Accessing the Nigerian Film Archive: Tensions and Questions

by Didi Cheeka, Añulika Agina


At the opening keynote of the 27th Visible Evidence conference in December 2021 convened by Vinzenz Hediger and comprised of Hyginus Ekwuazi, Didi Cheeka, Filipa César, Stefanie Schulte Strathaus, Ellen Harrington, and myself, I presented a critical reflection on the urgent need to access documentary films in Nigerian archives. The thrust of the reflection was to call for co-ownership of such archives rather than restoring, digitally preserving, and repatriating audiovisual materials from Europe to their countries of origin and leaving them entirely in the “hands” of Nigerian (or other African) governments. That approach made access difficult if not impossible. My position was based on two recent experiences (described below) with the National Film, Video and Sound Archive (NFVSA) in Jos, Nigeria, and the British Pathé. I encountered difficulties with the first while the second was a smoother process. To get around the difficulties associated with the Nigerian archive, I contacted the film archivist Didi Cheeka, who informed me that he could provide some footage from his personal collection. I waited patiently but futilely. Cheeka had good reasons for his inability to deliver the footage. I blamed Nigeria’s postcolonial governments for the neglect and inaccessibility of film archives and the continued extraction of audiovisual materials from the country by Europeans. This led to a disagreement between Cheeka and me, which inspired the conversation below. Amongst other things, Cheeka believes that many archives in Europe and North America hold some Nigerian films and should be repatriated. I rejected the call for repatriation, since given my recent experience, the material conditions of such works are neither guaranteed nor would they be accessible to researchers. After all, what would be the purpose of archiving or preserving disintegrating analog film if they could not be accessed on-site or remotely by the public? Instead, I called for copyright co-ownership between Nigerians and the Europeans holding the preserved films but with maintenance and management of the films left with the European institutions. Didi Cheeka called my approach a pessimistic one and partially rejected the blame on postcolonial governments. The conference panel therefore provided an opportunity to address the controversy and question other issues around access that have to do with storage, discovery, and copyright ownership. In August 2022, at the University of Lagos Senior Staff Club, Cheeka and I picked up the conversation from the conference to discuss our different perspectives, iron out the tensions, and study how archives can be made more accessible to interested publics.

In 2015, Didi Cheeka stumbled upon rusty film cans in the storage rooms of the Nigerian Film Corporation in Lagos. With support from the Arsenal—Institute for Film and Video Art and Goethe University, Frankfurt both in Germany, the process of digitizing films began with the digital restoration and screening of Adamu Halilu’s Shaihu Umar (1976) in 2018. DVDs have been made available to Nigerian universities, but the question of its wider availability and access remains. The conversation with Cheeka, which began during the Visible Evidence panel session, has continued and some of it is reported below.

Añulika Agina

Accessing the Archive

Añulika Agina: Didi, are there private efforts to grant access to your restored materials? Some would argue that granting access once audiovisual material is restored is not their cup of tea, so what is the purpose of restoring and archiving such materials if not to make them widely accessible to the public? Or is access less important than restoration and restitution?

Didi Cheeka: No, access is no less important than digitization and restitution—it’s the goal of both. We digitize and call for restitution to make previously inaccessible material accessible. There are, of course, challenges that arise from working with institutional archives. The London-based Nigerian scholar and researcher, Onyeka Igwe, approached me some time ago concerning her intention to research the Nigerian film archive and I referred her to the archive staff members at Jos. She researched the archive and even digitized materials for her documentary—I believe she was the last person who interviewed the Nigerian cinematographer responsible for most of the works in the archive and who taught all the graduates of the National Film Institute (NFI)[1] who now handle Nollywood productions’ cinematography. So, to restate: I don’t oppose access to digitization and restitution—the one is not complete without the other. The whole of my attitude is not to antagonize or frighten the government to shut-down or restrict access to this archive—I’ve had to curtail my usual combative attitude.

AA: Why is that? Why have you reined in your combative attitude? While I hate to make uncomplimentary comments about my beloved Nigeria, I find that it would be a great disservice to ourselves to ignore the wrongs of postcolonial governments in Africa broadly speaking and blame it all on the West. You refer to archives as “being complicit in the violence inherent in primitive extraction of raw materials” and you challenge scholars to adopt a more critical perspective to archives, but you seem to exonerate postcolonial governments from their neglect in preserving Nigeria’s cultural heritage. Why is that?

