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Journal ArticleDOI

Film as archive: Africa Addio and the ambiguities of remembrance in contemporary Zanzibar

01 Feb 2016-Social Anthropology (John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (10.1111))-Vol. 24, Iss: 1, pp 82-96

Abstract: The Italian shock documentary Africa Addio contains a sequence about massacres that occurred during the Zanzibar revolution of 1964. Perceived by some of its Zanzibari viewers as a container of factual evidence of the brutality of this epochal event, this sequence is contested by others who assert that it was staged or re-enacted. One critical aspect of these oppositional views concerns the very status of this documentary and the trust that can be placed in it as an archival record. Whether Africa Addio is seen as authentic or fabricated, it provides Zanzibaris with a medium through which to revisit the past and rethink Zanzibari society in the present.

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Film as archive: Africa Addio and the ambiguities of
remembrance in contemporary Zanzibar
Marie-Aude Fouéré
To cite this version:
Marie-Aude Fouéré. Film as archive: Africa Addio and the ambiguities of remembrance in con-
temporary Zanzibar. Social Anthropology, Wiley, 2016, 24 (1), �10.1111/1469-8676.12282�. �halshs-
01404568�

Film as archive: Afr ica Addio and the
ambiguities of remembrance in
contemporary Zanzibar
The Italian shock documentary Africa Addio contains a sequence about massacres that occurred during the
Zanzibar revolution of 1964. Perceived by some of its Zanzibari viewers as a container of factual evidence of
the brutality of this epochal event, this sequence is contested by others who assert that it was staged or re-enacted.
One critical aspect of these oppositional views concerns the very status of this documentary and the trust that can
be placed in it as an archival record. Whether Africa Addio is seen as authentic or fabricated, it provides
Zanzibaris with a medium through which to revisit the past and rethink Zanzibari society in the present.
Key words Africa Addio, archive, documentary, revolution of 1964, Zanzibar
Introduction
Perhaps the most pitiless mass shooting in the entire macabre anthology of death:
these words subtitle the twenty-or-so-minute rough footage of the mass murders of
the revolution of 1964 in Zanzibar that features in the controversial Italian documen-
tary Africa Addio (Cohen 1966). This sensationalist characterisation casts a sinister
gloom over the episodes of racial violence that tore apart this Indian Ocean archipelago
only one month after it gained independence. Originally conceived and circulated for
audiences in the former colonial metropoles, Africa Addio shows scenes lmed in the
1960s in several countries of Africa that are so terrifying and horric that one at times
has to look away from the screen (Goodall 2006: 93). Produced by two Italian lm-
makers, Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi, this disturbing visual document
was castigated as an inauthentic and racist movie by lm critics and anti-colonialist
intellectuals after its release in 1966. It was criticised in scathing terms as a retrograde
apologia for European colonialism; the lm was lambasted for promoting the view that
Africa without the European colonial powers would quickly revert to primitive brutal-
ity and bloodshed hence the titles more lurid translation as Africa Blood and Guts in
the truncated and hyper-sensationalist ver sion released in the USA (2006: 105).
Yet Africa Addio is no longer just a spectacle for colonial sympathisers in the Global
North: it has now surprisingly resurfaced in one of the ex-colonies allegedly depicted in
the lm,
1
circulating in new and unexpected contexts. In Zanzibar the Revolutionary
Government banned the lm for years in an attempt to control the interpretation of
the revolution as well as to deny opponents of the regime any platform or ideological
ammunition. But more recently, following political and economic liberalisation, the
1 Zanzibar, a pair of islands situated in the Indian Ocean a couple of miles off the East African coast,
was a British protectorate from 1890 to December 1963. It has been part of the United Republic of
Tanzania since 26 April 1964 after uniting with former Tanganyika.
82 Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale (2016) 24,18296. © 2016 European Association of Social Anthropologists.
doi:10.1111/1469-8676.12282
MARIE-AUDE FOUÉRÉ

