Over the past nine months, the Art Assassins have been working on a new project, Entanglements: Who Makes History? which interrogates a unique ethnographic archive of artefacts, photographs, sound recordings and botanical specimens collected by anthropologist Northcote W Thomas in Nigeria and Sierra Leone in the early twentieth century.
Here, the SLG’s Researcher-in-Residence Emmanuelle Andrews reflects on her experience working with the Art Assassins and discusses the value of rethinking our relationship to difficult material through visual and sonic realms.
In my first encounter with the Art Assassins I began with sharing a personal reflection on a visit to the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) with Paul Basu, leader of the [Re:]Entanglements project and Professor of Anthropology at SOAS University of London. Having studied Anthropology and Law for my undergraduate degree, before studying a Masters in Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice, this experience was a (re)visit to my disciplinary ‘home’: Anthropology.
What I wanted to encapsulate to the Art Assassins was the feeling of lacking belonging here and the field of Anthropology as one that invites, for a black women like myself, a visceral combustion of self and other, as I reflected on my position as being a recipient of the colonial anthropological gaze, as well as potentially an instigator of it.
Sitting in the RAI, I considered the historical reality that I was never meant to be there in this form – valued (at least originally) as the ‘viewed’ and not the ‘viewer.’ I hoped to bring to the forefront for the Art Assassins the fact that any dabbling in Northcote Thomas’ work will always be personal, as our very beings refract through the colonial archive.
Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund,
Oscar Humphries and Sophie Oakley and the SLG Council