Posts Tagged ‘The Walther Collection

03
Oct
13

Exhibition: ‘Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive Part II’ at The Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm, Germany

Exhibition dates: 9th June 9 2013 – 17th May 2015

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This is the last in my trilogy of postings on exhibitions titled Distance and Desire which have featured African art from The Walther Collection, this time focusing on contemporary art.

It is quite instructive to compare this posting with the last, the exhibition My Country, I Still Call Australia Home: Contemporary Art from Black Australia at The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane. I feel (a critical word) that there is a completely different atmosphere to most of this contemporary art when compared to the Australian iteration. Despite both groups surviving horrendous experiences and the ongoing memories of those acts, there seems to be a lightness of spirit to most of the contemporary African art, a delightful irony, a self deprecating humour, a less backward looking sadness than evidenced in the Australian work.

Of course there are intense moments when contemporary artists mine (and that is an appropriate word, for many Africans worked in servitude in the mines during the Apartheid period) the colonial archive, such as Carrie Mae Weems blood red tondos, You Became a Scientific Profile / An Anthropological Debate / A Negroid Type / A Photographic Subject (1995-1996, below) but what is more in evidence here is a dramatic sense of fashion and the performative and playful manner in which contemporary African identities are explored coupled with a strength in the representation of these identities. These are strong, forthright individuals not hidden off camera or dressed up in European dreamings imagin(in)g utopian “what ifs”; not the obvious crosses on black chests or deleted, delineated faces made of gum blossoms – but vital, alive, present human beings. While both groups of artists use traditional symbology to explore issues of identity and representation, the Australian version often seems dragged down by the portrayed dichotomy between past and present, traditional and contemporary/subversive, as though there must always be a reckoning, a longing, a sadness constantly reiterated in/with the past.

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Many thankx to The Walther Collection for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images Courtesy of The Walther Collection.

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Part II: Contemporary Reconfigurations

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Pieter Hugo. 'Nandipha Mntambo, Cape Town' 2012

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Pieter Hugo
Nandipha Mntambo, Cape Town
2012
from There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends

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Pieter Hugo’s There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends is a series of close-up portraits of the artist and his friends, all of whom call South Africa home. Through a digital process of converting colour images to black and white while manipulating the colour channels, Hugo emphasizes the pigment (melanin) in his sitters’ skins so they appear heavily marked by blemishes and sun damage. The resulting portraits are the antithesis of the airbrushed images that determine the canons of beauty in popular culture, and expose the contradictions of racial distinctions based on skin colour. As the critic Aaron Schuman writes, “although at first glance we may look ‘black’ or ‘white’, the components that remain ‘active’ beneath the surface consist of a much broader spectrum. What superficially appears to divide us is in fact something that we all share, and like these photographs, we are not merely black and white – we are red, yellow, brown, and so on; we are all, in fact, coloured.”

Text from the Stevenson Gallery website

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Sammy Baloji. 'Untitled 7' 2006

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Sammy Baloji
Untitled 7
2006
from Mémoires

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Sabelo Mlangeni. 'Outside King Mswati's palace' 2011

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Sabelo Mlangeni
Outside King Mswati’s palace
2011
from Iimbali

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Sabelo Mlangeni. 'Imbali' 2011

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Sabelo Mlangeni
Imbali
2011
from Iimbali

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David Goldblatt. 'Mineworkers in their hostel, Western Deep Levels, Carletonville' 1970

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David Goldblatt
Mineworkers in their hostel, Western Deep Levels, Carletonville
1970

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Pieter Hugo. 'Yasser Booley, Cape Town' 2011

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Pieter Hugo
Yasser Booley, Cape Town
2011
from There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends

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Pieter Hugo. 'Pieter Hugo, Cape Town' 2011

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Pieter Hugo
Pieter Hugo, Cape Town
2011
from There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends

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Pieter Hugo. 'Themba Tshabalala, Cape Town' 2011

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Pieter Hugo
Themba Tshabalala, Cape Town
2011
from There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends

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Guy Tillim. 'Mai Mai militia in training near Beni, eastern DRC, for immediate deployment with the APC (Armée Populaire du Congo), the army of the RCD-KIS-ML - Portraits I and II' December 2002

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Guy Tillim. 'Mai Mai militia in training near Beni, eastern DRC, for immediate deployment with the APC (Armée Populaire du Congo), the army of the RCD-KIS-ML - Portraits I and II' December 2002

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Guy Tillim
Mai Mai militia in training near Beni, eastern DRC, for immediate deployment with the APC (Armée Populaire du Congo), the army of the RCD-KIS-ML – Portraits I and II
December 2002

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Sabelo Mlangeni. 'Lwazi Mtshali, "Bigboy"' 2009

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Sabelo Mlangeni
Lwazi Mtshali, “Bigboy”
2009
from Country Girls

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Sabelo Mlangeni. 'Xolani Ngayi, eStanela' 2009

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Sabelo Mlangeni
Xolani Ngayi, eStanela
2009
from Country Girls

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Zanele Muholi. 'Amogelang Senokwane, District Six, Cape Town' 2009

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Zanele Muholi
Amogelang Senokwane, District Six, Cape Town
2009
from Faces and Phases

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Zanele Muholi. 'Sishipo Ndzuzo, Embekweni, Paarl' 2009

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Zanele Muholi
Sishipo Ndzuzo, Embekweni, Paarl
2009
from Faces and Phases

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“The Walther Collection is pleased to announce Part II of Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive, a three-part exhibition series curated by Tamar Garb. “Contemporary Reconfigurations” offers new perspectives on the African photographic archive, reimagining its diverse histories and changing meanings. The exhibition centers on photography and video by African and African American artists who engage critically with the archive through parody, appropriation, and reenactment.

