Mischief in the Archives

A person in a colourful costume made from strips of material dances in front of the entrance of the Bodleian Old Library

Credit: Ian Wallman


Mischief in the Archives

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  Saturday 27 January – Sunday 12 May 2024

 Blackwell Hall, Weston Library

About this display

Explore a personal journey to uncover family history, challenge preconceived narratives, and restore dignity to those the archives have long muted.

Musician and artist Peter Brathwaite has traced his roots back to the British-owned Codrington plantations in Barbados. During this research, he discovered the stories of three ancestors whose lives intersected amid the grim reality of slavery in 18th-century Barbados.

Using historical archives and personal objects, this display explores the process of this research. And reads the acts recorded as "mischievous" in historic records against the grain to reveal the diverse ways in which enslaved individuals resisted slavery to assert their humanity and personhood. Through this contemporary creative act, Peter Brathwaite proposes a so-called "counter-archive”.



Peter Brathwaite FRSA, is an acclaimed opera singer, writer, broadcaster, and visual artist who works across different art forms to excavate and platform the stories of suppressed voices. He is currently a visiting artist developing a project with the Humanities Cultural Programme, supported by the Bodleian Centre for the Study of the Book and the Humanities Cultural Programme/TORCH, and in partnership with the Bodleian Libraries project ‘We Are Our History’: Towards Racial Equity.

Other current and forthcoming exhibitions and displays

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