a so-called archive (2020)

Onyeka Igwe

a so-called archive Onyeka Igwe UK digital20 min2020

In Lagos, the former Nigerian Film Unit building was one of the first self-directed outposts of the British visual propaganda engine, the Colonial Film Unit (1932–1955). Today it stands empty. Its rooms are full of dust, cobwebs, stopped clocks, and rusty and rotting celluloid film cans. The films found in this building are hard to see, not only because of their condition, but also perhaps because people do not want to see them. They reveal a colonial residue, echoed in walls of the building itself.

Meanwhile, in Bristol Temple Meads, the former British Empire and Commonwealth Museum (2002-2009) was previously housed in the vaults of one of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s most famous railway designs. The museum included photographic, film, sound, and object collections from across the former British Empire. However, it is now shrouded in ignominy after the alleged illegal sale of several items from its collection, leading to its closure. The monetization and obscurity of its collection points to an attitude to Britain’s colonial past. 

a so-called archive imagines the “lost” films from both of these archives, using distinctive soundscapes, choral arrangements, and a radio play within the confines of images from a disembodied tour of the exquisite corpse of an archive building.

Streaming Details

This film is available to stream globally.

Program Partners

This film is co-presented with Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival.

Image credits: all artworks, stills, and portraits courtesy of the artist © Onyeka Igwe.

about the artist

Onyeka Igwe (UK) is an artist and researcher born in London in 1988. Her work in cinema and installation uses embodiment, voice, archives, narration, and text to create structural figure-eights, a format that exposes a multiplicity of narratives. She received a BSc in Politics from Bristol University (2008), an MA in Documentary Practice from Goldsmiths College (2011), and a PhD from University of the Arts London (2020). Her recent films, including No Dance, No Palaver (2017–18), the names have changed (2019) and No Archive Can Restore You (2020), have been exhibited widely at festivals, museums, and galleries internationally, including Barbican Centre, The Showroom, Artists’ Film Club, ICA London, Dhaka Art Summit, Anthology Film Archive, BFI London Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, Northwest Film Center, Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, Edinburgh Artist Moving Image Festival, Images Festival, Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, Kuala Lumpur Experimental Film, Video & Music Fest, European Media Arts Festival, Khiasma, Hamburg International Short Film Festival, Trinity Square Video, Jerwood Arts, Festival des Cinémas Différents de Paris, McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, Tyneside Cinema, LUX, Mercer Union, Open City Documentary Festival, and Cafe OTO. She is the recipient of awards and accolades including New Cinema Award, Berwick Film and Media Festival (2019) and the Futures Award for Experimental Short Film, Arts Foundation (2020). She has undertaken residencies and fellowships at FLAMIN and The Showroom (2018); MAN Museum/Sardinia Film Commission; and the British School at Athens Residency (2019). Writing about her practice has appeared in Moving Image Review and Art Journal (MIRAJ), Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media and The Feminist Review. She is part of the Turner Prize (2021) nominated ​​Black Obsidian Soundsystem (B.O.S.S.), a collective that brings together a community of queer, trans, and nonbinary people of colour involved in art, sound, and radical activism. Her works are public and private collections including Museum Abteiberg and the Julia Stoschek Collection. Her films are distributed by LUX. She lives and works in London, UK. 

Artist interview