2022-23 | Finding Our Way

About
Image depicts the writing 'finding our way' in front of a colourful background of purple, pink, orange, and black colours

'Finding Our Way'

 

Knowledge Exchange Fellows
Dr María del Pilar Blanco   |   Faculty of Medieval & Modern Languages   |   University of Oxford

Dr Hanna Klien-Thomas   |   School of Arts   |   Oxford Brookes University

Partner Organisation
Unlock the Chains Collective   |   Euton Daley MBE

 

 

Maps have time and again detailed trajectories and stories of class, racial, and ethnic privilege that obscure, silence, and obliterate the journeys of other bodies through space and time. The maps that trace Black Atlantic history reveal this most intensely. As objects that embody movements, maps can be repurposed as powerful tools that enable paths toward recognition and reclamation of those hidden stories, as well as (re)encounters and future connections. If we think along these lines, what would a map of the past and present of Afro-Caribbean Oxford look like? What individual and collective trajectories would it trace, and which landmarks would it include? How could this map be constructed in such a way that it could continue to evolve, documenting both past and unfinished journeys of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora that traverse and settle in this city?

“Finding Our Way” marks the first stage of a collaboration that seeks answers to these challenging and fertile questions through a unique collaboration amongst art practitioners and researchers from across Oxford: theatre director Euton Daley of the Unlock the Chains Collective (UTCC); Rachel Barbaresi (installation artist; Lecturer, Art & Design, Oxford Brookes); Hanna Klien-Thomas (Research Fellow in Creative Industries, Oxford Brookes); and María del Pilar Blanco (Associate Professor in Spanish American Literature, Oxford). Through this cross-fertilization of distinct areas – theatre/performance, archival history, digital storytelling, and museum studies – “Finding Our Way” seeks to reclaim a history of Afro-Caribbean Oxford through contemporary performance, storytelling as historiographic methodology, and the reterritorializations of carnival across public spaces that extend from the city centre to Cowley Road.

We contend that the mapping of Afro-Caribbean movements in Oxford entails a dialectic between interactions with troubled and violent institutional archives and collections on the one hand, and the rematerialization – through storytelling and public performance – of the individual and communal stories these archives (fore)tell. This process is more resonant if it entails the participation of wider, varied audiences. To this end, live performances at key locations in the city centre will be used to redraw an Oxford city map that focalizes Afro-Caribbean experience, past and present. Accompanying workshops invite participants and local-community members to develop narratives through community history, archival material, and storytelling. Recordings of performances as well as responses of participants will be used to begin building a digital map of the spaces constituted by the performances and experiences. In further stages of the project, the aim is to continue developing this digital, interactive map as a platform to facilitate participative archiving and decentralised, pluralised knowledge production.

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