Entanglements: Who makes history?

Illustration by Rudy Loewe

Between September 2019 and December 2020, the Art Assassins interrogated a unique ethnographic archive of artefacts, photographs, sound recordings and botanical specimens collected in Nigeria and Sierra Leone in the early twentieth century.

The Art Assassins is a group of young people who meet weekly at the South London Gallery. In this project, they delved into an extraordinary body of materials to ask: who makes history?

Working with artists Onyeka Igwe and Rosa Johan Uddoh and Researchers-in-Residence Emma Dabiri and Emmanuelle Andrews, the Art Assassins explored the archival material of anthropologist Northcote W Thomas. Thomas conducted several surveys in Nigeria and Sierra Leone between 1909–1915 and amassed a huge collection of objects from the area. Read more about his work and collections on the [Re:]Entanglements website.

The group made a film in collaboration with filmmaker Sarah Saey to document the project, and worked together to create an exhibition at the South London Gallery, based on their responses to the archival materials. The Art Assassins also developed skills in conservation practices using objects from the collection and recorded oral histories with Igbo speaking people living in London.

This project was an opportunity to explore colonial history often neglected in the school curriculum and empower young people with tools to research and critically analyse historical archives.

About

This project is led by the Art Assassins working with SOAS University of London, Autograph, Igbo Studies Initiative, University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, British Library and the UCL Institute of Archaeology.

Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund,
Oscar Humphries and Sophie Oakley and the SLG Council 

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