An image of Pauline and Niamh Rutter sitting at their laptops together. Pauline is looking at Niamh as they decipher something, in the foreground of the shot is a desk covered in documents that are informing the curation of The Black Living Archive.

The Black Living Archive

October 2022

It’s Black History Month and in response to ONCA’s open call for a process-oriented artist residency that responds to this year’s theme Time for Change: Action Not Words, we’re delighted to announce that three Black activists from one family are curating The Black Living Archive. 

This collaborative project brings together the energies, expertise and intellectual and cultural production of Pauline Rutter, Niamh Rutter and Bo Rutter who take their inspiration from their varied physical and online networks. The Black Living Archive embodies a process of decolonisation by subverting the established processes of archiving which have roots in colonialism. Acknowledging a sense of cyclical time, The Black Living Archive expresses experiences of personal, environmental and political space that resonate across Black diasporic past, present and future histories. 

An image of Niamh Rutter sitting at a table covered in documents, images and post-it notes during a curation process. Niamh's profile is to the camera as she looks across the room at someone to ask a question.

Whilst onboard ONCA Barge Pauline, Niamh and Bo approach their residency informed by Black feminist principles of collective radical care. This is manifested in the ways they show up in the space, cultivating a relaxed atmosphere that allows for authentic contemplation during the curation process. The soundtrack features Black female musicians, the scent of tea billows and snacks lie around the space as an energising imperative. The Black Living Archive is the first of its kind, adopting an intersectional* and intergenerational* approach to the archiving process that is inspired by the images, words and creative pathways seeded by folk from across the Brighton and South-East Black diaspora. 

About the Artists

Pauline (56) is cultural producer, published poet and PhD history researcher working across the themes of social, racial and environmental equity and justice. Her daughter Niamh (22), a fellow historian, recently graduated from Sussex University. There, they focused on archives whilst also engaging with activist networks and designing and leading social media campaigns focused on equality, representation, politics,  solidarity, decolonising the curriculum and Black and ethnically minoritised community building. Bo (18) is both daughter and sister respectively and has just started a degree in illustration at Brighton University. She is a volunteer at Afrori Books and recently became a Penguin Books listed illustrator. 

The outputs of this residency will be shared throughout October and exhibited at ONCA gallery in December. Watch this space as ways to participate emerge. 

Thank you to Enjoolata Foundation for their support with ONCA Barge residencies.

An digital image of the Enjoolata Foundation logo.




*intergenerational = relating to, affecting, or involving several generations 


*intersectional = from intersectionality, an analytical framework for understanding how systems of inequality that are dependent on an individual’s social and political identities (e.g. class, gender, race, disability, sexual orientation etc.) interact to shape unique dynamics or experiences