Project Background

Production background and credits
Retracing Heinrich Barth (2006/2007)

The project received financial support from the Arts Council South East, England; the University of Brighton made some research time available to Julia Winckler through the Cultural Heritage Informatics Research Oriented Network Project (CHIRON).  The project received in kind support in Niger through the DED Niger and in Germany through the Heinrich Barth Society, Cologne, Germany.

The project was led by Julia Winckler in collaboration with Sam Butler, senior designer at Web Technology Group and Lecturer in interactive Multimedia at City College Brighton & Hove and at Sussex Downs College, Lewes and with Mia Thornton, Chiron Research Fellow, University of Brighton 2005/2006 .

Central to the site are multiple stories, Heinrich Barth’s own writings and local community voices, which all explore interpretations of Barth’s influence on present day life in the region. The site addresses cross cultural and postcolonial issues. One of the central questions raised is the tension between reality and fiction: for example, what role do the stories, myths and the existence of the Barth room play in the consciousness of the local population of Agadez? What is the symbolic significance of having a Barth room in a town that he wrote about extensively and got to know well?

For this project photography became the main medium to register and work with stories and memories; however interviews and texts by and about Barth as well as video footage have also been included.

In late 2005, Julia approached Sam Butler and Mia Thornton with the idea of developing Retracing Heinrich Barth into an online project. Mia’s background is in graphic and web design, as well as researching the social and cultural implications of ICTs for humanity. She is concerned with bridging the gap between technology and history, and wants to emphasize content over technology. Mia worked closely with Julia in articulating the project’s conceptual background, structuring the project’s architecture and devising some of the design methodology.

Sam has a background in interactivity, interface and creative design.
From the beginning, it was clear to us that one of the project’s strengths was dealing with a rich and varied amount of content. The intersection of history and technology is currently dealt with in many projects, yet these projects tend to prioritise the technology over communicating the core messages. These projects are technologically determined rather than viewing technology as an approach for dealing with historical issues of post colonialism and intercultural in ways other media cannot.

Retracing Heinrich Barth attempts to overcome the historical content and technology gap by presenting Barth’s myths and stories in an interactive way, whilst embedded within broader social structures. The aims and objectives of the project demanded a solution that involved a high level of interactivity between the content and user, so the user was not only learning about Heinrich Barth and Niger but also able to reflect critically on the several issues inherent in the project. Structuring the content and narrative in a dynamic and evolving way means that different historical times, events and geographies could be presented, as well as emphasising the multiple perspectives often connected with artefacts, objects and collections. Being online means the project is readily accessible to many people and it is hoped in later stages the project will be accessible in multiple languages, including French.

The issue of interculturalism or cross-culturalism is then integral to Retracing Heinrich Barth. This is not only because multiple voices are presented from various regions, generations and nationalities but also because the project aims to encourage cultural perspectives from users. This is a unique project for people to experience and interact with an often-overlooked aspect of Niger – and it is hoped that the project will reinforce connections between local communities there and elsewhere.


Production Credits:
Julia would like to say a very special thank you to Sam Butler and Mia Thornton for their unfaltering enthusiasm, extraordinary skills and support in developing a web-based version of Retracing Heinrich Barth
Interpreter in Niger: Sarhid Efes Hamadalher
Driver in the Aïr: Ahmed Mouta
Community photography project participants:
Adou Abo, Sarhid Efes Hamadalher, Mohammed Tambo, Raissa Ladi, Ousmane Adamou, Hamidou Jariri, Rakyia Mahamadou, Hadjara Hassane
Interviewees in Niger:
Ibrahim Manzo Diallo, Elhaji Kane Ahmed, His Excellency the Sultan of Agadez, the residents of the Barth compound; the village elders of Tintellust;
Hed Tamat, Agadez, Niger; Aliman Assajid
Postproduction support:
Video editing: Mia Thornton.
Additional production support (video, sound) was provided by Nick Weeksie, Steve Gregory, John Warr, Paul Lyons
Male reader:
Serge Clifford

Julia Winckler wishes to thank:
In Niger: Thomas Knoll (DED Niger, Agadez) for providing the impetus for this project, welcoming me to Agadez and providing much onsite assistance; Silke Harting (DED Niger, Niamey), and Sarhid Efes Hamadalher (Iferouane) and the Hamadalher family in Iferouane for their hospitality in Niger. 

In the UK: Dr. Benedetta Rossi (for sharing the Sultan of Agadez firearm anecdote with me from her personal archive);
Dr. Richard Fardon, Joy Onyejiako, Barbara Spina and John Hollingworth at SOAS, London, where Retracing Heinrich Barth will be exhibited from July to September 2008 in the Brunei Gallery.
The Arts Council South East, Brighton, in particular Daniel Bernstein and Tessa Fitzjohn;
The Royal Geographical Society, London, and in particular Eugene Rae and Joy Wheeler for allowing me to reproduce photographs by Sir Francis Rodd from their collection;
At the University of Brighton: Karen Norquay, Prof. David Arnold, Anne Boddington and Dr. Catherine Moriarty
Dr. Paulo Farias; Dr. Murray Last; Dea Birkett;

In Germany: Prof. Klaus Schneider, President of the Heinrich Barth Gesellschaft, Cologne; Bettina Haasen

In France: Lydie Mangatal-Wade, Assane Wade and Joël Pouzadoux And my family and friends for their ongoing support throughout: Keith Kennedy; Mikhaël Missakabo; Vincent Peckham; Nerea Martinez de Lecea; Julie Thomas; Anke and Lutz Winckler and Ian Hockaday.


All images © Julia Winckler 2006