The discovery, in 2015, of a batch of films from Nigeria’s colonial/ post-colonial history in the abandoned rooms of the old Colonial Film Unit in Lagos, is the point of departure for a discussion about the find and the possibilities and challenges that arise from it for archival practice.
There they were, hundreds of rusted cans of films, like prisoners in a totalitarian dungeon. Their sudden presence triggered questions: How did they get there? What are in them? After a difficult process, pursued to the very end, access to this burial site of memory was obtained. Excavation revealed a treasure – approximately 10,000 cans of films in relatively good condition at the National Film, Video and Sound Archives in Jos. What processes of forgetting triggered this mass internment?
To remember is to accept that something no longer belongs to us – except as a memory. To remember is to attempt to come to terms with the past. Official history, however, tend to encourage collective forgetting, collective silence. From this imposed forgetting arises the title of this project – the idea of history as an Unclaimed Experience
, that history, in a country where it has been banished from classrooms, could be reclaimed, not through purely academic practice, but, rather, through archiving as a site of public memory.
Lagos Film Society, in collaboration with Goethe-Institut Nigeria and Arsenal–Institute of Film and Video, Berlin, has begun the initial process of excavation. There is, of course, the necessary process of analysing and documenting frames from the films to make an initial catalogue. There are, of course, pertinent questions: What if the history, the memory stored in these cans is beyond rescue? How, for instance, would the damage, the non-rescue of this history, this memory speak to what have been lost? In this sense: How do you refer to a history, to a memory that was never yours, as lost? The digital rescue of these films, important as it is, is not an end in itself. It simply affords the possibility to train a living gaze on these images and pose further questions: How does a national archive of films contribute to the practice of memory and coming to terms with the past?
Lagos based filmmaker and critic, Didi Cheeka
and Stefanie Schulte Strathaus
from the Arsenal–Institute of Film and Video in Berlin will be in conversation led by Dele Meiji Fatunla
, Writer, Researcher and Head of Communications for the Royal African Society.
King’s College London, King’s Building, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS, Room K-1.14
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