‘Memory Matters’ is a unique collaboration between a Congolese refugee group (CORECOG, London) and an academic institution (the University of Kent, UK). The project explores notions of ‘home’, identities and belongings related to African, and more specifically, Congolese, diaspora heritage in postcolonial context. The project involves young British Congolese residing in London as well as researchers, academics, visual artists, heritage and museum experts.
‘Memory Matters’ is composed of several interconnected strands. Each strand combines research, engagement and participation activities and draws upon a diversity of methods (use of audio-visual tools, discussions, workshops, interviews, postcolonial urban walks etc).
Summary of the 5 strands:
Home Matters include oral histories, biographies and stories about notions of ‘home’ and the meaning of journeys among the Congolese/African diaspora. Here we are exploring how memory can travel across national and ‘material’ borders. While the notion of transmission is key, we also reflect on the life of members of the Congolese diaspora, their social and cultural ‘location’ in London and their sense of self in new multicultural settings. Therefore ‘Home Matters’ discuss the memories of integration and settlement in often difficult times and also represents opportunities to trace changes in London and beyond. The research focuses on links between past and present and the fieldwork benefitted from the assistance of young volunteers trained in various research methods.
Heritage Matters focuses on the importance of heritage and material culture, including artefacts and objects which have travelled from the country of origin, the DRC, to the UK; or from the new life of migrants and refugees in the British context since the arrival in the UK. Through a series of workshops organised in London and visits to the British Museum, the young participants also engaged critically with notions of heritage, collective memory and (post)colonial representations.
How do second-generation young Africans born and/or raised in Europe, in particular British Congolese, view the ‘homeland’, Britain, ‘Africa’ or Europe, in a era of globalisation and post-colonialism/neo-colonialism? How do Congolese youth symbolically ‘locate’ themselves in a British multicultural environment? How do they define themselves in terms of identity and belongings? What connections do they have or create with the Congo or other parts of the world? Through our research (interviews and focus groups), group discussions and workshops we explore how our participants talk and perform ‘identity’ and how this relates to particular social or cultural practices. In this research strand we also focus on civic engagement, citizenship, and the impact of exclusion, racism and discrimination in Britain and beyond.
This section of the project documents the ways in which project participants engaged discursively and visually with the urban spaces of (post)colonial memories in the context of Brussels and London.
Through a 3-day visit to Brussels, several aspects of (post)colonial material representations and legacies were explored. In Brussels, the young people participated in an urban tour of the city’s colonial monuments and a visit to the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) a ‘Little Versailles’, dreamt by the Belgian king Leopold II to stage the grandeur of its colonial rule. ‘Diaspora: (Post)colonial Visions’ is also a witness to the struggle of Congolese activists in London, engaged in long-distance transnational politics linking Europe and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their public presence in the centre of London, at the heart of the ‘global city’ and former imperial capital, suggests the extent to which appropriating urban spaces and reclaiming visibility also serves to reconnect colonial past(s) and postcolonial present(s).
Here were are working in partnership with the Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging (CRMRB, University of East London) located in the Docklands area on London. Here we engage with the space of migration and multiculturalism that is East London, where many of the project’s participants reside. We explore in particular the connections between past and present in the making of this social and urban space. One of the key activities is a ‘colonial walk’ of the Docklands area with experts from the Centre discussing the history of the colonial links between Britain and the rest of the world