All photos ©Otele Olivette

The Project Background:

This network forms part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council‘s activity as part of the UN International Decade for People of African Descent and uses a core arts and humanities research focus to explore issues of specific relevance to people of African descent and involves engagement with and the participation of, researchers and communities of African descent.

Through a cross-disciplinary synthesis of sites of memory related to the history and experiences of people of African descent the network explores specific settings in order to show how they reluctantly tell the story of the legacies of colonial encounters between people of Africa, Asia and Europe and how they provide examples of active participation of people of African descent in shaping societies they were forcibly moved to. This network illuminates the mechanisms of cultural production at work in these various sites of memory through a series of workshops including creative performance and a conference. It involves the participation of researchers and artistic practitioners of African descent and community groups of African descent.

Bringing together an international network of academic and community participants and crossing the boundaries of disciplines affords the opportunity to present a more holistic view and analysis of histories that are relevant to people of African descent. This network proposes to extend the notion of sites of memory to the idea of “reluctant sites of memory” that present a variety of micro histories regarding the experiences of people of African descent. The polysemic term “reluctant sites of memory” was chosen to emphasise that “reluctance” evokes degrees of resistance from both minority groups and majority communities.

We examine a number of reluctant sites of memory including comparison with international locations such as African-Canadian historic sites. Little has been written about the links between South-East England and South Wales and people of African descent. However, Cardiff is home to Tiger Bay one of the oldest multicultural areas in Britain and Fairfield House in Bath is a crucial stop for visitors interested in the history of people of African descent. The very purpose of the network is to shed light on sites of reluctant memory and this network will reach beyond academia to work with communities to explore connections between Afro-descents, the history of involvement in the transatlantic slavery, Black presence in South-East England and South Wales and colonial legacies.