7 March 2023

Thinking With | Carolyn Hamilton, Masimba Hwati, & Wayne Modest

Thinking With Carolyn Hamilton, Masimba Hwati, and Wayne Modest

For this (hybrid) Thinking With public event we invite Carolyn Hamilton to present her work on refigurings archives and epistemological futures. For this talk we invite Masimba Hwati and Wayne Modest to be respondents, as well as Carine Zaayman as a moderator. 

This (hybrid) event will take place on March 7th at 16.00 at Museum Volkenkunde, in the Nooterzaal. 

Refigurings of archive and epistemological futures:

Colonial epistemological and collecting practices captured and organised selected material relevant to colonized peoples and their histories in particular ways, with particular effects. One of the effects was the entrenchment of a series of divisions. Institutions designated ‘archives,’ housing mostly documents relating to colonial administration, colonial life and missions, were understood to attest to changing history and to political developments  and were organised in a manner that served the discipline of history. Specimens of material culture were lodged in ‘museums’ and organised (often in terms of tribal identities) in a manner that served the discipline of anthropology, attesting to cultural life mostly seen as unchanging or as modernising under colonialism. Unselected materials, in turn, remained in circulation in life, variously supported or becoming dilapidated in response to local needs and practices. All of these traces of the past came to be widely dispersed. This session will consider the implications of the persistence of these selections, divisions and dispersals; the digital possibilities of breaking the divisions down and of convening items differently; software constraints and challenges embedded in protocols of so-called data management; and the epistemological futures that this kind of refiguring of archive opens up to.

The seminar is free, but spaces are limited. If you are unable to attend in person, please email: ilaria.obata@wereldculturen.nl for a zoom link. 


image source: Banner image from emandulo.apc.ac.za, a project by the Archive and Public Culture initiative at the University of Cape Town, led by Carolyn Hamilton. Design by Vanessa Chen for the Five Hundred Year Archive (FHYA), with assistance from Studio de Greef.

Carolyn Hamilton

Professor Carolyn Hamilton is the South African Research Chair in Archive and Public Culture at the University of Cape Town. Her initial work on the history of pre-industrial southern Africa prompted her early interrogation of the notion of archive, and her turn to questions of critical method. These concerns underpin her interest in roles and forms of public deliberation and of public institutions concerned with history and culture in increasingly unsettled democracies, and the operations of power in and through archives. Her publications include Terrific Majesty: the Powers of Shaka Zulu and the Limits of Invention (1998, Harvard), co-editorship of the Cambridge History of South Africa (2012), and of collections of essays including Babel Unbound: Rage, Reason and Revolutions in Public Life (2020, Wits University Press); Tribing and Untribing the Archive (2 vols. 2016. UKZN Press); Uncertain Curature: In and out of the Archive (2014, Jacana); Refiguring the Archive (2002, Kluwer) and The Mfecane Aftermath (1995, Wits University Press). She is the director of the Five Hundred Year Archive, a digital humanities project. A former trustee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, she has been a founding board member of a number of activist archives and has experience in the production of Open Reports on topics of public concern. 

Masimba Hwati

Masimba Hwati holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a PhD in Art practice, candidate at Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Wien. He is a 2019 Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture alumni. His multi-discplinary work deals with issues of everyday forms of resistance and the politics of sound in revising and modifying dominant narratives. He studied sculpture at Harare Polytechnic in Zimbabwe. Collections Include University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA), Iziko-South African National Gallery. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Scott White Contemporary-San Diego, Jorge M Perez -Miami Florida, George R. Nnamdi - Detroit Michigan. National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Gervanne & Matthias Leridon . In 2021 he showed and performed at the British textile Biennale in Blackburn UK. In 2015 he showed at the Zimbabwean Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 56th edition. He is an honorary research  fellow  at Rhodes University  Fine Arts Department in Grahamstown, SA. Solo and group shows include Belgium, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Berlin, Weimar, USA, France, and Canada. Masimba Hwati works across sculpture, sound, performance and video.

Wayne Modest

Wayne Modest is Director of Content of the National Museum of World Culture (a museum group comprising the Tropenmuseum, Museum Volkenkunde, Africa Museum) and the Wereldmuseum Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. He is also Professor (by special appointment) of Material Culture and Critical Heritage Studies at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam.

A cultural studies scholar by training, Modest works at the intersection of material culture, memory and heritage studies, with a strong focus on colonialism and its afterlives in Europe and the Caribbean. His most recent publications include the co-edited publications, Matters of Belonging: Ethnographic Museums in A Changing Europe (Sidestone Publications, 2019, together with Nick Thomas, et al), and Victorian Jamaica (Duke University press: 2018, together with Tim Barringer). Modest has (co)curated several exhibitions, most recently, What We Forgetwith artists Alana Jelinek, Rajkamal Kahlon, Servet Kocyigit and Randa Maroufi, an exhibition that challenged dominant, forgetful representations of Europe that erase the role of Europe’s colonial past in shaping our contemporary world.

Carine Zaayman

Carine Zaayman is an artist, curator and scholar committed to critical engagement with colonial archives and collections, specifically those holding strands of Khoekhoe pasts in South Africa. She is a researcher at the Research Center for Material Culture (NMvWC). The main focus of her curatorial work is the project Under Cover of Darkness(http://undercoverofdarkness.co.za/), which included an exhibition staged at the Iziko Slave Lodge in Cape Town, that explored the lives of women in servitude, especially slavery, in the early Cape Colony.