Open Archief Re:Use Clinic #2| Uncertain Archives: the mundane as a form of resistance

29 September 2022 - 15:00 — 29 September 2022 - 17:00

How to deal with inherently violent colonial imagery in the archives?

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ARIAS and Open Archief are happy to invite you to another edition of the Re:Use Clinics, a series of public events for heritage professionals, artists and other interested parties in the creative reuse of heritage collections.


For this edition, former resident, anthropologist, curator and activist Jessica de Abreu in conversation with anthropologist and activist Mitchell Esajas, will reflect on the affective challenges that artists and researchers face when approaching heritage collections. Starting her residency with the intention to document and archive the contemporary black anti-racism movement in the Netherlands through found footage, image and digital data, Jessica de Abreu wondered how to deal with the violent content she was encountering. When looking for material, she realised that most of the images portrayed Black people in the context of violence, suffering or exoticism, and reflected on the fact that by re-distributing them or re-displaying them, this violence would be perpetuated. Writing about the overwhelming emotional experience of going through the colonial collections, she shares her struggle to find ways of bringing back humanity to these images. But de Abreu also found moments of healing by instead looking for material where Black people were portrayed enjoying the pleasures of everyday life, moments of joy amidst adversity. Through this process, she became more interested in the portrayal of Black people in a context outside of political or colonial frames, looking for the mundane as a form of healing resistance.

In light of the enduring colonial, imperial and patriarchal legacies embedded in modern-day institutional archives, one central objective of archival reuse is to create space for silenced voices and underrepresented narratives. But what are the emotional challenges of doing this work? And what kind of healing can be found in the unearthing of previously overlooked narratives contained within the heritage collections?

Warda El-Kaddouri will host the event, as well as moderate the conversations between the speakers and the audience following the presentations.

Anthropologist, curator, and activist Jessica de Abreu graduated from the departments of Social and Cultural Anthropology and Culture, Organisation and Management at VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam. Her work is committed to the field of the African Diaspora, ranging from social mobility in New York, Amsterdam and London to the way in which black women, particularly from the Vereniging Ons Suriname, relate to the legacy of activism of black women in the Caribbean and the Netherlands. She is a co-founder of The Black Archives and a member of the New Urban Collective.

Anthropologist and activist Mitchell Esajas is the co-founder of The Black Archives and the New Urban Collective, a network for students and young professionals from diverse backgrounds with a focus on the Surinamese, Caribbean and African diaspora. Esajas studied Business Studies and Anthropology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. In 2016 he co-initiated the Black Archives in Amsterdam, a cultural centre based on a unique collection of books, documents and artefacts documenting the histories of Surinamese and Black people in the Dutch context. The Black Archives develops exhibitions and public programs based on their collections and urgent societal issues.

When: Thursday 29 September 2022
Time: 15:00 – 17:00 CEST
Location: International Institute of Social History, 31 Cruquiusweg, 1019 AT Amsterdam
Language: English

After a year of digital events, Open Archief is very excited to host the 2022 clinics at the IISG in Amsterdam.

For ARIAS this collaboration with IISG, HNI and Beeld & Geluid on the occasion of Open Archief will build further onto the current thematic line Estuaries: ways of Knowing and the previous clinic on the topic of Ethical Dilemmas.

Open Archief Re:Use Clinic #2