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Decolonizing Sound Archives


01. - 03. Dezember

01.12: 16-20 Uhr
02. und 03. 12.: jeweils 10.00 bis 16.30 Uhr

Institut für Musikethnologie und das Global South Studies Center (GSSC)

Raum 3.115, Humanwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Gronewaldstr. 2
50931 Köln


This workshop positions sound at the centre of the current restitution debate. It is based on Dr. Amoros’ experience in the revitalisation and repatriation of historical recordings from the largest sound archive in Africa, the International Library of African Music (ILAM) from 2011- 2018. Tracing the Mbira Sound Archive in Zimbabwe workshop provides a postcolonial study on the African sound archive divided into three historical periods: the colonial period offers a critical analysis on how ILAM classifies its music through ethnic and linguistic groups; the postcolonial period reconsiders postcolonial nationhood, new/old mobility and cultural border crossing in present Africa; and the recent period of repatriation focuses on the fellows’ successful experiments to “bring the archive back into the field”.

The analysis of sound archives in Africa is an essential tool to envision the new ways in which African culture can be directed not only from postcolonial notions of nationhood or Afrocentric discourses but also for the necessity of bringing awareness of the circulation of musical cultures from and beyond colonial African borders.
The practical and local aspect of this workshop will relate the immaterial sound artefacts of the ILAM collection to the material artefacts from Africa kept in Cologne’s Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum. Based on a small-scale ethnographic fieldwork with members of the diverse African communities in Cologne it will develop and experiment curatorial concepts of repatration between the material and the immaterial dimension. It also asks from a perspective of the anthropology of senses what forms of “ethical and empathetic listening” can be applied to the sounding objects collected during (neo)colonialist collecting missions and what forms of dissemination seem to be ethically and technically appropriate.

Kurzfassung auf Deutsch:
Auf Grundlage einer Analyse der Revitalisierungs- und Rückführungsprozesse der International Library of African Music (ILAM) und Bewusstmachung (kolonialer) Zirkulation von Musikkulturen wird zusammen mit Mitgliedern afrikanischer Communitys und dem Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum ein eigenes kuratorisches Konzept entwickelt.