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Disordering archives: Onyeka Igwe and Black feminist speculative histories

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McMahon, Laura 


This article explores forms of archival disordering and critical fabulation in the work of British-Nigerian filmmaker Onyeka Igwe. Igwe returns repeatedly to the question of colonial archives, often from a feminist perspective, as exemplified through her focus on the Aba Women’s War of 1929 in No Dance, No Palaver (2017-18), a trio of three short videos. Reworking scenes of dance extracted from colonial moving images, Igwe deploys various experimental formal techniques, such as slow motion, pause, direct animation and written forms of address, interrupting imperialist regimes of vision, temporality and meaning-making. Igwe’s archival reworkings adopt specifically Black feminist dimensions as they remediate the history of colonial moving images. The article explores this through particular attention to intersections between the speculative historiographies of Saidiya Hartman’s writing and Igwe’s moving image practice, and by tracing in No Dance, No Palaver a set of reflections on Black female sociality and diasporic matrilineal genealogies. While recent scholarship by Domietta Torlasco, Laura Mulvey, Catherine Russell and others has examined feminist reworkings of archives in moving image practice, this article brings such work into dialogue with Black feminist experimental film and the particular perspectives that it offers, such as a focus on the ways in which gender intersects with histories of colonialism and Black diaspora – intersections that are foregrounded in Igwe’s work. The article also addresses the Black queer feminist dimensions of Igwe’s recycling of colonial archives, reading its pleasurable, queer reframing of archival images of dance as a decolonial form of erotohistoriography.



36 Creative Arts and Writing, 3605 Screen and Digital Media

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Oxford University Press (OUP)