DC: I think I should state that I’m opposed to post-colonialism as a theory—it is no longer valid in the Nigerian experience of today (I tend to use the term post-war—in the sense that not only was the Biafra-Nigeria war of 1967 to 1970 the most traumatic event of our national life, but it was also the collective crime that birthed modern Nigeria and not colonialism). Vincent Hiribaren had pointed out that prior to the war, Nigeria was a perfect example of how to keep a modern archive in the former colonies.

But the issues you raise are good, and I hope it would trigger further conversation around archival practices in a former British colony. I don’t put the blame for this on foreign or national governments—rather, my challenge is to researchers and scholars who approach archives of former colonizing countries as benign sites of knowledge as opposed to being complicit in the violence inherent in the primitive extraction of raw materials, in this instance, audiovisual raw materials. Why have I reined in my attitude? Consider that we entered this archive in 2015, just a few years ago, after many years of being locked out.

AA: Here at the University of Lagos Senior Staff Club, Didi, we have been talking about your work with the Nigerian film archive and your efforts to make the place more accessible to researchers. You once spoke about a copy of the 1972 Nigerian film, Bullfrog in the Sun, which you saw but which is not accessible to everyone yet. Can you please tell me who made that film accessible to you and in what context?

DC: I think it was in 2018 or thereabout when Shaihu Umar, by Adamu Halilu, was screened at the Berlinale Forum. We first encountered positive prints of this film in the rooms of the Nigerian Film Corporation in Lagos in very bad condition. After a really difficult process, we managed to find some really good image and sound negatives of the film at the main location of the National Film, Video and Sound Archive in Jos. The digital restoration of the film was then undertaken in collaboration with the Arsenal. After the screening at the Berlinale Forum, a German curator, Mareike Palmera, walked up to me to invite me to dinner because she had found a film in a German archive called Bullfrog in the Sun, which she wanted us to talk about.

AA: That’s interesting. I know and follow Mareike’s work on Twitter.

DC: Because I had been looking for that film, of course, I accepted her invitation. We had dinner and had some conversation around the film, which we kept going. Some months later she told me she got some funding from the German Federal Foreign Office and she wanted to bring the film to Nigeria. I had created this Berlin-Lagos Archive Film Festival. But then we tried to screen this film in October 2020 at the festival, but it was disrupted by the EndSARS police brutality protest so we couldn’t do that. The film is supposedly based on the novel by Chinua Achebe, Things fall Apart, but was changed to Bullfrog in the Sun. I just wanted Nigerians to see this film, not because it is that good or faithful to the source (as a matter of fact, the film is problematic, because the Biafran War has nothing to do with Things Fall Apart, but the European lady who wrote the script in 1970 when the war ended (and was still in the news), decided to tie the Biafran War to Things Fall Apart and No Longer at Ease, another novel by Chinua Achebe.

AA: And what’s the name of this lady? Do you recall?

DC: Unfortunately, I don’t recall her name right now, but I think she’s the wife of the producer, who has the copyrights to the film. She found her way to Chinua Achebe, who gave them the rights without probably reading the screenplay because when the film came out, he rejected it.

AA: So it was anachronistic. The events in Things Fall Apart were placed in the war (1967–1970) at a time when they didn’t happen?

DC: Exactly! The writer muddled up events, centering everything on the Biafran War, which frankly did not make sense to me. But I screened it here in Nigeria last year because I wanted to kick-start a conversation around the issues she mixed up or should I say chronologically misplaced. Before I accidentally discovered the Nigerian archive, I wanted to create a space in which we would show not just commercial cinema, but also art house cinema in Nigeria. And that was how we found ourselves at the former Colonial Film Unit building between Obalende and Ikoyi, near Voice of Nigeria.

AA: I want to go back to this question of access, of accessing Bullfrog in the Sun, as an example. The lady who gave you the film in 2018 to screen for a small audience, would she be willing to make it accessible to others, even at a price?

DC: Yes, I’m sure she would. We screened it in Lagos last year. In 2021, she gave a copy to Lanre Oladele, the son of the producer, Francis Oladele.

AA: Obviously, there is still a very big question mark around access, which of course has to do with copyright ownership, isn’t there?

DC: Oh yes, big questions around access and copyright.

AA: And I’m talking about accessing the films in order to teach with them. I’m not talking about festivals because, while they have their value, you can’t teach and research films that way.

DC: I’ll have to admit that festival attendance is for an elitist audience. The man on the street doesn’t get to attend film festivals. But after film festivals, what happens to these films? What happens to those who don’t see the films at festivals? For instance, to really look at the gravity of the situation, when we discovered Shaihu Umar, I said to myself, what if a filmmaker, a student, or a researcher wants to research pre-Nollywood cinema, where do they go to watch these movies?

