Representing Blackness: Marcus Garvey and the Politics of Museology in Post-Colonial Jamaica
thesisposted on 26.09.2013, 10:34 by Donna Elaine McFarlane
Historically Black people in the Western Hemisphere have lacked power to represent their stories to themselves, from their perspective in museums. In spite of the fact that African Universities, like 14th century Djenne University in Timbuktu, with thousands of volumes of books and manuscripts, existed before the rise of Western civilizations; Black children in the Western Hemisphere learn that Africans did not have a written history justifying the burden of Europeans to write Africa’s history. African history books from the perspective of enlightened Black scholarship have been written for centuries but are not widely known in Black communities and are not routinely a part of the curricula in western educational systems. The result is wide scale historical amnesia among Black people about their ancient histories. Through extensive desk research and exploration of issues of self-identity in the course of my work as Director of Liberty Hall, I am able to pose answers to the questions of where and how do we make a start at stimulating memory, and in representation of these memories in museums? This study explores the historical bases upon which representation of Black histories have been made in the educational system and in museums in post-colonial Jamaica; and proposes that when representation draws on the work of enlightened scholarship it reveals a historical legacy of strength, innovation, and resilience that makes a powerful contribution to Black education and to that of others. More importantly, it affects and reinforces positive self-identity, one of the cornerstones of modern museology. The Marcus Mosiah Garvey Multimedia Museum is an exercise in memory, modern museology, and in involvement of the surrounding communities in charting the museums’ developmental course. Reinterpretation of Liberty Hall, a national monument, facilitates a comprehensive approach to representation of ‘our’ story, with the museum as its central educational tool.