Carrie Mae Weems introduces the themes of “Contemporary Reconfigurations” with her powerful series From Here I Saw What Happened And I Cried, a revision of nineteenth and twentieth-century anthropometric photographs of African Americans, overlaid with texts by the artist. Sammy Baloji, Candice Breitz, Zwelethu Mthethwa, and Zanele Muholi rethink the ethnographic archive in large-scale color prints, while Samuel Fosso and Philip Kwame Apagya create exuberant studio portraiture.

Sabelo Mlangeni’s black and white photo-essay, Imbali, documents the reed dances of KwaZulu-Natal, showing the display of virgins vying to be chosen as brides. Pieter Hugo’s series There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends examines ethnicity and skin tonalities through anthropological mug shots. Working in video, Berni Searle performs as a statuesque deity engaged in domestic labor in “Snow White,” and Andrew Putter gives an indigenous voice to the effigy of Marie van Riebeeck, wife of the first Dutch settler in the area known today as Cape Town, in “Secretly I Will Love You More.”

For this group of artists, a stereotype or ethnographic vision in one era may provide material for quotation, irreverent reworking, or satirical performance in another. Illustrating how the African archive – broadly understood as an accumulation of representations, images, and objects – figures in selected contemporary lens-based practices, the exhibition stages a dialogue between the distance of the past and the desiring gaze of the present.”

Press release from The Walther Collection website

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Zwelethu Mthethwa. 'Untitled' 2010

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Zwelethu Mthethwa
Untitled
2010
from The Brave Ones
Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

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Samuel Fosso. 'La femme américaine libérée des années 70' 1997

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Samuel Fosso
La femme américaine libérée des années 70
1997

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Samuel Fosso. 'Le Chef qui a vendu l'Afrique aux colons' 1997

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Samuel Fosso
Le Chef qui a vendu l’Afrique aux colons
1997

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Zanele Muholi. 'Miss D'vine I' 2007

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Zanele Muholi
Miss D’vine I
2007

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Zanele Muholi. 'Miss D'vine II' 2007

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Zanele Muholi
Miss D’vine II
2007

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Candice Breitz. 'Ghost Series #9' 1994-1996

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Candice Breitz
Ghost Series #9
1994-1996

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Candice Breitz. 'Ghost Series #4' 1994-1996

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Candice Breitz
Ghost Series #4
1994-1996

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Carrie Mae Weems. 'You Became a Scientific Profile / An Anthropological Debate / A Negroid Type / A Photographic Subject' 1995-1996

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Carrie Mae Weems
You Became a Scientific Profile / An Anthropological Debate / A Negroid Type / A Photographic Subject
1995-1996
from From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried
Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

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Andrew Putter. 'Secretly I Will Love You More' 2007 (video still)

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Andrew Putter
Secretly I Will Love You More (video still)
2007
Courtesy of the artist and Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

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Sue Williamson. 'Helen Joseph' 1983

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Sue Williamson
Helen Joseph
1983
from A Few South Africans

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Helen Beatrice Joseph (née Fennell) (8 April 1905 – 25 December 1992) was a South African anti-apartheid activist.

Helen Joseph was born in Easebourne near Midhurst West Sussex, England and graduated from King’s College London, in 1927. After working as a teacher in India for three years, Helen came to South Africa in 1931, where she met and married a dentist, Billie Joseph. In 1951 Helen took a job with the Garment Workers Union, led by Solly Sachs. She was a founder member of the Congress of Democrats, and one of the leaders who read out clauses of the Freedom Charter at the Congress of the People in Kliptown in 1955. Appalled by the plight of black women, she was pivotal in the formation of the Federation of South African Women and with the organisation’s leadership, spearheaded a march of 20,000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against pass laws on August 9, 1956. This day is still celebrated as South Africa’s Women’s Day.

