Over the past few years the Museum Affordances / [Re:]Entanglements project has been re-engaging with colonial anthropological archives and collections to explore their ‘decolonial affordances’. The project has focused on the archival legacies of a series of surveys led by Britain’s first ‘Government Anthropologist’, Northcote Thomas, in Nigeria and Sierra Leone between 1909 and 1915. We have been retracing the anthropologist’s journeys, returning copies of photographs and sound recordings to the communities from whom they were obtained more than a century ago, and seeking to understand their value to these communities today. Another strategy has been to engage with artists, musicians and other creative practitioners in Nigeria and Sierra Leone to explore the contemporary significance of these archives.
In this Planetary Patchwork seminar, three project participants bring their (inter)disciplinary perspectives and personal positionalities to bear on the collaboration. Project leader, Paul Basu, first introduces the [Re:]Entanglements project and its aspirations. Then ceramicist/artist/art historian Ozioma Onuzulike and ethnomusicologist/musician/composer Ikenna Onwuegbuna, both based at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, discuss their respective critical-creative engagements with archival photographs and sound recordings from Northcote Thomas’s 1910-11 survey of the Igbo-speaking peoples of what was then Awka District, Southern Nigeria.