The image of the Caribbean figure has been reconfigured by photography from the mid-19th century onwards. Initial images associated with the slave and indentured worker from the locations and legacies associated with plantation economies have been usurped by visual representations emerging from struggles for social, political and cultural autonomy. Contemporary visual artists engaging with the Caribbean as a 21st century globalised space have focused on visually re-imagining historical material and events as memories, histories and dreamscapes.
Creole in the Archive uses photographic analysis to explore portraits, postcards and social documentation of the colonial worker between 1850 and 1960 and contemporary, often digital, visual art by post-independent, postcolonial Caribbean artists. Drawing on Derridean ideas of the archive, the book reconceptualises the Caribbean visual archive as contiguous and relational. It argues that using a creolising archive practice, the conjuncture of contemporary artworks, historical imagery and associated locations can develop insightful new multimodal representations of Caribbean subjectivities.
Roshini Kempadoo invites us into a complex space that offers new ways of reading photographs, documents, and letters focusing on the Caribbean. This book is wonderfully researched. An expert reader of the visual, Kempadoo is the voice that is able to view the archive as a performative space that is revisited time and again. An insightful and important contribution to the study of identity, race, memory, and global studies.
Creole in the Archive persuasively traces the role of the archive in construing and constructing images of colonial spaces across history, while simultaneously identifying the archive itself as a temporally and spatially creole construct. Offering a nuanced analysis of the ‘archive’, this book takes us beyond the hegemonic readings that typically dominate material-cultural discussions of the archive. Richly informed by Kempadoo’s own experiences as a researcher and an artist, Creole in the Archive will provide fertile ground for reflection within both the academy and the creative industries.
This book harnesses the process of creolisation in a sensitive engagement with the notion of the archive. Kempadoo considers formal and informal repositories, offline and online realms, historical records and contemporary acts of art making – as ways of seeing. She launches the reader into an expanded visual matrix, from which it is possible to discern more complex Caribbean subjectivities.
Creole in the Archive represents a timely and important contribution to Caribbean Studies, and to postcolonial scholarship more generally. This innovative and interdisciplinary work challenges some of our most deeply held assumptions about the nature and the function of the archive and will be of great interest to academics, practitioners and students alike.
Roshini Kempadoo is a scholar, photographer and media artist at the School of Media, Arts and Design at the University of Westminster, London.