In March 2020, we placed safeguarding the Rita Keegan Archive Projects, teams health at the forefront and hit the pause button, due to Covid-19. Life, projects, events, work, school were on pause as everyone grappled to re-adjust to these unprecedented times and most adapted to the idea of working remotely, social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands regularly. RKAP wanted to take into consideration the issues raised in regards to the equity of online participation, we hadn’t wanted to make the assumption everyone has access to the same level of resource and or is technologically literate, there might be a need for training and education, even within our team, to help remove some of the barriers in this new environment and landscape.
The RKAP faced a number of unforeseen delays in 2019, to get the Project up and running and in March we were on the cusp of getting it on its feet. Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski, Dominique Z. Barron and Lauren Craig had just worked alongside Rita Keegan to install an archival exhibition1 at the South London Gallery. The exhibition includes exhibition ephemera, audio visual material, and includes portraits by both Ajamu and Rotimi Fani-Kayode, and related publications and a resource folder. The exhibit which was supposed to run February – May 2020 was an unexpected opportunity that the RKAP Team grasped with both hands. Matt Harle continued to liaise with the contributors of Rita’s forthcoming publication and Gina Nembhard and Naomi Pearce continued to be the driving creative and curative force working with Rita and South London Gallery team, in preparation of Rita’s solo show, which was supposed to have opened in June at the South London Gallery, which is now due to open Spring 2021. We were just in the midst of building the project website, establishing our social media platforms, putting and confirming dates in the diary, for the duration of the project and creating the project infrastructure.
Then in June, the murder of George Floyd brought Black Lives Matter into focus, and for a moment it felt overwhelming between the global uprising and amongst all the black squares and institutional statements responding to the reality and impact of institutional racism on a global scale. The world lens is in a starkly different place, from where we had begun in January of this year and in many ways Rita’s work brings many of these issues into focus and her archive and personal papers can be used as a unique tool for learning in this critical moment. Rita’s artwork, practise and archive both challenges and engages with contemporary conversations around museums, race, memorialisation and technology. Particularly with increasing public attention and interest in the art histories of Black artists in British institutions. We are hoping to draw attention to RKAP and Rita Keegan’s work, for example Time Machine: Ancient Egypt and Contemporary Art Exhibition (1994)2 at the British Museum and early adoption of new technologies will create more opportunities to explain and interpret the archive materials for a captive online audience, we hope this will mean reaching vastly more people than was initially anticipated in the project plan.
We will be announcing updates as they come and sharing with you what we have been doing and snapshots of the ongoing journey of this community led art and archival project. Creating opportunities to learn about the work and legacy of the artist, educator and archivist, Rita Keegan. Listen to a recent interview with Rita Keegan as she reflects with Ben Luke from The Arts Newspaper, Week in Art podcast on her postponed show and themes within her work.
Here are some ways to engage with the Rita Keegan Archive Project in the meantime:
- join our mailing list to keep up to speed with our future plans,
- follow us on Twitter, or
- join our Facebook group.
So please bear with us as we modify our plans, in this new environment and continue to consider and be mindful of our small teams wellbeing, whilst we rebuild our momentum, connect and expand our community and roll out our project plans. We would like to thank the National Heritage Lottery Fund for their ongoing support and guidance during this unique time.
- The Rita Keegan Archive (Project) at South London Gallery, free exhibition temporarily closed.
- Time Machine: Ancient Egypt and Contemporary Art Exhibition in 1994, Rita Keegan exhibited alongside, Liliane Karnouk, Marc Quinn, Peter Randall-Page, Alexander Mihaylovich, David Hiscock, Igor Mitroroaj, Jiri Kolar, Kate Whiteford, Martin Riches, Stephen Cox, Andy Goldsworthy and James Putnam.