1EXPLORING THE ROLE OF PICTUREBOOKS IN CULTURAL HERITAGE AND DECOLONISATION
In her contribution, Dr. Carly Bagelman explored the use of picturebooks to act as vital record keeper of both colonial violence endured by Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, and often dismissed or diminished Indigenous knowledges. She presented a project that aimed to embody this approach, and explored the ways in which archives were used and repurposed to convey stories of Namgis First Nations peoples and their relationship with oolichan oil (grease) in the picturebook. While a state’s museum archives are widely considered keys to understanding and preserving cultural heritage, the problems with accessing or sharing these records (which are regulated by museums and copyrighted), and the highly problematic ways in which the records were collected or represented in the first place, means this form of cultural heritage itself reflects colonial power imbalances and requires creative interventions. In Bagelman’s work, this took the form of collaging visual records of Namgis peoples for the book’s illustrations, which falls under ‘fair use’ and avoids copyright infringement, and therefore allows for the records to become both public and reimagined. As demonstrated by the use of Kwak’wala words peppered through the work along with phonetic pronunciations, picturebooks can also play a small role in Indigenous language revitalisation. Picturebooks, with their marriage of words and images, are noted for their ability to support multi-lingual learning. Such texts can offer opportunities for new record making and keeping in Indigenous communities, and can also invite deeper understanding from settler communities.
Dr Carly Bagelman, Lecturer, Liverpool Hope University, UK.
2ASMARA: UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE AND THE COLONIALITY OF ITS ‘ART DECO’
Eritrea is endowed with many historical, archaeological, religious as well as monastic sites, which, despite being the repertoires of history, knowledge, Indigenous wisdom, education, rich traditions, cultures and norms, are not recognized by UNESCO. Spanning thousands of years, the sites are great source of Indigenous and endogenous knowledges. Eritrea is also home to the ‘Mosque of the Companions’, the first ever Mosque built in Africa by the Sahaba (Companions of the Prophet Muhammad) when they fled persecution and crossed the Red Sea into Massawa in the early 7th C. AD. The case of the Sahaba Mosque offers evidence that the noble values of inhabitation, empathy, conviviality, sanctuary and welcoming were the guiding principles in the region. In the light of this, it is worth asking what humanity can learn from the gesture of genuine empathy from this part of the world. For us Eritreans, it is also worth reflecting that, in celebrating colonial urbanism and art deco, we may be magnanimizing imperial residues. Is Asmara’s art deco a signifier of Eritrean colonial subjectivities or our collective agency?
In 2017 UNESCO designated Asmara as a World Heritage Site. Viewed merely in decorative terms, the designation of Asmara and its imperial architecture is certainly a welcome recognition. But one also has to critically reflect on the philosophical and epistemological aspects of such designation. Such unreflective celebration of Asmara, I must argue, forces an ‘existential deviation’ of the Eritrean mind, to borrow Frantz Fanon’s description. In the colonial imaginative projection, Asmara was seen as an ‘empty space’, the antithesis to ‘modernity’ a frontier inhabited by ‘backward population’ with no episteme of their own and so, an ideal ground of experiment for what Sean Anderson (2017) describes as ‘imperial projects, modernist aesthetics and fascist motives’. As an Eritrean, I ask myself, ‘on what basis do I celebrate this’?
Tesfalem H. Yemane, PhD Researcher at the School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds, UK.