Saman is an archive of photographic negatives collected across Ghana. Initiated by artist Adjoa Armah in 2015, the archive currently numbers approximately 100,000 images dating from 1963 to the early 2010’s. Named Saman, after the Akan word for ghost, and also used colloquially to refer to the photographic negative, the ghost, particularly as it is articulated in Ghanaian popular and folk culture, is a guiding conceptual figure in the archive. The archive is the foundation of Armah's practice, at the heart of which is a preoccupation with what it might mean to form and dwell in an archive otherwise; as an extension of Black liberatory thought and expansion of imaginative horizons. Through research, performance, writing, programming, installation, sound, and film, Armah uses the journey of the archive’s formation as a point of departure to explore notions of return, the scales of intimacy in Black life, the now of historical consciousness, and the -graphy of the ethnographic encounter.
At Gasworks, Armah will continue working on I know you’re you, but can’t we just try to be me sometimes? Initially conceptualised as a written piece based on the archive's contents, it is part ethnography, part autobiography and part travelogue. The project has shifted focus to working with the material possibilities of the archive and ways in which the figure of the ghost could guide display.
Medium x 6: a chapter from a long-term project titled, I know you’re you but can’t we just try to be me sometimes? This chapter focusses on my relationship with a traditional priest who once told me I should have been a powerful medium. In it I begin to take a narrative approach to exploring the various meanings of the word medium across artistic and spiritual realms, what this might mean for the formation of an archive of photographic negatives that should not exist, and the responsibilities that come along with collecting other people's private lives as material. During my time at Gasworks, I have begun a process of experimentation using audio fragments from this chapter and sculptural representations of photographic negatives to articulate the relationship between the contents of Saman Archive and the conditions of its emergence.
Adjoa Armah lives and works in London. She works as a design/visual anthropologist, writer, and archivist. From May to November 2019 she was the inaugural Writer-in-Residence at Afterall Journal, publishing articles responding to the work of Kudzenia Violet Hwami, Belinda Zhawi, Nolan Oswald Dennis, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, and Black Quantum Futurism, among others.
Gasworks Studio Residencies are a response to outbreak of Covid-19, which has caused the postponement our international residency programme. Until the programme can resume, the residency studios have been made available to London-based artists and writers who are currently unable to afford their own dedicated workspace.