AA: Brilliant! That’s the question of access that I have been asking you about, which I hope you and your sponsors continue doing something about.

DC: Well, when you reach out to the archive staff, the archives don’t have them. The filmmaker does not know where the films are at the moment. They are probably in some laboratory abroad that nobody knows about because ownership or their location keeps changing. So, what do you do as a researcher? Because it was a dilemma I encountered. How do I use secondary material from someone who watched the film years ago?

DC: You tap into someone else’s memory which is not the same as yours. So, how do I research this material? Or should we just say there’s nothing to see, which is also really bad because this film was/is existing somewhere. Who has got this film? Who knows where the films are at the moment? If a filmmaker does not know where his or her film is at any given time, who do you ask about the production process?

AA: Exactly. Your questions are the reason I raised objections to repatriating audiovisual materials to the Nigerian government.

Discovery and Cataloguing

AA: Didi, much of your work has been accidental. You accidentally stumbled upon the Nigerian film archive. You also accidentally met Mareike Palmeira, who offered you Bullfrog in the Sun. That’s not a sustainable or even a strategic way of locating lost films and making them accessible to wider audiences. What then is your game plan?

DC: It’s an ongoing search and discovery process. Access is very crucial. But side by side with access, you have to discover the film to make it accessible. So, who knows where a film is? Most of these films are outside Nigeria, in Europe, America, but oftentimes the archive staff don’t know they have these films because there is also a problem with cataloguing. When the film is not properly catalogued or documented, it gets lost. How do you look for things, especially in a situation in which archives are not putting up a proper catalogue of every film title they have with them? We have to first of all look for these films, negotiate rights, and bring them to the archive. And then we begin to tell you about how to make it accessible to the public.

AA: In an enduring manner. How to make it accessible in an enduring manner? Because generations over time would want to see it. So, what was this film like? Who featured in it? Who worked on it? When I was making my own documentary, I had to go to British Pathé. Well, I didn’t go physically, I found them online and with the exchange of a couple of emails, I got the footage of former President Obasanjo inaugurating the National Art Theatre in Lagos. They told me how much I had to pay. It was close to £1,000 but I asked for a discount since it was for educational purposes. They granted it, sent me a contract, and after signing it, they sent me a link and that was it. That’s the sort of thing I’m after when it comes to access, because I have used those clips in my documentary this year. Anyone else who needs footage from British Pathé follows the same process and moves on without frustration.

On the contrary, I went to Jos in October 2021 to look for footage of any of the directors of the Nigerian Film Corporation at work. I was also looking for footage of people watching films as I had asked, but they could not provide any. And that was after travelling 1,041 km to Jos. Before then, I sent an application by email and a secretary told me that the Managing Director had to approve the request before anyone could respond officially to me. He did, and my request was passed on to the archive staff. They all read my email, saw what I was asking for, but nobody told me that they did not have the materials in the archive. They were allowed to travel from Lagos to Jos, found nothing, before telling me they didn’t have my requests. Can you believe that?

DC: You went into the archive?

AA: I did. So you find my story difficult to believe?

DC: I do, when was that?

AA: October 2021. I started my documentary in January 2020, but by March the lockdown came into effect, so I had to pause. What infuriated me about the Jos experience is that the archive officials knew what I was looking for; they had read my request letter, but they could not and did not tell me that the materials were unavailable because the MD had to approve my request first. I spent money on travel and accommodation for a couple of days only to be told that the archive did not hold the materials I needed. When I pressed for recent footage, I was told that they were on an absentee’s personal hard drive. So, when I talk about blaming postcolonial governments for this bureaucracy, our sense of loss and the lack of appreciation for audiovisual material, I hope you can see where I’m coming from? Because I was not asking for too much. I was not asking for things that were shot on analog film. I was asking for what was shot eight years ago and no one could give me that. What then are your comments on the Nigerian Film, Video and Sound Archive today because as far as I’m concerned, the place is useless.

DC: Right now, I’m not talking about yesterday or a year ago. I’m proud of the archive. I mean there’s still a long way to go, but right now, I’m proud of what is being done. For the past couple of years, I’ve dedicated myself to trying to make that archive come alive. Compared to where we were some few years back, we’ve taken a big step forward because what you say about access also goes to the heart of the problem we are having with digital storage, the problem we are having with digital archiving. The digital type is a little bit different from analog type because oftentimes you have files in the hard drive. Somebody can delete something when he is under pressure to find storage space. So, there is no clear idea of what to do with digital production or how to store it, which is probably why they could not give you any footage of a recent though past MD of the Film Corporation. With analog film, it was easy. They just kept what was produced originally and you saw them there in the archive, albeit in poor condition, but with the digital, there is still the problem, which is an international one. It’s not just in Nigeria. How to store different materials in the digital era remains a challenge globally.

