The Rita Keegan Archive Project is a National Heritage Lottery funded project. The archive ranges from documents recording Keegan’s exhibitions at major museums and galleries such as the Horniman Museum, Institute of Contemporary Arts and Tate Gallery; to her curatorship of the Women of Colour Index (WOCI), a ground-breaking initiative to document Black and Asian women artists, established in 1987 and currently housed at Goldsmiths University, London. Also included is an assortment of rare ephemera from the Black British Art scene from the 1980s until the early 2000s and photographs documenting Keegan’s involvement in Soho nightlife and London’s clubland. From ongoing correspondence with British Indian conceptual artist Sutapa Biswas, to unpublished portraits by photographer and queer visual activist Ajamu, Keegan’s archive documents cultural kinship across generations.
Because of Keegan’s active involvement in various cultural and educational contexts and her personal archiving practice, this archive complements other key collections of contemporary Black art including AAVAA, Iniva, Stuart Hall Library and Panchayat, recently acquired by Tate Gallery. Keegan’s personal archive differs from existing archives of the period held by institutions such as the Women’s Art Library, Goldsmiths University or Tate Archive. Keegan’s archival sensibilities highlight the political dimension of archival practices. Her work at the Women’s Slide Library can be understood as a direct action, raising the visibility of the artwork by Women of Colour, mapping and supporting their practices by including them within the Index. RKAP will draw attention to archiving as a political project, disseminating heritage through mentoring a new generation of Black archivists.
By rescuing and bringing Keegan’s personal archive and artwork into a publicly accessible collection, we are able to see an example of the intertwined story of:
- Black Arts Movement
- Digital media experimentation
- Feminist archival practices