Afield Trips | Image As Assembly – Awa Konaté & Maya Scherr-Willson
Afield Trips is a series of portraits of artists and cultural activists. Each episode takes us into their lives to give us a glimpse of their context and help us expand our understanding of why they do what they do.
Afield Peers Awa Konaté and Maya Scherr-Willson participated in the research strand “Images as Assembly”, in the Study Program “Together” Here, they reflect on the role of media production within and beyond institutional frameworks, the importance of archives in creating community, intergenerational storytelling, forms of alternative kinship, and inaccessibility to archives as a place of interest.
“Images as a gathering space, images as archives to generate South-to-South solidarity.”
From looking at African cultural production in cinema, photography, and visual arts to working within a community to realize a digital archive, Konaté questions who creates access to forms of knowledge production and who is responsible for existing hierarchies. Her work considers the importance and necessity of the digital realm as an archive for people to engage with culture and decolonization outside of institutional frameworks.
Scherr-Willson considers the archive as a conversation, as a form of healing, and as a coming together and commoning through an intergenerational transmission of memory. She shares insight from her current project involving the audio archive of an Argentinian political prisoner during the dictatorship. Due to the lack of images, the audio archive is a spark for creating new images to fill in the gaps. Could storytelling aid in finding new ways to navigate violence and the impact of state terror on the children of those who had been imprisoned, murdered or disappeared?In the absence of narrative, the archive reveals something to be said, hinting at a history yet to be encountered.
Awa Konaté is a Danish-Ivorian critic, programmer, and curator of contemporary art who is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the histories of Africans, both on the continent and in the diaspora. She holds a combined BA in political science and African studies from SOAS University of London.
Konaté is the founder of Culture Art Society (CAS), an interdisciplinary research platform dedicated to making African cultural activism and arts education accessible to black working-class people. CAS intersects critical studies and art theory and is committed to circumventing hierarchies of cultural canons and their access. As a cultural worker who combines literature, cinema and visual arts to form a critical curatorial practice of memory work, her work pursues the ways in which the archive effects, informs, and can reinform liberatory practices beyond disciplinary specificities. Her writing draws on this perspective as well and has been published in Third Text, Paletten, Widewalls, and by the Nordic Africa Institute, among others.
Maya Claire Scherr-Willson is a researcher, visual anthropologist, and filmmaker with a background in independent film production. Maya holds a master’s degree in visual anthropology from Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research engages with horizontal filmmaking practices as sites of collective knowledge production and reciprocal exchange. She is interested in archival practice as a methodological framework to point to different ways of creating space to activate memory, collectivity and enduring relationality. She is currently collaborating with Graciela López, a pedagogue and former political prisoner during the dictatorship in Argentina, on a relational and intergenerational archival film project.