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Dialogic Archival Documentation: Decolonizing the archive to repatriate the past to present Indigenous users

Date Released: Thu, 17 August 2017 15:11 +0200


For some years now, repatriation of audio-visual recordings to communities where they were originally recorded has become very important and, indeed, has attracted both national and international advocates. The process of repatriating materials, however, presents numerous challenges for the receiving communities especially as far as linking the past to the present across divides of time, place and socio-cultural and political contexts. Although it should equally attract research focus, the written documentation accompanying repatriated recordings has been given inadequate attention. It is to this aspect of repatriation that this presentation will focus using the Makerere University Klaus Wahcsmann Audio-visual Archive (MAKWAA) to inform my discussion. I argue that written documentation explaining the audio-visual materials is essential in decolonizing the archive in order to enhance meaning and value of the repatriated material to the recipient communities. This argument is based on the premise that since audio-visual materials do not produce meaning on their own – meaning is constructed by the people who create, collect, archive, consume and interpret them – the written documentation of this meaning-creation process enhances the use-value of repatriated archives. I advocate for a systematic, dynamic and dialogic documentation as a necessity to link audio-visual archival collections of the past into the present. Indeed, collectors, archivists, collections custodians, researchers, and indigenous users – what I call the archival community – must have a dialogic relationship in order to connect audio-visual collections of the past into the present and if these archives are to have enduring value to future generations.


Dr. Sylvia Antonia Nannyonga-Tamusuza, Makerere University and University of Pittsburgh (USA) graduate, is Associate Professor of Music and of Performing Arts and Film Department at Makerere University. Dr. Nannyonga-Tamusuza is the Coordinator of the Ethnomusicology in Uganda Projects and the founder and Curator of the Makerere University Klaus Wachsmann Music Archive. She has published on popular music, Catholic church music, school music competitions, dance as music, sexuality in music and dance, politics and gender in music, the interface between ethnomusicology and music education, and identities in diasporic music, music repatriation and archiving. Her publications include the book Baakisimba: Gender in Music and Dance of the Baganda People of Uganda (Routledge, 2005), as well as many articles in journals and edited volumes. She is co-editor of Ethnomusicology in East Africa: Perspectives from Uganda and Beyond (Fountain 2012). Her present research is on Women’s negotiation for peace and conflict resolution using expressive arts; Gendered mobile music and archival studies based on the Makerere University Klaus Wachsmann Music collections. Nannyonga-Tamusuza is a member of the Society for Ethnomusicology and is part of the Strategic Direction (2017-2021) Planning Committee.

Dr. Nannyonga-Tamusuza is also involved in community development outside of the academia. She is the founder and Director of the Love and Care Family, an NGO with the mission of Empowering the Family Institution for the holist development of children and youth.