documentary is now accessible through the Internet more easily, and the short sequence
on the massacres of 1964 has been watched by growing numbers of urban educated
Zanzibaris. This article will show that Africa Addio is increasingly appropriated and
debated as archival evidence in association with other types of materials, be they oral,
written or visual, which circulate in Zanzibar that ordinary Zanzibaris use to trace the
1964 event and make sense of its signicance for the present and in the future. The use of
non-conventional pieces of evidence to come to terms with the dark past of the isles has
become a commonplace practice, especially among the historically conscious post-1964
generations who have not experienced the revolution, as few historical sources are read-
ily available in authorised public records and archives in Zanzibar.
Recent intellectual and political engagement with Africa Addio as a potential repos-
itory of historical evidence has to do with the central role of the revolution of 1964 in
the history of Zanzibar and its enduring legacy in shaping imaginaries of belonging and
nationhood. The revolution was cast as the founding myth of the Zanzibari nation by
the revolutionaries and their heirs who have wielded power until today, but is decried
by its opponents as the original sin (Burgess 2009: 2) that prompted the cultural,
economic and political decline of the archipelago. It provoked a collective trauma
(Glassman 2011) from which the society still has to recover 50 years after. Although
the ofcial version of the revolution deployed by the state has long held a dominant
position in the public sphere, the clandestine transmission of alternative historical
narratives, based on living memories, has always undermined the hegemonic efforts
of the revolutionary regime to control the ofcial story. Since the mid-1990s, when
political competition was reintroduced and a public sphere reconstituted, the regimes
historical interpretations of the revolution have been challenged (Fouéré 2012a, 2012b).
Africa Addio, among other nonctional media, has been appropriated to contest the
supposedly clear-cut and unambiguous ofcial version of the past. This explains why
watching Africa Addio is not just a private and subjective act by isolated individuals,
even though news about the documentary has spread by word of mouth, circulating
in informal and dispersed, even secretive ways. Instead, I contend that watching Africa
Addio is a socially embedded political practice: it prompts real-life enquiries and fuels
collective interrogations about the signicance of the revolution, its substance and
meaning. These interrogations are collective not in the sense that they would take
place during public and open discussions that would equally involve all segments of
Zanzibari society and be widely diffused in the media; the term here refers to locally
situated debates among more or less close friends that one trusts and acquaintances
one knows have a similar political leaning mostly, in our case, urban middle-aged
men who are sympathisers of the opposition party yet which little by little, as indi-
viduals straddle several circles of sociability, happen to involve other sections of the
population. This article will show that the documentary does not simply contribute
to thinking an d talking about power, politics and belonging in Zanzibar today; it can
shape the imagination of a utopian post-revolutionary non-racial polity against deep-
rooted racialist narratives about Zanzibariness.
Making Africa Addio a postcolonial archive
This article is rst and foremost a contribution to the debate about the production of
historical consciousness and political subjectiv ities. It focuses on the everyday and
FILM AS ARCHIVE 83
© 2016 European Association of Social Anthropologists.

