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Towards an Archive of Freedom: Why Now?

‘Towards an Archive of Freedom: Why Now?’ is the name of a recent symposium at the District Six Museum, curated by Dr Siona O’Connell. This symposium occurred in conjunction with the premiere of two correspondent documentaries created by Siona O’Connell – The Wynberg 7 and An Impossible Return and an exhibition of photographs by David Brown (curated by Siona O’Connell and Pippa Skotnes), titled Returned to Harfield.  

The Wynberg 7: An Intolerable Amnesia is a 26 minute documentary that considers apartheid afterlives. Viewed through the lens of anti-apartheid youth struggles of Cape Town, the documentary examines the  role played by a group of high school students who were arrested 30 years ago, charged and later imprisoned at Pollsmoor Prison.

An Impossible Return investigates meanings imbued in several areas in Cape Town that were subject to forced removals during apartheid. Specifically, the project examines three crucial moments: the forging of lives of humanness, the receipt of the eviction notice, and the eviction itself. These moments are important in the larger understandings of injury and memory, and this visual and oral archive allows for new understandings of justice and freedom after oppression.

Taking a series of photographs by artist David Brown as a starting point, the project will open a set of questions around trauma, memory and freedom in the aftermath of oppression. Intimate documents of family life, the photographs speak of the destruction of community and of the multiple valencies of place and home. It is here that the project will draw attention to the lived experiences of ‘black’ families, and the self- and re-representation of ‘black’ bodies as human. These photographs were also curated in the exhibition Returned to Harfield, which opened at the District Six Museum on the 29th of October 2015.

This project speaks of catastrophe and of the unfinished business of apartheid. Approaching the notion of archive as being open-ended and not bound in time and space, the project will suggest a set of debates that lie at the centre of post-apartheid society, even as they are generally disavowed. It is these questions and suggested debates which were dealt with in the symposium, Towards an Archive of Freedom: Why Now?

Towards an Archive of Freedom: Why Now? can be found here

The importance of dusty boxes, by Jade Nair
Wed, 25 Nov 2015 - 13:15

Jade Nair, project manager under Dr Siona O’Connell at the Centre for Curating the Archive, was very involved in the production of O’Connell’s documentaries, The Wynberg 7 and An Impossible Return and the digitisation of the archive of Zubeida Vallie’s photographs . In the following text, Nair reflects on the parallels between the archival images she had been working with, and the scenes witnessed in the Fees Must Fall movement. She comments on why she chose to work on the documentary projects through the period of protest action.

Cape Argus and Cape Times on Dr O’Connell’s ‘The Wynberg 7′ and ‘An Impossible Return’
Mon, 23 Nov 2015 - 13:15

Two recent articles, one in the Cape Argus and the other from the Cape Times, offer additional commentary on Dr Siona O’Connell’s documentaries, The Wynberg 7: An Intolerable Amnesia and An Impossible Return.

Photographs from ‘Returned to Harfield’ Exhibition and ‘Towards an Archive of Freedom’ Symposium
Fri, 20 Nov 2015 - 13:15

Returned to Harfield, an exhibition of photographs by David Brown, opened at the District Six Museum on the 28th of October 2015. The exhibition, was curated by Siona O’Connell and Pippa Skotnes. The exhibition was followed by a symposium titled ‘Towards an Archive of Freedom: Why now?’ curated by Siona O’Connell. See the photographs from the exhibition opening and symposium, kindly taken by Ashley Walters, below.

Reflections on Dr O’Connell’s ‘An Intolerable Amnesia’ and ‘The Wynberg 7′
Wed, 18 Nov 2015 - 13:15

Two different blog sites offered touching and personal reflections on Dr Siona O’Connell’s documentaries, ‘The Wynberg 7′ and ‘An Impossible Return’.

SABC News coverage of Dr Siona O’Connell’s documentaries
Wed, 11 Nov 2015 - 13:15

On Monday the 9th of November 2015, the SABC news included a feature on Dr Siona O’Connell’s recent documentaries. This feature captures the essence of O’Connell’s documentaries, and includes mini interviews and footage from the premiere of the documentaries at the Baxter.

Dr Siona O’Connell on The Wynberg 7 and The Impossible Return
Mon, 09 Nov 2015 - 13:15

Dr Siona O’Connell contextualises her recent films The Wynberg 7 and The Impossible ReturnIn the following text, which is the speech she gave at the films’ premiere at the Baxter on the 29th of October 2015, O’Connell explains how these projects are deeply personal to her and why for the past nine years she has been committed to thinking about apartheid afterlives, “in an attempt to make sense of a past of which many of us were not the authors.”