A conversation between multidisciplinary artist Tsedaye Makonnen and curator Nydia A. Swaby in celebratation of the publication of Black Women as/and the Living Archive, edited by Makonnen and WPA’s Jordan Martin. Makonnen and Swaby’s conversation serves as an extension of this living archive. They discuss how Black women use the practice of archiving and relationship-building for their survival and joy, and how this project is very much alive and in continuum due to the ongoing nature of its relationships. Watch the recording here.

The book is a part of a larger project of the same name that Makonnen organized in the spring and summer of 2020 with WPA. Central to Makonnen's inquiry is Alisha B. Wormsley’s Children of NAN: Mothership, a film that functions as a metaphor for the survival and power of Black women in a dystopic future. The cast and collaborators of the film all participated in the multi-event project including Lisa E. HarrisJasmine Hearn, Autumn Knight, Ingrid LaFleur, and Jamila Raegan. The publication chronicles the project’s development and realization during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout the Black Lives Matter uprisings. It captures the relationships and interactions between participants and the audience, and documents the participating artists’ visionary contributions, which included new performances. Additionally, it includes newly commissioned writing by Yona Harvey, Ladi’Sasha JonesJessica Lanay, and Jo Stewart, and an annotated bibliography by Ola Ronke, creator of The Free Black Women's Library. The publication has been beautifully designed by Rheagen King.

The first printing of “Black Women as/and the Living Archive” sold out early but the second is now available. The publication costs $50 plus shipping and tax and can be pre-ordered here.

About the Participants

Nydia A. Swaby is a black feminist researcher, writer, and curator based in London. Her practice builds on theories of racial, gendered, and diasporic formation, black feminism, black studies, and her previous experience working at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Nydia is a member of Feminist Review’s Editorial Collective and co-edited a recent issue on Archives (July 2020). She is currently writing an experimental biography about pan-African feminist Amy Ashwood Garvey that uses her archive, life, and activism to ask broader questions about the futurity of black feminist archives and archival research (Lawrence Wishart, Summer 2022). Nydia is Curator of Learning at the London Institute of Contemporary Arts and will soon begin a Caird Research Fellowship in Caribbean, African, Atlantic histories, and material cultures at Royal Museums Greenwich. She has a PhD in gender studies from SOAS University of London. 

Tsedaye Makonnen is a multidisciplinary artist, curator, and researcher. She has exhibited at Art Dubai, UAE; The Momentary, Bentonville, AR; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Park Avenue Armory, New York, NY; UNTITLED Art Fair, Miami, FL; and 1:54 Art Fair London, UK. Makonnen is currently exhibiting her work at CFHILL, Stockholm, Sweden, National Museum of Women in the Arts in DC and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Md. Her light sculptures were recently acquired by the Smithsonian for their permanent collection. She will join the Clark Art Institute in 2022 as their Futures Fellow. Makonnen is represented by Addis Fine Art.

Photo by Ayana Evans


This and other WPA projects are made possible by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts; Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Hickok Cole Architects, and many other generous foundations, corporations, and individuals. 

Below photos taken by Alisha B. Wormsley


Sunday, July 18 from 3:00–4:30 pm EDT

Photo gallery