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Living Lineages: Bajuni Lives in the Powell-Cotton Photographic Archive

Living Lineages exhibition

An exhibition exploring how a team of researchers traced the origins of a set of photographs of Bajuni people from the 1930s, offering new ways of interpreting Britain’s colonial archives.

Living Lineages is a selection of photographs from the 1930s of the community inhabiting the Bajuni islands, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean that runs from Kismayo on the southern coast of Somalia down to Kiwayuu Island in northern Kenya.

The photographs were taken by budding anthropologist Diana Powell-Cotton in 1934-35, whose family’s collection, the Powell-Cotton Museum, holds the archive of around 800 images taken in Somalia.

Digitised in 2015, these images began to circulate through social networks, reaching Faiz Mohammad Shee, a member of the Somali Bajuni diaspora community in Kenya. Shee identified his great grandmother, two of her sisters, and many more of the people in the photographs, providing an opportunity to come to know their stories, lives and journeys, and rekindling interest in a written genealogy of the Bajuni Island.

Curated by Abira Hussein, Faiz Mohammad Shee and Kathleen Lawther.

Research made possible by a Headley Fellowship with Art Fund.

Living Lineages is part of The Edge of the Centre, the Barbican’s public programme that invites artists, cultural workers and organisations in the areas surrounding the Barbican to curate and co-produce events in the centre’s venues.

Living Lineages: Bajuni Lives in the Powell-Cotton Photographic Archive

Experience the exhibition online

Barbican Library