‘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