Futures Lost, Found, and Restituted: Archives, Curatorship and the Politics of Audiovisual Heritage in Africa
Vinzenz Hediger, Theater-, -Film- und Medienwissenschaften, Goethe-Universtität Frankfurt
This round table brings together artists, scholars, archivists and curators from Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe who currently work together on a series of archive-related projects in Nigeria, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau and Germany to discuss the current state and possible futures of audiovisual heritage politics in Africa. The current debate about the colonial legacy of African art in European and other Western Museums evolves around the question of the appropriate place and institutional frameworks for singular historical artefacts. It leaves out an important aspect of Africa’s cultural heritage, and one that is
possibly more relevant to Africa’s future than the works of indigenous art collected and abducted by Western colonizers: Africa’s audiovisual heritage.
While the focus in African film studies has long been limited to works of a relatively small number of auteurs, the shift to documentary and non-canonical film works such as the Nigerian video films has opened up new areas of inquiry, but also new challenges for film preservation and the presentation and curation of historical film materials. Initiatives such as the creation of the first academic training program for film preservation in Africa
by the University of Jos and the National Film Corporation of Nigeria in Jos in 2019 and the institution of a national audiovisual heritage policy in Nigeria in 2020 promise to address these challenges through legislation and the training of highly qualified specialists in film archiving and film curatorship.
But a series of important questions remain. How can we repatriate Africa’s audiovisual heritage, which to an important extent is currently still held in European and other archives of the Global North, and how can we make that heritage accessible and usable for future works of art and historiography? What are the opportunities, but also the pitfalls, of an audiovisual heritage policy aimed at restituting and making accessible Africa’s audiovisual heritage? How, for instance, would the re-emergence of historical footage related to the civil war of the late 1960s affect the social fabric of Nigerian society, and how can artistic and curatorial practices overcome the obstacles of censorship and ease and contain social and political tensions?
Based on a discussion of case studies from Nigeria, Egypt and Guinea-Bissau as well as of curatorial projects initiated by Arsenal Institut für Film und Videokunst and the Arsenal Archive in Berlin, this round table proposes to outline possible answers to these questions from both a scholarly, an artistic and a policy point of view.
The round table will be divided into two sessions, one devoted to issues of policy, infrastructure and training, the other devoted to issues of curatorship, distribution and the creative appropriation of archival footage in filmmaking.
Añulika Agina teaches cultural analysis at the Pan- Atlantic University, Lagos, Nigeria. Her research interests include documentary film and social change, media effects, cinema- going audiences, representations of the past and conflict in film, as well as the links between film, history, politics and social change. She is co- editor of African Film Cultures (2017) and has published articles in Critical African Studies, Journal of Media Studies and Ibadan Journal of the Humanities among others.
Filipa Cesar is a Portuguese artist and filmmaker based in Berlin. Her work has been exhibited at the Tate Modern, the SF MoMA and the Sao Paulo Biennale among others. Since 2008, she has been researching the origins of cinema in Guinea-Bissau. Through her work, the remanents of a brief period of militant cinema in the country have been secured in the Archive of INCA – Instituto Nacional de Cinema e Audiovisual of Guinea Bissau and the Arsenal archive in Berlin.
Didi Cheeka is an off-Nollywood filmmaker, critic, writer and curator. He is a co-founder of AlternativCinema, a production initiative which challenges the boundaries of Nollywood, and a founding member and current co-director of the Lagos Film Society, which initiated the first arthouse cinema in Nigeria in 2019. Recently, Didi's archival resarch led to the rediscovery of Adamu Halilu's "Shaihu Umar", a key work of 1970s Nigerian cinema, which was restored and screeend at the Berlinale 2019.
Hyginus Ekwuazi is a professor of broadcasting and film at the University of Ibadan and at the Pan-Atlantic University in Lagos. He is a former managing director of the Nigerian Film Corporation, the founding rector of the National Film Institute in Jos, and the main author of the audiovisual heritage policy white paper for the Nigerian federal government.
Ellen Harrington is director of the Deutsches Filminstitut und Filmmuseum in Berlin.
Vinzenz Hediger is professor of cinema studies at Goethe Universität Frankfurt and project director of the DAAD-TNB project “Archival Studies Master in Jos”, a cooperation between the Nigerian Film Corporation, the University of Jos, the Deutsches Filminstitut und Filmmuseum and Arsenal Institut für Film und Videokunst Berlin e.V.
Nancy King is a lecturer in film studies at the University of Jos, Nigeria, and one of the program organizers of the Master Film Culture and Archival Studies in Jos.
Sana Na N’Hada is a filmmaker, activist and archivist from Guinea-Bissau. He was the director of the National Film Institute of Guinea-Bissau from 1978 to 1989, and his most recent documentaries were shown in international festivals, including Cannes.
Stefanie Schulte Strathaus is co -Director of Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art and director of Forum Expanded which she co -founded with Anselm Franke in 20 0 6 . Since 20 10 she works on archive and exhibition projects in Cairo . She is the curator of "Living Archive – Archive Work as a Contemporary Artistic and Curato rial Practice“ (20 11-20 13) and "Archive außer sich" (since 20 17). Her writings have been published iin ‘Frauen und Film’, ‘The Mo ving Image’,'Texte zur Kunst’, among others.