Onyeka Igwe

Unbossed and Unbound: How can critical proximity activate the Imperial Archive?

London College of Communication

The Imperial Archive produces, what we know as the ‘truths’ of our colonial past. This information is held in institutions: museums, galleries and archival collections that name and limit sources and systems of knowledge.

Strategies to challenge and destabilize the grip of archives are seen in postcolonial studies, where scholars attempt to open up the archive and look for what is missing, hinted at or obscured. The aim of this practice-based research project is a decolonial activation of the archive, where situated knowledge, will be used to challenge the rigidity of the historiographic record.

This research uses the term ‘critical proximity’ in order to categorise techniques embraced by moving image artists that adopt situated knowledge. These strategies are essay film, auto-ethnography, a contested term that refers to the methods often used by marginalised people to appropriate and collaborate with existing forms to create new ethnographic texts, and embodied archival practices - embodying and repurposing what is missing into new archival material. I will analyse the use of these strategies in existing moving image work as well as employ them in the treatment of the archival material, such as those from the Colonial Film Unit Archive, housed at the British Film Institute National Archives. In this research, I will produce analytical writing and a body of film work, which firstly assesses the ways the strategies, outlined above, employ critical proximity to activate the archive. Secondly). I intend to develop the practice of playing with and making visible the contradictions, complications and impossibilities of what we know of cultures and peoples, through nonfiction video work, using contemporary shot material, archive, embodied practices and text.


Director of Studies: Dr Pratap Rughani
Co-Supervisor(s): Dr Brad Butler, Professor William Raban