examines the relationship between the colonial archive and this alternative archive, suggesting that is this relationship is subject to a postcolonial politics of memory which is, indeed, anarchic.

Paper 3

Thackway Melissa / INALCO

Histoire(s) en image, ou la réappropriation des archives dans les cinémas d’Afrique

Depuis la naissance des cinémas d’Afrique subsaharienne dans les années 60, la question de la réappropriation de l’histoire a traversé avec constance les films réalisés, qui empruntent des écritures souvent innovatrices. Cette réappropriation est associée à la quête d’identités « en devenir », un projet situé au cœur de cette cinématographie postcoloniale. Plusieurs réalisateurs se sont saisis de l’histoire, ou plutôt de son interprétation et réinterprétation, comme partie intégrante d’un nécessaire processus de décolonisation des esprits. A travers trois films récents – Une Feuille dans le vent de Jean-Marie Teno (Cameroon, 2013), The Nine Muses de John Akomfrah (UK, 2010), et Juju Factory de Balufu Bakupa Kanyinda (RDC, 2007) – nous considérerons ici la manière dont chaque réalisateur revisite les images issues d’archives officielles pour réécrire l’Histoire d’un point de vue africain ou diasporique, ainsi que la portée contestataire de cette contre-mémoire en film.

Paper 4

Keresztesi Rita / University of Oklahoma

From Hip Hop to Nollywood: Archiving Resistance in West African Cinema

This paper discusses three recent films that point to new trends in filmmaking in West Africa (Senegal, Burkina Faso and Nigeria). The documentary films of the Senegalese rapper Didier Awadi mobilize a new generation of African youth for political action. While previous generations of West African filmmakers contributed to the debates on the postcolony through socio-political allegories of visual storytelling, Awadi’s films, “The Lion’s Point of View” (2011) and “Les Etats-Unis d’Afrique: Au-delà de Hip Hop” (2012), use reggae-inflected hip hop soundtracks to punctuate their message via journalistic imagery, mixing news clips with archival footages and music video-style segments. Awadi and the Burkinabé rapper Smokey challenge their audiences to see the history of West Africa from the “lion’s point of view.” They revive the images and messages of martyred “African presidents” by cutting historical footages into the narrative to address a new “génération consciente.” The recent Nigerian feature film, _Confusion Na Wa_ (2013), imitates the pace and action-packed storyline of Nollywood films, but Kenneth Gyang’s award-winning first film produced by his production company Cinema Kpatakpata subversively mimics and challenges the visual tropes and and escapist storytelling of Nollywood, what Wole Soyinka has redubbed as “African Magic.”

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