AA: Okay. Before you carry on, you said that you are proud of the local archive that we have in Nigeria. Can you tell me what exactly you are proud of?

DC: That was where we discovered the film that was listed as being lost, Shaihu Umar, although the material we found in Lagos was quite terrible. Then we went to Jos and we discovered copies in very good condition and that was what we digitized. When I first entered the archive in Jos, I was surprised because when I first knew it as a student, it was in very poor condition, but now I can see that it has benefitted from some sort of funding. Originally, there was no proper storage but now it is electronically controlled and has fancy shelves. But I’d question why it is electronically controlled when there is usually a shortage of power supply in Nigeria.

AA: So what happened when I visited that archive and could not find anything?

DC: Well, after the Lagos discovery, and before going to Jos, we applied for funding in Germany. We got this funding to digitize the film Shaihu Umar. And then we passed the message to Jos that we were looking for this film. They brought incomplete archival materials of about 30 cans of film and said that was all they found. We got to Jos by ourselves and after spending a whole day in the archive, we left with at least 80. We got enough cans to put the film together. My experience, and to answer your question directly, is to rely on my search, not on what the archive staff tells me.

AA: But you have to be authorized to search and preferably with some kind of guide because you have limited time for your research, which is tied to your funding and the amount of time you can afford to stay away from your university.

DC: No, I always insist that we go in together and search shelf by shelf because I discovered that the staff fear their own archive. The place was not properly maintained for long and the vapor from decaying film material can get toxic and injurious to health at a certain concentration level. We went in with facemasks and combed every single place until we were sure that we had found every reel of the film that exists in the archive. If we had accepted the copies they gave us, we would not have been able to complete the film. Now, there is ongoing training of the archive staff, so they are beginning to pay attention to proper cataloguing and some of the archive staff have gone to do this exchange program in Germany.

AA: Getting storage devices that can hold them for so long is tied to funding, isn’t it?

DC: Yes, in a way it is because you have to upgrade occasionally, especially when you are using the LTO and the things were stored in a different material. I refuse to accept the explanation of the NFC that they cannot give access to footage of their past MD or that they don’t have copies of the director on film. It’s a question of this improper storage. It was only a few years ago that we started trying to give the archive priority. There’s also the challenge of working with an institutional archive as an outsider.

There’s a film I keep asking them for but which they have not been able to provide. It’s the last film I think that was shot on celluloid by the Nigerian Film Corporation, entitled Zenani and shot in 2004-2005. It was a UNESCO-funded project, but they cannot tell me they gave everything to UNESCO without keeping a copy in their archive. What happened to that film? Did somebody take it away? I realize that this sounds scandalous, I mean, this is not Bullfrog in the Sun, which was shot before I was born. This was shot when I was a film student, when I came in 2004-05, but it is not in that archive. So who took it away? And in whose private archive is this film being held?

AA: I sense your frustration and I hope you can now appreciate mine. Could the film be with UNESCO?

DC: UNESCO will have a copy because they paid for it. This question goes to the heart of the problem I’m having with the Nigerian film archive. Because, as you know, Nigerian film history goes beyond Bullfrog in the Sun and Kongi’s Harvest. It goes to the colonial film period. Since in film, they tell you that whoever pays for the film has copyrights. But when the colonizers filmed this stuff in their former colonies, did the natives sign any consent form for them to use their images? You filmed them and then you took it away, which is scandalous. The British government filmed colonized people without their permission and then they took this film and they put it at the Overseas Film and Television Centre at Ironmongers Row. The Ironmongers Row closed down in 2003. The British government now took this film and gave it to AP. AP is a commercial archive.

So AP is making profits from images that were produced as a result of colonial conquest without the consent of the people who were filmed. And when a native of these former colonies wants to use any of the images, you say they have to pay large sums of money. We are, therefore, questioning and negotiating ethical ownership with those holding the images in the West. Granted that it’s their money that produced the films, but can they not share the rights? This is not the Mona Lisa painting or the Benin bronze that you can repatriate from where it was looted. Technically, these films can be reproduced and the rights co-owned. So, we don’t have to come to beg you for something that also belongs to us. Therefore, the question before us is how do we share rights given the different stakeholders like UNESCO and AP?

