‘Poetics and Politics’ is the third and last exhibition in the series ‘Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive’, curated by Tamar Garb. The show presents a range of previously unseen vintage portraits, cartes de visite, postcards, and album pages from Southern and Eastern Africa, produced from the 1870s to the early twentieth century.
The exhibition makes visible both the ideological frameworks that prevailed during the colonial period in Africa and the exceptional skill of photographers working in the studio and landscape. The culmination of ‘Distance and Desire, Poetics and Politics’ offers a remarkable opportunity to view the narratives that emerge from this African photographic archive, describing in particular the experience of the studio – the curiosity between subject and photographer, the negotiations of costume and pose, and the will for self-representation. The exhibition investigates typical European depictions of Africans, from scenes in nature, to sexualized images of semi-nude models, to modern sitters posing in elaborate studios, critically addressing the politics of colonial- ism and the complex issues of gender and identity.
Among over 75 vintage prints, Poetics and Politics includes a selection of elegant studio portraits by Samuel Baylis Barnard, one of Cape Town’s most prominent nineteenth century photographers. Original album pages of landscapes and ethnographic imagery are displayed alongside a series of carte de visite portraits of Africans, created in the 1870s in the Diamond Fields of Kimberley, South Africa. The exhibition also features several double-sided displays of album pages, showing striking combinations of personal and stock images, and the juxtapositions of prominent figures in both African and Western contexts.
On June 8, 2013 the expanded exhibition incorporating all three parts of ‘Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive’ will open at The Walther Collection in Neu-Ulm, Germany.
Hlonipha Mokoena and Cheryl Finley in conversation on The South African Photo Album ?April 9, 2013 at 7pm ?Hlonipha Mokoena is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. Cheryl Finley is Associate Professor of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University.