Onyeka Igwe – No Archive Can Restore You (2020)
The former Nigerian Film Unit building was one of the first self-directed outposts of the British visual propaganda engine, the Colonial Film Unit, stands empty on Ikoyi Road, Lagos, in the shadow of today’s Nigerian Film Corporation building. The rooms are full of dust, cobwebs, stopped clocks, and rusty and rotting celluloid film cans. Amongst these cans, a long-lost classic of Nigerian filmmaking, Shehu Umar (1976), was found in 2015. The films housed in this building are hard to see because of their condition, but also perhaps because people do not want to see them. They reveal a colonial residue that is echoed in walls of the building itself.
Taking its title from the 2018 Juliette Singh book, No Archive Can Restore You depicts the spatial configuration of this colonial archive, which lies just out of view, in the heart of the Lagosian cityscape. Despite its invisibility, it contains purulent images that we cannot, will not, or choose not to see. The film imagines ‘lost’ films from the archive in distinctive soundscapes, juxtaposed with images of the abandoned interior and exteriors of the building. This is an exploration into the ‘sonic shadows’ that colonial moving images continue to generate.
Onyeka Igwe (b. 1986, London) lives and works in London, UK. Igwe is an artist and researcher working between cinema and installation, born and based in London, UK. Through her work, Onyeka is animated by the question — how do we live together? — with particular interest in the ways the sensorial, spatial and non-canonical ways of knowing can provide answers to this question. She uses embodiment, archives, narration and text to create structural ‘figure-of-eights’, a form that exposes a multiplicity of narratives. The work comprises untying strands and threads, anchored by a rhythmic editing style, as well as close attention to the dissonance, reflection and amplification that occurs between image and sound.Her works have been shown in the UK and internationally at film festivals and galleries. She was awarded the New Cinema Award at Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival 2019 and the 2020 Arts Foundation Fellowship Award for Experimental Film.