Manifesting Identities:

Memory, Myth and Legacy in African America

Emmanuel C. Nwandu
Bachelor of Architecture

Advised by:
Samantha Stern-Leaphart
Mary-Lou Arscott
Heather Bizon
Dick Block
Hal Hayes

Studio coordinated by Heather Bizon and Sarah Rafson

Themes: Narrative | Identity | Culture

View the full book here
View Manny’s other work here
Manifesting Identities aims to detail, augment, transpose and break open the notion of archival documents by fictionalizing them, to reveal a richer image of black social life, and to make accessible someone else’s view and experiences of the world. It uses fragmentation to imply a whole. It places us in a more intimate setting, imagining the things whispered behind closed doors, amplifying the moments of withholding, laying bare the radical thinking and diversity of thought, too often thought extinguished. Black is not a monolith. To this end, I employed Saidiya Hartman’s mode of close narration that places me, the voice of the narrator,  and the characters entangled, so the vision, language, and rhythm of the wayward shape the text, as I re-discover, re-document, and re-imagine memory, myth, and legacy in African America.

All the characters and events in this project are  NOT real;  some are semi-fictional. What I know about the lives of these characters has been curated as a semi-fictitious archive, with the information taking the form of journals, interviews, audio notes, photographs, news articles, police reports, video, transcripts, architectural drawings and etc. In this project, I made use of a vast range of archival materials and modes, including real memories, the subjective archive which reflows and reshapes with time. The project leverages the inherent power and authority of the archive to set limits on what can be known and by whom, and whose stories matter, to translate the city into the sensory and capture the rich landscape of black social life - the quotidian and the refractory.



Conduct: personal behavior; way of acting; one’s bearing or demeanor. Charismatic or reticent, altruistic or manipulative. Conduct: the manner in which an organization or activity is managed or directed. Like, the company is in deep crisis due to their negligent conduct. Conduct: the execution or accomplishment of certain tasks. Conduct: the way in which a person lives Conduct: to lead; guide; escort. To act as the leader for a musical performance by communicating to the performers, through the motion of the baton or hands his or her interpretation of the music. . Conduct: to serve as a medium for conveying. Conduction: (Physics) the transfer of heat between two parts of a stationary system, caused by a temperature difference between the two parts; the transmission through a conductor (a substance, body, or devices that readily conveys, heat, electricity, sound, etc. Conduction: Physiology. The carrying of sounds waves, electrons, heat, or nerve impulses by a nerve or other tissue. As in the conveyance, proliferation, transmission, and dissemination of sound, information, experience, or life. Conduction: the breaking of chains, emotionally, physically, and mentally. The power to be moved from one location to another. As in slaves were conducted from the South to the North. As in the means by which we move to freedom. Through the power of our stories. Our individual and collective histories, our love, our loss, our grief, and our joy. We call upon it all, and from the strength of our memories, we are moved.

Conduction depicts the pool of such memories. Inspired by Marshall Greens' writings on Aunt Ethel - the storyteller, the poet, the historian, the griot - of the community. She would take them on a journey. As a conductor she would lead them, guide them. Where? Well, It is different for everyone. Where will your conduction take you?

a silent river
Splash! into the deep I plunge
please remember me


Breathe: to take air, oxygen, etc. into the lungs; to inhale and exhale; respire. Breathe: (of skin) to absorb oxygen and give off perspiration, (of a material) to allow air and moisture to pass through easily. This building has a breathable facade. Breathe: (of wine) to be exposed to air after being uncorked, in order to develop flavor and bouquet. Breathe: to blow lightly or move gently, as air. Breathe: to infuse, inject as if by breathing. Breathe: to giver utterance; whisper. She breathed a prayer of thanks when she heard his key in the door last night. Breathe: to cause to pant, due to exercise, or stress. His breathing was heavy after he ran. Breathe: to pause; allow for rest; recover breath; a respite. I need a minute, can I have a minute to breathe, please? Can I just catch my breath? Breath: the air drawn in or expelled from the lungs to provide the generative source for most speech sounds; the audible expiration generating voiceless sounds, as, (p), (sh), (k), etc. Like how can they answer you if they can’t breathe? Your knee is on his neck, he can’t breathe, he can’t speak.

Breath(e) examines our relationship to breathing, and how at times it can feel like a commodity held in reserve for the privileged. Now has been an interesting time to reevaluate our relationship to the words breath(e). I can’t breathe. We can’t breathe. Have echoed loudly in our streets, in hashtags, and in our private conversations for months, and for some of us far longer. This has been in relation to both the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing systemic police brutality. Breathe: live; exist; vitality. Inspired by Marshall Greens' writings and drawings during the Vietnam war, the piece speaks to modern-day social hierarchies and the racial, classist, and cultural calculus of valued and disposable lives.

We took a breath, then held our breath, while we watched a man take his last breath.

Fire and Bullets, O,
how it paints the street in red,
O, spare the children



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