Autograph ABP, Rivington Place
Renée Mussai is a London-based curator, writer and art historian. She is Curator and Head of Archive at Autograph ABP – an arts charity that works internationally in photography and film, addressing themes of cultural identity, race, representation and human rights – where she manages a diverse collection of photographs and global program of exhibition, publishing and research initiatives. Over the past decade she has organized numerous exhibitions in Europe, Africa and the U.S., including most recently the critically acclaimed Black Chronicles II, which opened at Rivington Place, London in the autumn 2014. She lectures internationally on photography and cultural politics, and has been a regular guest curator and non-resident fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University since 2009. In 2013, she co-produced the exhibition and publication ‘Glyphs: Acts of Inscription’ at Pitzer Art Galleries in Claremont, California. Mussai is presently a PhD candidate in Art History at University College London. www.autograph-abp.co.uk
Black Chronicles II: The African Choir
Unseen for over 120 years and deeply buried within one of the world’s largest image banks, an extraordinary body of portraits was recently re-discovered in London as part of an ongoing Autograph ABP research project dedicated to excavating archives in search of black presences entitled The Missing Chapter. Based on research to date, these images – among them over forty photographs of The African Choir who toured Britain between 1892-93 – represent the most comprehensive body of portraits depicting African sitters in Victorian Britain through the prism of studio photography. As such, they offer new knowledge and different ways of seeing the back subject in Britain’s early photographic history, and contribute to an on-going processs of redressing persistent ‘absence’ IN the historical record, highlighting the archival lacunae that permeates the colonial and imperial dimension of photographic collections everywhere. Through curatorial interventions in the Archive, figures are resurrected from the vaults of oblivion and re-animated/re-positioned in a space of representation within the cultural history of photography: my paper will introduce the research underpinning The Missing Chapter and the production of our recent exhibition Black Chronicles II, the first showcase of its kind in Britain, and PRESENT a selection of portraits featured.