Accepted Paper:

Wembley 1924-25: Africa and Africans in the Presentation and Performance of the British Empire  
Imruh Bakari (University of Winchester)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will interrogate a selection from the ‘colonial film archives’, which offers a record of the British Empire Exhibition of 1924 and 1925.The discussion will engage with this ‘performance’ of Empire, as an attempted to frame an enactment of Africa and Africans for the British public.

Paper long abstract:

The British Empire Exhibition marked the first international event staged in London at the venue, later to be known as Wembley Stadium. On the occasion of the official opening the exhibition, 23 April 1924, the then monarch, King George V, spoke to the ‘nation’ on radio for the first time. Official histories record that over its duration, at annual intervals between 1924 and 25, the exhibition at the new ‘stadium’, was the centre-piece for showcasing the produce and manufactured goods, arts and crafts, as well as historical artefacts, from each of the Dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Newfoundland, and the Irish Free State), ‘British India’, and Britain’s African and Caribbean Colonies. Along with the accompanying cultural programmes and conferences, the event attracted at least 17 million visitors in the first year. Africa and Africans were arguably the defining feature. In this regard, the context of a post-1919 British and world history within which, the ‘British Empire’ was at the fulcrum, will be considered. From a postcolonial perspective, the presentation of Africa and the incorporation of individuals from designated territories of West Africa in particular, will be interrogated. The aim will be to focus on the archive images of record, in relation to other material, including photographs, brochures, flyers, maps, and newspaper reports; and to engage with the ways in which the event, as a ‘performance’ of the Empire, framed an enactment of Africa and Africans for the British public, as part of an international audience.

Panel P27a
Colonial Film Archives: Interrogations and Interventions
  Session 1