The current debate about the colonial legacy of African art in European and other Western Museums revolves 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, one that is possibly more relevant 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 Nigerian video films has opened up new areas of inquiry. It also brings with it new challenges for the preservation, presentation and curation of historical film materials, particularly documentary materials. How can we restitute Africa’s audiovisual heritage to make it accessible and usable for future works as well as historiography – seeing as a big part of it is still held in archives of the Global North? What are the opportunities, but also the pitfalls, of an audiovisual heritage policy aimed at reaching those goals? Can artistic and curatorial practices overcome obstacles of censorship while easing and containing sociopolitical tensions?
Based on 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, in particular the recently launched #Archival Assembly festival, this panel proposes to outline possible answers to these questions from a scholarly, an artistic and a policy point of view.
Añulika Agina is a Senior Lecturer in media studies at the Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos and a postdoctoral research fellow on an ERC-funded African Screen Worlds project at SOAS, University of London, where she researches the Nigerian film industry as well as historical and contemporary cinema audiences. She is currently co-editing a book on African Screen Worlds: Decolonising Film and Screen Studies.
Didi Cheeka is co-founder and curator of Lagos Film Society – an alternative cinema center dedicated to the founding of Nigeria’s first arthouse cinema. He is the artistic director of Decasia – Berlin-Lagos Archive Film Festival. Didi is currently researching and digitizing Nigeria’s rediscovered audiovisual archives.
Filipa César is an artist and filmmaker interested in the fictional aspects of the documentary, the porous borders between cinema and its reception, and the politics and poetics inherent to the moving image and imaging technologies. Since 2011, she has been researching the origins of the cinema of the African Liberation Movement in Guinea Bissau as a collective laboratory of decolonising epistemologies. The resulting body of work comprises, films, archival practices, seminars, screenings, publications and ongoing collaborations with artists, theorists and activists in particular with Diana McCarty, Sónia Vaz Borges, Marinho de Pina and Sana na N’Hada, with whom she initiated the Mediateca Onshore project.
Hyginus Ekwuazi is a Professor of Broadcasting & Film. As the Director General of the Nigeria Film Corporation, he was, in effect, the chief adviser to the Federal government of Nigeria on all film issues. Played significant roles in the formulation of The National Film Policy, the film censorship guidelines, and the National Film Archive Policy. Chaired the committees that designed the film training programme for the polytechnics and the Universities. Has headed two key film production training institutions. Was Lead Trainer/Consultant: GEM-World Bank Capacity Building Project for Nollywood. Research interests: film policy; film content creation and utilization.
Ellen M. Harrington has been director of the DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum in Frankfurt since 2018. Prior to that she was the Director of Exhibitions and Collections for the forthcoming Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. As a curator and programmer, she has produced more than 500 public film events and educational programs and 80 exhibitions globally, was the founding director of the Academy’s International Outreach program, and co-founded the Academy’s Media Literacy program. Harrington previously worked for Dustin Hoffman’s Punch Productions, Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Public Theater. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and New York University, where she studied Comparative Literature, Art History and Film Studies.
Vinzenz Hediger is professor of cinema studies at Goethe University Frankfurt, where he directs the Graduate Research Training Program “Configurations of Film”. His publications include Films That Work. Industrial Film and the Productivity of Media (AUP 2009, with Patrick Vonderau) and Films That Work Harder. The Circulations of Industrial Film (AUP 2022, with Yvonne Zimmermann and Florian Hoof). He is a principal investigator in the “Normative Orders” and “ConTrust” research groups at Goethe University.
Stefanie Schulte Strathaus is co-director of Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art. From 2006 – 2021 she was the founding director of the Berlinale section Forum Expanded. In 2011, she launched the ongoing “Living Archive – Archive Work as a Contemporary Artistic and Curatorial Practice” project; in 2015 she co-founded the “Film Feld Forschung” project at silent green Kulturquartier. She currently curates the collaborative project „Archive außer sich“ which resulted in the foundation of the archive festival „Archival Assembly“. Schulte Strathaus is on the boards of the Harun Farocki Institut, NAAS (Network of Arab Alternative Screens) and the Master program Film Culture at the University in Jos/Nigeria.