AA: You just draw up another contract, isn’t it?

DC: Well, because money and politics are involved, it’s not so straightforward. I’ve been searching for answers and that led me to Tom Rice, who was the senior researcher on the colonial film project. We are still discussing the demand for the decolonization and restitution of film archives from various parts of the world. This conversation around restitution has ignored audiovisual materials. Nobody is talking about audiovisual materials, which I think should be among the mentions of valuable items to return. As a matter of fact, I think it began in the 1980s, at least, with a Beninois filmmaker, Paulyn Vyeira, who first began raising this issue. So people have been talking about this before, but it has not been resonating. But now the conversation is being triggered by new voices demanding restitution of audiovisual material held mostly in European archives.

Government’s Role

AA: Well, I cannot speak for the government, but I do know that there was and perhaps still is a huge amount of ignorance, lack of training, underestimation of the value of art and culture in the country by people who decide national expenditure. Which is why I always come in a combative way when I’m asking the government questions. But you said after Visible Evidence in 2021 that you are less combative when it comes to these things. Why is that?

DC: Yes, because it’s simple and straightforward. I didn’t want to touch any politically problematic subject so that I will not be kicked out of the archive like my colleagues in Indonesia. They got access to the archive, then at some point they were researching the massacre of communists and workers in Indonesia, which Joshua Oppenheimer turned into a film in 2012. I don’t want the government to lock the place up again. I know that at some point, we will reach a point in which it will be impossible for the government to conceal the archive again because [globally] there is a shift from strictly content generation to copyright generation. What you have in the archive could earn money for the country. Once the contents of the archive become common knowledge, it becomes difficult for the government or anyone else to shut it down.

AA: Yes, but Didi you’re forgetting that a strong maintenance culture is not our forté. Even when you announce to the world that this material, for example, the Aburi Accord, is in the Nigerian film archive, who maintains it? Who keeps it in a way that is usable for the generations to come? That’s the question.

DC: That’s why I said that right now I’m proud of the Nigerian film archive. In 2018, a film scanner could be installed at the archive in Jos with funding from the German Federal Foreign Office. I think in the whole of Africa there is one in Cairo. There’s one in Sudan. I think South Africa had its own before, but courtesy of the visionary project of the Arsenal in Berlin, we now also have one in Nigeria. Until three years ago, there was no means of digitizing the analog film holdings, but we have it now. And then alongside having this material and as part of the MoU signed by the Nigerian government with the German government is that the archive, the scanner should be put to use.

The students who are studying film culture and archival studies are supposed to be using the scanner to digitize materials in the archive as part of their training process. Now there is the possibility of seeing what was previously absent. The clips I have in my external hard drive were digitized in Jos. Shaihu Umar on the other hand was digitally restored in Germany. Within another collaboration, some of the soap operas that NTA used to air were digitized from tape by a German company. There is an organization that takes from tape, not celluloid, and transfers and converts them to digital. And there was a ceremonial handover of the material—of the digital copies of Ripples and After the Storm—to the NTA by the director of the Nigerian Film Corporation some ago when the first cohort of the Nigerian students came back from Germany.

AA: In addition to giving it to the NTA, why don’t they give it to a university or an institution that will make it accessible to the public? We know what happens with NTA.

DC: Yes, because NTA will say the copyright belongs to them.

AA: But for educational purposes, give it to a university or even to a private enterprise to make it accessible on the cloud and people pay a token to see it.

DC: Well… Right now the Nigerian Archive said there will be no fees for using the archive…

AA: If we leave the government to its own devices, you know that nobody will get to see anything out of that archive. But, there was a statement you made I want to bring you back to: you refer to archives as being complicit in the violence inherent in primitive extraction of raw materials and you challenge scholars to adopt a more critical perspective to archives. Can you say more about that?

DC: Yes. I’m also in consonance with Ariela Aïsha Azoulay. I mean, most of what was produced in the colonial period are with the former colonies and there is this idea that archives are just innocent sites of knowledge. And that is not true. Some Europeans use archives uncritically, without questioning how the materials there were obtained. When I was collaborating on a book publication as part of the Configuration of Film series, I saw this article written in the Guardian UK by Afua Hirsch around the time that George Floyd was killed. The title of the piece was “The racism that killed George Floyd was built in Britain.” Although I agreed with the content of the article, my thoughts on the title are different. I thought that the violence that killed George Floyd was born in the colonies because European people first began seeing African people on the screen and colonized people were photographed and filmed in derogatory ways.

