How to navigate this site?

This website is an archive continually in the making. Here I document my research process and display the multi-media output – central to my media ecological work. I invite you to explore the voices and places with me in text, audio, video, and photo.

On the frontpage icons will indicate the media content featured in each story. You can listen to the recordings while you watch the images. Read the text before or after. In other words, feel free to explore the material at your own pace.

The stories are not chronologically but thematically ordered (although dates will indicate when a recording/documentation took place).

In addition, you can follow my current activities through the blog, or read more about me and my work in About Lene Asp.

Sesemi, Ghana, February 15, 2019

Greeted by the The Chief Of Sesemi at Frederiksgave

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When the Danish author Thorkild Hansen went to visit the former Danish plantation Frederiksgave in the late 1960s, it was a ruin. However, recently it has been renovated with support from the Danish National Museum, and today – since 2007 – it stands completely rebuilt following historical drawings, on a steep hill with a view on a clear day to Legon Hill on the outskirts of Accra, about 25 km away. I visited the cultural heritage site with William Nsuiban who works for the National Museum of Ghana and with Anita Adjetey, the Cultural Officer at the Ga East Municipal Assembly. Immediately upon arrival – and to my great surprise – we were greeted by the chief of Sesemi, Nii Anum Mumli II of Sesemi, who resides in a building adjacent to the rebuilt plantation grounds.

In postcolonial scholar Lars Jensen’s book Postcolonial Denmark – Nation Narration in a Crisis Ridden Europe (2018) he touches upon the paradoxical role of restoration efforts in the former colonies (this quote relating specifically to Tranquebar in India): “On the one hand it is emphasized the physical remains of the Danish presence still dominate the township. Yet, the question is whether that would have been the case if restorations had not taken place […]. Hence colonial legacy is arguably continuously restaged through restoration work.” 

Thorkild Hansen’s slave trilogy

Medial scapes and the imprint of history

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In the late 1960s the Danish author Thorkild Hansen wrote the docu-fiction trilogy Slavernes kyst (1967, transl.: Coast of Slaves, 2002), Slavernes skibe (1968, transl.: Ships of Slaves, 2007), and Slavernes øer (1970, transl.: Islands of Slaves, 2005).

Thorkild Hansen wrote his much lauded documentary book trilogy, for which he received the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize in 1971, on the basis of archival research, and we must remember in a time when access to archival material was practically more difficult – compared to today, when many sources have been digitized – due to the plain fact that one had to move physically about from institution to institution. Yet, he painstakingly researches his way through the archives, as a historian, and perhaps more extraordinarily he also travels to significant historical sites along the former Trans-Atlantic trade route between Denmark, Ghana, and the US Virgin Islands, conversing like a journalist with people he meets on his way.


The Tamarind Allée

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William Nsuiban, head of public relations at the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board, who also works for the National Museum of Ghana, shows me remnants of a tamarind allée that used to stretch all the way from Christiansborg (or Osu castle) by the coast to the Danish built and run Frederiksgave plantation at the foot of the Akwapim mountains. The enslaved would carry the colonizers in hammocks in the shadow up to the plantation.

Today there are 17 trees left at this particular spot. A sign has been put up by the National Museum of Ghana in order to help preserve the allée. The attempt to preserve the allée is carried out in dialogue with neighboring villagers who do not necessarily share the ambition to consider the trees primarily as important historical agents when they also serve as rather useful firewood, or, indeed, as a source of shade. In this environmental archive entangled narratives of past and present are caught in a power struggle for a possible future.

Accra, Ghana, February 15, 2019

Interview with professor Wellington in his garden

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I met Henry Wellington, a now retired professor of archaeology from the University of Ghana, at his home on the outskirts of Accra. Here I interviewed him about his docu-fiction, Stones Tell Stories at Osu – Memories of a Host Community of the Danish Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

In his book about the Danish influence in Osu stories are told from a local perspective and with an emphasis on oral history as he remembers it from his childhood and through the stories he was able to collect for the book project.

Diary from Athens, Greece, November, 2020

In the middle of the second wave of the covid-19 pandemic in Europe …

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In the middle of the second wave of the covid-19 pandemic in Europe I’m leaving for Athens. What am I honestly thinking? I’m not a risk seeker, though. I’ve just been caught in my own company for too long. I’m thinking to escape claustrophobia. Maybe I’ll succeed. Maybe not. Never in my lifetime, perhaps apart from the surreal filmic event of the 9/11 crashes, have I had such an eerie, gloomy feeling about the state of the world. Let me set the stage: I spent the first month of the annus horribilis in Marais where the weather allowed us to drink coffee outside, on the local corner café, La Perle. How, in retrospect, undisturbed and fragile the normality of the scene was.

LINKÖPING, Sweden, NOVEMBER 22, 2019

Colonial Media Ecologies – Entanglements of Colonial Environments

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How do we narrate colonial entanglements – of voices, places, archives – from a Nordic perspective today? This seminar explores formats of narrating colonial history, from travelogues and historiography, to new materialist approaches that might harbor a multi-perspectival and multi-voiced opening up of the colonial heritage. Can we imagine new agencies by emphasizing the entangled media ecologies and environments in which we are all still culturally brought together across distances in the vast global afterlife of slavery and colonization?

Copenhagen, Denmark, October 29, 2019

Guided tour of the Danish West-Indian warehouse

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In the fall of 2019 as part of the seminar Colonial (Dis)appearances in the Art Museum, hosted by SMK (Statens Museum for Kunst), the National Gallery of Denmark, the curator Henrik Holm gave a tour entitled “Art Walk With the Ghosts of the West Indian Warehouse”. This story is currently under development but will soon feature an audio montage weaving together the tour of the West-Indian Warehouse with recordings from my tour of the Frederiksgave plantation in Ghana.
Stay tuned.

A media-sensitive approach to history

Re-sounding the colonial archive

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Andreas Fickers and Annie van den Oever (2013) call for a media-sensitive approach to history, and I draw inspiration from their emphasis on the multi-sensorial and media-specific modalities of knowledge formation:

“In engaging with the historical artifacts, we aim at stimulating our sensorial appropriation of the past and thereby critically reflecting the (hidden or non-verbalized) tacit knowledge that informs our engagement with media technologies. In doing experimental media archaeology, we want to plead for a hands-on, ears-on, or an integral sensual approach towards media technologies”.

Voices, Places & Archives

Is a documentary site about my research in colonial ecologies. Here you can read about my fieldtrips, research seminars, diaries and articles as work in progress. I document my encounters and meetings with people and places that inspire me because I view research and knowledge creation as an open-ended, experimental collective and collaborative process.

Colonial archives depict a violent past which some images and texts on this website will reflect. The aim of the site is to enhance our understanding of the period in order to grasp how it still affects us all.