amenata Paris-1 expo-archive named-nameless Paris-2

Revisiting my Encounter with Amenata Sako: A Critical Reading of the Archive uses the colonial archives, the ones remembering the Paris Colonial Exposition in 1931 to reimagine African and diasporic encounters during the interwar years in France. The architects of the exposition produced a violent map demarcating the order and place of Black bodies according to ethnographic and scientific constructions of otherness. They mark the overwhelming silence of the archive, one which limits any recollection of African and Diasporic voices and presence outside the imperial and colonial logics of spectacle and visibility of the Black body. The exposition's sound archive is where I met Amenata for the first time; there was nothing but a crackled recording of her singing. This project explores the past's audibility by reconstituting Amenata's subjectivity to the body of the archive. When we confront the knowledge of the past, we are uncertain to find anything, often because most things are absent in the records. I deal with the 'absent presence' that informs the conditions for Black existence in the colonial archive and that has an impact on how we historicise colonial relations during the interwar period. This paper intends to generate new ways of 'presencing' the past by offering new methodologies of encounter that center the sound and affect placed in the bodies constituting the archive of the exposition. Tending to the silences, absences, mis-translations, mistakes etc.. stirs new affective registers that align with Black subjects' experiments with freedom. This research essay asks some general questions: how do I give voice to someone I cannot recognise? How do Black people, particularly Black women interrogate the past and engender meaning that speaks to the past, the present and the future?