Category: Land, Heritage and Memory


Legacies of Struggle – Professor Justin Willis’s Summing Up


Legacies of Struggle in Southern and Eastern Africa: Biography, materiality and Human remains

18-20 March 2013 

Last panel, 20/3/15

Professor Justin Willis’s Summing Up
Our theme for these few days has been the legitimacy which people seek to derive from the legacy of struggle – legitimacy through which claims may be made to status, to office or material resources, but also through which a moral positioning, sometimes independent of instrumental claims, may be made. Methodologically, we have been much concerned with remains. But I think we should perhaps more broadly express that in terms of relationships which comprise what Joost likes to call stuff – a term which he uses with an ambivalence which is productive, though also perhaps problematic. Stuff is material, from bones and clothes to marks on the land. But stuff is also what we do, and there is an allusive, metonymic potential to what we do, as well as to what is – which is all the more powerful because the referent of such metonymy may be ambiguous. It is in the play between the stuff that is and the stuff we do that we create and recreate – and sometimes argue over – significance and over the legitimacy which comes from struggle. Our concern must not just be with stuff as inert material, or even as the text of songs – it must also be, as Annie Pfingst reminded us, drawing on Judith Butler – with how we (that is people) apprehend the landscapes, and objects, and songs which we encounter. We are dealing, that is, with affect, and the ability of materiality to catalyse affect – though in doing so, we should not slight the significance of the narratives which are also part of the stuff we do. Read more…

South Sudanese material culture in European museum collections.

Dr Leonardi is a senior lecturer in the Department of History, Durham University. 

Dr Zoe Cormack is a researcher at the Open University. 

This current research is exploring the material culture of South Sudan housed in museum collections across Europe. It builds on the BIEA’s long-standing commitment to supporting research on South Sudan’s cultural heritage, including historical and archaeological research and its own collecting activities in South Sudan dating back to the 1970s.

These relatively understudied, but significant museum collections offer enormous potential for exploring South Sudanese material culture and history. As well as their academic value, there is also potential for this material to open up a more positive discussion of South Sudanese culture and identity at a time when the overwhelming focus of national and international discourse is on conflict and crisis. Further, it is hoped that a better understanding of material kept outside the country will be useful for South Sudanese research and cultural institutions, help to raise the profile of cultural heritage in South Sudan and provide a potential point of sustainable collaboration.

Zande artefacts powell-cotton

The first stage of this project (2015-2016) will be scoping of the South Sudanese collections across Europe and developing directions for more substantial research.

For more information see archaeological research in South Sudan and historical research in South Sudan

For more information contact Zoe Cormack ([email protected])

Urban lives

Often seen simply as problematic, urbanisation is also a driver of creativity and innovation – from music-making and art to political mobilisation and mobile banking. This theme encourages research that explores and questions peoples’ imaginations, negotiations and everyday realities of urban life today and/or in the past.

Underwater Archaeological Investigations at Kilwa, Tanzania

Dr Edward Pollard (BIEA), Dr Richard Bates (University of St Andrews), Elgidius Ichumbaki (University of Dar es Salaam)

Kilwa has evidence dating back to the Middle Stone Age but the most significant period was the 14th and 15th centuries AD, when the Kilwa Sultanate controlled the gold trade that originated in modern Zimbabwe and was shipped north from Sofala in Mozambique. The assistant director Edward Pollard’s research on marine influences has involved coastal and intertidal surveying revealing shipwrecks, landing places, fish traps and navigational features, which indicate the high potential for archaeological discoveries underwater. An expedition to link the maritime sites such as settlements and shell middens with coral reefs, anchorages, fishing grounds and shipwrecks. Locating these sites and their analysis will provide further information on the long-distance trade, fishing and seafaring communities.