So over time people adopted this idea of seeing colonized bodies as something which violence could be inflicted upon or something that is savage and dangerous that should be curtailed by force. It was cinema that gave them the impression that this is what the colonized body looked like, and you should be wary of them, thus implying that they are dangerous and have to be tamed. I don’t think any policeman in the US or UK would wake up today and say I want to kill a black man. It’s always an unconscious threat that looms around the danger linked with black bodies. They got it from cinema, specifically from colonial cinema.

I argue that when the colonial forces came to the colonies and extracted tin and extracted oil, they also used their cameras to extract images and then took these images with them back to their country. Those images were extracted as a part of colonial conquest. It was not just raw material extracted by force, audiovisual materials were also extracted in a similar way. So if you keep on using the archive in Europe today and you don’t question how these materials came to this archive and why these materials are not in their country of origin, you are also participating in unethical extractive activities. You are treating the archive as if it were politically innocent of violence. Why are the images photographed or filmed in this way? So there is an unconscious participation in the violence.

I’m trying to make a case for restitution so that European scholars raise their voices also. In Lisbon we had an international conference and an Angolan filmmaker I met there told how he was trying to research the Angolan civil war in the Portuguese archives. He kept on searching and typing Angolan freedom fighters, Angolan civil war, and there was no result. But he wondered how Portugal can fail to have anything of the war they fought against their colony in their archive. He then typed Angolan terrorists and all the images appeared. So the colonial power archived this war of independence in Angola as terrorism. It’s an act of power. You have the power to categorize us. There is still violence embedded in the use of archives in Europe.

AA: That is so interesting. I want to ask one final question and I will leave you to drink your beer because it’s getting hot. This is just something to do with the time. When did you start this archival work? When did you enter this archive the first time? I know it’s something you said before, I guess.

DC: 2015. I’m an accidental archivist. I just wanted to open a space to show art house cinema because when I entered cinema as a film critic I fell in love with cinema, but not from a commercial point of view. I wanted that space just to show arthouse films. We were mostly showing films from Europe, hardly anything from Africa, and when we stumbled on the archive it all changed.

AA: So, when did you start the Lagos Film Society?

DC: In 2014. And one year after, we (the director of Goethe-Institut at that time, Marc-André Schmachtel, another film critic in Nigeria, Oris Aigbokhaevbolo, and Derin Ajao, who was a program officer at Goethe-Institut) took a trip to the back and stumbled on the archive in some rooms of the NFC’s compound in Lagos since the door was broken. We applied for funding and got some from the British Council while the Goethe-Institut brought a matching grant. Then, we had the first symposium on the subject, which was titled “Reclaiming History…”. That’s how the archival business started.

AA: That’s excellent. There’s the project Mediateca Onshore in Guinea Bissau that Filipa César spoke about at Visible Evidence. For me it was just private enterprise, private people using their own money to create some kind of mediateca and that’s commendable. If you wait for the government, you and I know that nothing will happen.

DC: The Nigerian Film Corporation is willing to lease the back of the building for me to carry on with the work I’ve been doing there. Their caveat is that they are not going to spend money refurbishing the space. So, you could use that space where you would even have a residency. As long as you’re the one bringing your money, you can expand from one African country to the other African country, so we could have a residency there. My goal actually is to use that building to organize what I have discussed with the Goethe-Institut, a pan-African conversation on archiving here on African soil.

AA: It is so important that we do it here because even location is power, location is politics. Whenever I talk about the archive, or African, or audiovisual material, I talk about it in Germany, in the UK, but I hardly do so in Lagos, and they give so many flimsy reasons why the conversation is not happening on the continent. We know what our shortcomings in Nigeria, in Africa are, but I think that the more we begin to deal with these Europeans on an equal basis, the better for us. We have the knowledge, we have the people, we have everything. Let’s say to them, bring your money and even use it to repair all the damage of the years of colonization.

DC: Exactly. And it goes also to my goal of archiving, because ever since history was abolished from the classroom as a stand-alone subject, what I’m trying to do is to use archival practice as a sort of memorialization, of coming to terms with the past. I’m thinking of a program in which we will use archival materials on a step-by-step basis to negotiate past hurts or trauma without pointing accusatory fingers at anyone. Where we are today is because of what has happened in the past. Since you have materials from the past, you can use these materials as a sort of negotiation of trauma, so we can enter into the future.


[1] Editors’ note: a training arm of the Nigerian Film Corporation.