From February 25 to March 04, 2023, Ouagadougou (capital of Burkina-Faso) hosted the 28th edition of the FESPACO (Panafrican Film and Television Festival). While the best African and African diaspora movie directors, producers, actors were meeting and networking, an important side-event was taking place, providing a platform for audovisual archivists, cinematheques and heirs of famous deceased movie directors (Sembene Ousmane, Henri Duparc, Paulin Soumanou Vieyra…) to address issues inherent to archives and their preservation, and suggest ways to solve them.
For three days, the Director of the African Cinematheque of Ouagadougou, along with fellow archivists discussed and exchanged experiences, expertise and tips as to how to preserve and protect 60 or even 70 years old reels. Further conversations highlighted the importance of the profession of archivist and how to overcome its shortcomings. Several speakers brought up the responsibility of the archivist in saving, diffusing and valuing the African memory, the African heritage. Among others, concerns about potential ways through which the African cinematographic heritage could be restituted, or processes via which an inalienable element could be restituted or at least made available to the individuals to whom it primarily relates to, and even how to create new originals stemming from cinematographic archives were enthusiastically debated.
The archivist can actively contribute in rigthing the wrongs of (de)colonisation and the wiping of parts of African history and memory. Beyond the technical aspects of their profession, archivists are also (mainly?) in charge of restoring lost or forgotten parts of people’s identities. African audiovisual archivists are the link between the African past, people’s present and their future.