Read more…

African Farming: an interdisciplinary pan-African perspective

Henrietta Moore is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge  ([email protected])

Caleb Adebayo Folorunso is Professor of Archaeology at the University of Ibadan Nigeria ([email protected])

Dr Matthew Davies is Fellow in East African Archaeology at the British Institute in Eastern Africa and the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge. ([email protected])

The African Farming (an interdisciplinary pan-African perspective) research network has been established to share knowledge and develop research capacity concerning the archaeology, history, development and current operation of farming systems across Africa. The network is funded by a three (2013-2015) year British Academy International Partnerships and Mobility Grant to Professor Henrietta Moore (University of Cambridge) and Professor Caleb Adebayo Folorunso (University of Ibadan Nigeria). The network is coordinated by Dr Matthew Davies (University of Cambridge).

Read more…

The Archaeology of Kakapeli: Integrating Rock Art Studies and Archaeological Research

Dr Emmanuel Ndiema is with the National Museums of Kenya. ([email protected])

This research project takes a multidisciplinary approach to establish the if there exists a behavioral relationship between rock art and archaeological material, and how Kakapeli rock art that depicts livestock and geometric circles relates to the archaeology of the surrounding area, including art that has been found at the Northern flanks of the cave.

Read more…

Modelling the Spatial Dynamics for Early Pastoralism at Koobi Fora, Kenya

Dr Emmanuel Ndiema is with the National Museums of Kenya. ([email protected])

This work in the Turkana basin seeks to document the manner, whether gradual or abrupt, in which pastoralism was introduced to the Turkana basin, northern Kenya.  Ultimately the study seeks to address the question of whether different populations co-existed practicing different subsistence strategies as an adaptive strategy to increased climatic variability).   The contrasting ecological settings at the Eastern shores of Lake Turkana offers a rare opportunity to investigate the causes and consequences of early Holocene aquatic intensification and the advent of animal domestication and the related social changes without domestic plants each of the chosen excavation localities.

Read more…

Sealinks Project: Exploring ancient Indian Ocean connections in East Africa

Dr Boivin is a Senior Research Fellow with the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford and the Oxford Centre for Asian Archaeology, Art and Culture. ([email protected])

Dr Alison Crowther is a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford. ([email protected])

Mark Horton is a Professor in Archaeology at the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Bristol. ([email protected])

Dr Richard Helm is a Project Manager at Canterbury Archaeological Trust. 

The first phases of Africa’s contacts with the wider Indian Ocean world remain stubbornly enigmatic.  Attempting to shed light on the continued puzzle of east Africa’s earliest Indian Ocean connections is one of the key activities of the Oxford based Sealinks Project.  To this end, the project is undertaking archaeological, botanical, and genetic studies in the region in collaboration with a variety of African and other international institutions.  Read more…

Life Taking Shape: Arts Practices for Engaging with the Past in Post-Genocide Rwanda, and Opportunities for the Future

Helen Rawling is a current PhD student at Queen Mary, University of London, School of Geography ([email protected])

The aim of this research is to investigate how the arts are being used to reflect on the past and construct a positive future in Rwanda.  A broad definition of art practices is used, which incorporates not simply fine arts, but activities such as performance, theatre and curating.  The BIEA funding has enabled the researcher to relocate to Kigali for six months so that she could participate in the arts and memory practices taking place and conduct a situated ethnography of the production of contemporary memory projects in Kigali, including ones at the national memorial site and ones arising out of the local creative communities in the city. The intention is to learn how the arts are being used to build a positive future in the country.

Read more…

Re-membering Mwanga: “Queer” Memory and Belonging in Postcolonial Uganda

Dr Rahul Rao is a Lecturer at the Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS University of London. ([email protected])

In 2009, Uganda shot to infamy when a little-known parliamentarian named David Bahati introduced an “Anti-Homosexuality Bill”, which proposed enhancing punishments for consensual same-sex conduct.  Although the bill remained bottled up in parliamentary committees for the duration of the 8th Parliament thanks to a sophisticated campaign in which local activists were able to bring international pressure to bear on the government, it has recently returned to the parliamentary agenda.  The bill is informed by a perception of homosexuality as a culturally inauthentic import into Uganda from the West.  Read more…