mundane processes of sense making, rather than on state-led or elite initiatives, through
which such consciousness and subjectivities emerge. Africa Addio is used as a gateway
into social practices that common people and homespun intellectuals use to investigate
and build knowledge of the past, interpret the present situation and imagine different
modalities of social life in other words, of an alternative polity for the future. This
study therefore draws on a Foucauldian approach to subjectivity in order to shed
light on the intertwined dynamics that both subject individuals to various kinds of
power and allow them to take themselves as the object of their own action, displaying
their agency. Within this theoretical framework, the study of the production, use and
circulation of this documentary for historical enquiry, memory work and political
imagination will be examined in depth from the point of view of its contemporary
audience.
The notion of archive is not understood in a conventio nal way as a site and its
contents, that is to say as materials abstracted from the particular relations within
which they originate and circulate (family, bureaucracy, religious institutions, etc.)
(Chakrabarty 2009: 67) and stored to be accessible for consultation by an authorised
public only most of the time academic historians (Ricoeur 2000: 20918). Instead,
our detailed exploration of debates surrounding the authenticity and authority of
Africa Addio will show that this process of historical and political sense-making is at
the same time a process of archive-making. It implies, in other words, that the archive
is constituted through the collective yet ordinary usage of documents. In this re-
gard, Africa Addio can be conceptualised as an archive not because it has been selected
and preserved by the state or any other of cial institutions, but for the reason that it is
being constructed or deconstructed as a container of evidence, signs and clues to
explore Zanzibari history. It is, in Appadurais words, a collective tool rather than
the product of state policies aimed at converting the archive into an accessory to polic-
ing, surveillance and governmentality; indeed, the creation of documents and their
aggregation into archives is also a part of everyday life outside the purview of the state
(2003: 16). It reminds us that archivability (Mbembe 2002: 19) does not rest in the
hands of the state only. Africa Addio can all the more be considered a popular tool as
it is manipulated by its audience to excavate a past whose living memories have started
to crumble in the face of the many politicised historical narratives of the event that now
saturate the public sphere therefore echoing Derridas words that the archive is also a
product of the breakdown of memory (1996: 11). In sum, this article provides a gene-
alogy of an archive in the making, exploring its construction and deconstruction that,
to this day, has left its status undetermined.
This study is inevitably inspired by, and resonates with conceptions of nationalism
and nationhood as an imagined community (Anderson 1983). However, it does not
simply attribute the building of such an ideational community through the formation
of a public sphere
2
to the diffusion of the printed word, such as newspapers and novels.
On the contrary, it asserts that images (photographs, movies, etc.) and spoken words
can also be appropriated to establish such imaginaries and sentiments of collective be-
longing (Appadurai 2003). It also contends that the formation of a public sphere is in
the line of re of the everyday creation of historical sources as collective tools to reect
2 In Zanzibar, the baraza, an everyday place of casual talk for men, plays this role of public sphere
(Loimeier 2007). As it gathers friends and acquaintances, it is a place where discussions about Africa
Addio take place.
84
MARIE-AUDE FOUÉRÉ
© 2016 European Association of Social Anthropologists.

on the past, just like the discipline of history had the utopian ideal of the public sphere
written all over it (Chakrabarty 2009: 67). The archives of the historian were indeed
initially aimed at providing unfettered access to historical information rather than
reserving it to some privileged communities (2009: 68).
This study is also situated within the eld of memory studies focused on the study
of loci such as monuments, sites, gures and rituals in which the past is recast in the
present (Halbwachs 1997; Nora 19841987). The archive is one such locus; its study
proves once again that shedding light on how collective memory works and is mediated
is deeply relevant if we want to capture the present concerns of a society. Lastly,
though acknowledging that Zanzibar society can be imagined in plural modes, accord-
ing to the social status, ethnic or racial identities, generational belonging, political afl-
iations and biographical trajectories of the individuals considered, this article relies on
Glassmans argument (2011) about the pervasiveness of racial thought in Zanzibar,
notably since the struggle for independence in the 1950s and early 1960s, which has
produced the essentialised categories of Arabs and Africans. This shared discourse
explains why todays various scripts of the revolution (Myers 2000), including those
prompted by the screening of Africa Addio, tend to replay the secular and deep-rooted
tropes about race and autochthony to dene identity and belonging, albeit more posi-
tive conceptions of Zanzibariness that re-coup the pre-revolutionary past to imagine an
ideal postracial society have emerged more recently.
Mondo shockumentaries
Be prepared to be disturbed! It is with this advertisement that a Mondo lm night was
organisedbyanacionado of this genre, Charles Kilgore, in the mid-1990s in Washington
DC, USA (Staples and Kilgore 1995). The warning aptly grasps the culture-shock treat-
ment that the screening of a series of sensationalist and extremely violent documentaries
lmed and released for a Western audience in the 1960s provoked. The Mondo lm genre,
this ugly bastard child of the documentary and the peepshow (Kilgore 1988: 2) invented
by several Italian lmmakers of the late 1950s, reached its apex with the controversial
Italian lmmakers Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi. The two high-prole
documentarians adopted a primitivist and voyeuristic stance to portray bizarre and exotic
customs (or unrestrained cruelty and perverted sexuality) in trash doc umentaries that
constituted the Mondo cycle, among them Mondo Cane (1963), Africa Addio (19 66)
and Addio Zio Tom (1972). Heir to patently staged and fake travel and exploration lms
of the 1930s to 195 0s that combined eld material with studio-staged scenes, the Mondo
lms constitute a cinema of attraction that blurs fact and ction and appeals to a voyeurist
pathology (Goodall 2006). Africa Addio is not, however, just another one of this Mondo
series: fans of the genre consider it the gr e atest Mondo lm, as it was the most shocking of
all. This masterpiece mixes scenes of violence and brutality exerted by Africans aga inst
wild animals in game re serves with the footage of Mau Mau rebels in Kenya, mass graves
of Arabs in Zanzibar, the rst genocides in Rwanda, and mercenary executions in Cong o.
Some of the lm posters added such taglines to the title: Consumed by savagery, conceived
in blood, Savagery! Brutality! Inhumanity! It bathed the world in blood! or This is
Africa like it is! Where Black is beautiful, Black is ugly, Black is brutal!
Shortly after
Africa Addio was released in Europe and the USA, scandalised re-
views were published to condemn the scenes of extreme violence that were so bluntly
FILM AS ARCHIVE 85
© 2016 European Association of Social Anthropologists.

