I have just two photographs remaining of my grandmother. In both the pictures, she has the sweetest smiles on her face and is clutching a child. When I look at them, I am swamped with fondness, followed by a sense of loss. I am reminded of how the archive becomes as, or even more important than the story itself. In them, I see a woman, a mother but I don't see her. There is so much that is lost. With time, the details, texture, and grain fade away — an inevitable fragmentation and distortion of memory. More bittersweet perhaps are the words never spoken, the stories I did not ask for, and those she never told me. Or those that I know, but cannot speak aloud. Stories concealed by notions of shame and secrecy, an attempt to protect the woman I love. Recording absences is a physical archive for my grandmother. One, that documents what remains, but also, and more importantly, what does not. It recognizes that people are not the sum of what they leave behind. I try to reconstruct the person she was, knowing all the while that it is an exercise in futility.
archiving technology; politics of representation; collective identity; memory making
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