Invisible Fabrick Whose Heritage?

A programme of two films about power and ‘heritage’ as commodity, with a talk by anthropologist Ferdinand de Jong.

‘Whose Heritage’ echoes an essay by Stuart Hall of the same name which excavates ‘heritage’—in particular, ‘British Heritage’—as a means of exercising and maintaining power.

Chris Marker & Alain Resnais’ ‘Les Statues Meurent Aussi’ (1953), censored for years, looks at the life and death of ethnographic objects, removed from their source culture by the forces of colonialism and empire to perform as artefacts in museums. Filipa Cesar’s ‘The Embassy’ (2012) deals directly with Portugal’s colonial past, leafing through a photographic archive which quietly testifies to the mediation and control of a people and its culture.

The films will be presented in a one-off screening in the ‘Living Area’, amongst the objects in the Robert & Lisa Sainsbury Collection at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. Alongside the films, Ferdinand de Jong (Senior Lecturer in Anthropology, University of East Anglia) will talk briefly about the question of how postcolonial Senegal has dealt with the monuments it inherited from the French empire, and how it has appropriated them to tell new histories about the past.

After decolonisation in the 1960s, independent nations inherited the infrastructures of empire that formed the foundation of the new nations. Some of these political and economic structures were perceived as legacies of oppression and exploitation. How then, did these newly independent nations deal with this legacy?

Ferdinand de Jong’s publications include Masquerades of Modernity: Power and Secrecy in Casamance, Senegal and Reclaiming Heritage: Alternative Imaginaries of Memory in West Africa (co-edited with Michael Rowlands). He is Principal Investigator of the AHRC research network on Utopian Archives and is currently completing a manuscript on the heritage of Pan-Africanism in Senegal.

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