Citations
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Abstract: (1995). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. History of European Ideas: Vol. 21, No. 5, pp. 721-722.

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Cites background from "Film as archive: Africa Addio and t..."

  • ...…archives can challenge what we consider material culture and/or an archive, as Fouéré suggests in her account of the film Africa addio as archive (Fouéré 2016), and De Jong demonstrates in his account of the disciples of Bamba in Senegal, who circumvent official archival understandings of their…...

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  • ...consider material culture and/or an archive, as Fouéré suggests in her account of the film Africa addio as archive (Fouéré 2016), and De Jong demonstrates in his account of the disciples of Bamba in Senegal, who circumvent official archival understandings of their faith╆s past through buildings and the cityscape (De Jong 2016)....

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References
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Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: (1995). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. History of European Ideas: Vol. 21, No. 5, pp. 721-722.

13,241 citations


"Film as archive: Africa Addio and t..." refers background in this paper

  • ...This study is inevitably inspired by, and resonates with conceptions of nationalism and nationhood as an ‘imagined community’ (Anderson 1983)....

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William Cunningham Bissell1Institutions (1)
Abstract: When contemporary Africans express nostalgia for the colonial past, how are we to make sense of such sentiments? Anthropologists have tended to ignore colonial nostalgia, reacting with dismissal or distaste. This article seeks to account for this avoidance, exploring nostalgia as a crucial source for anthropology and a constitutive feature of Western modernity. Nostalgic sentiments of loss and longing are shaped by specific cultural concerns and struggles; like other forms of memory practice, these desires must be engaged with in ethnographic terms and located within the changing contours of a contested social landscape. In urban Zanzibar, I argue that colonial nostalgia has emerged in a postrevolutionary context and is best understood as a diverse set of responses to neoliberal policies of urban restructuring.

194 citations


Book ChapterDOI
01 Jan 2002-
Abstract: The term ‘archives’ first refers to a building, a symbol of a public institution, which is one of the organs of a constituted state However, by ‘archives’ is also understood a collection of documents — normally written documents — kept in this building There cannot therefore be a definition of ‘archives’ that does not encompass both the building itself and the documents stored there

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"Film as archive: Africa Addio and t..." refers background in this paper

  • ...On the other hand, oral memories or written texts used to confront Africa Addio’s footage of the revolution provide no firm ground to (dis)qualify the documentary or to determine its archivability, in the sense defined by Mbembe (2002) and Appadurai (2003)....

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  • ...It reminds us that ‘archivability’ (Mbembe 2002: 19) does not rest in the hands of the state only....

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  • ...…that, as with other regimes, the Zanzibari state had thought it ‘could defer the archive’s ability to serve as proof of a suspect fragment of life or piece of time’ and tried to ‘shut down the past for once and for all so that (it) could write as if everything was started anew’ (Mbembe 2002: 23)....

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Journal ArticleDOI
Stuart Hall1Institutions (1)
01 Mar 2001-Third Text

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"Film as archive: Africa Addio and t..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Zanzibar had served as the main slave trading point for East Africa and the Indian Ocean in the 18th and 19th centuries and its economy flourished on a slave-based plantation system (Cooper 1980; Sheriff 1987)....

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