She was a defendant at the 1956 Treason Trial. She was arrested on a charge of high treason in December 1956, then banned in 1957. The treason trial dragged on for four years but she was acquitted in 1961. In spite of her acquittal, in 13 October 1962, Helen became the first person to be placed under house arrest under the Sabotage Act that had just been introduced by the apartheid government. She narrowly escaped death more than once, surviving bullets shot through her bedroom and a bomb wired to her front gate. Her last banning order was lifted when she was 80 years old. Helen had no children of her own, but frequently stood in loco parentis for the children of comrades in prison or in exile. Among the children who spent time in her care were Winnie and Nelson Mandela’s daughters Zinzi and Zenani and Bram Fischer’s daughter Ilsa. Helen Joseph died on the 25 December 1992 at the age of 87. (Text from Wikipedia)

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Sue Williamson. 'Miriam Makeba' 1987

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Sue Williamson
Miriam Makeba
1987
from A Few South Africans

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Miriam Makeba (4 March 1932 – 9 November 2008), nicknamed Mama Africa, was a Grammy Award-winning South African singer and civil rights activist.

In the 1960s, she was the first artist from Africa to popularize African music around the world. She is best known for the song “Pata Pata”, first recorded in 1957 and released in the U.S. in 1967. She recorded and toured with many popular artists, such as Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon, and her former husband Hugh Masekela. Makeba campaigned against the South African system of apartheid. The South African government responded by revoking her passport in 1960 and her citizenship and right of return in 1963. As the apartheid system crumbled she returned home for the first time in 1990. Makeba died of a heart attack on 9 November 2008 after performing in a concert in Italy organised to support writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Camorra, a mafia-like organisation local to the region of Campania. (Text from Wikipedia)

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Kudzanai Chiurai. 'The Black President' 2009

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Kudzanai Chiurai
The Black President
2009

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Zanele Muholi. 'Ms Le Sishi I, Glebelands, Durban' January 2010

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Zanele Muholi
Ms Le Sishi I, Glebelands, Durban
January 2010
from Beulahs (Beauties)

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Zanele Muholi. 'Martin Machapa' 2006

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Zanele Muholi
Martin Machapa
2006
from Beulahs (Beauties)

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Philip Kwame Apagya. 'Come on Board' 2000

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Philip Kwame Apagya
Come on Board
2000

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Philip Kwame Apagya. 'After the Funeral' 1998

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Philip Kwame Apagya
After the Funeral
1998

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The Walther Collection
Reichenauer Strasse 21
89233 Neu-Ulm, Germany

Opening hours:
Thurs – Sunday by appointment and with guided tour only
Public tours Saturday and Sunday at 3pm by appointment only

The Walther Collection website

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13
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive Part III: Poetics and Politics’ at The Walther Collection Project Space, New York: Part 2

Exhibition dates: 22nd March – 18th May 2013

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“Distance invokes travel, geographic dichotomies, estrangement, otherness, and separation in time. Whereas desire implies proximity, closeness, affect, and unfulfilled longing.”

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Part 2 of the posting about the exhibition Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive Part III. I have added notes under some of the photographs to give context to the tribes, the people and the titles of the photographs. For more information see The New Yorker: Photo Booth’s interview with curator South African scholar Tamar Garb.

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*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS PHOTOGRAPHS OF FEMALE NUDITY – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

Many thankx to The Walther Collection for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Samuel Baylis Barnard. 'Damara Servant Girl, S. Africa' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Samuel Baylis Barnard, inscribed:
Damara Servant Girl, S. Africa
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Albumen print

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Unidentified photographer. 'Photograph of a young woman' East Africa, Early twentieth century

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Unidentified photographer
Photograph of a young woman
East Africa, Early twentieth century
Gelatin-silver developed-out print

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Samuel Baylis Barnard. 'Zulu Kaffir' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Samuel Baylis Barnard, inscribed:
Zulu Kaffir
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Albumen print

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Unidentified photographer. 'Studio photograph of a man' East Africa, late nineteenth century

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Unidentified photographer
Studio photograph of a man
East Africa, late nineteenth century
Albumen print

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Apparently, this man is from Adendowa’ tribe, eastern Sudan.

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Unidentified photographer. 'Monsiga Chief of Mafeking' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Unidentified photographer, inscribed:
Monsiga Chief of Mafeking
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print mounted on album page

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Mahikeng – formerly, and still commonly, known as Mafikeng and historically Mafeking in English – is the capital city of the North-West Province of South Africa. It is best known internationally for the Siege of Mafeking, the most famous engagement of the Second Boer War.

Located close to South Africa’s border with Botswana, Mahikeng is 1,400 km (870 mi) northeast of Cape Town and 260 km (160 mi) west of Johannesburg. In 2001, it had a population of 49,300. In 2007, Mafikeng was reported to have a population of 250,000 of which the CBD constitutes between 69,000 and 75,000. It is built on the open veld at an elevation of 1,500 m (4,921 ft), by the banks of the Upper Molopo River. TheMadibi goldfields are some 15 km (9.3 mi) south of the town.

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A. James Gribble. 'Masupa. Kaffir Chief & sons. Basutoland' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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A. James Gribble, inscribed:
Masupa. Kaffir Chief & sons. Basutoland
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Albumen print

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Basutoland or officially the Territory of Basutoland, was a British Crown colony established in 1884 after the Cape Colony’s inability to control the territory. It was divided into seven administrative districts; Berea, Leribe, Maseru, Mohales Hoek, Mafeteng, Qacha’s Nek and Quthing.

Basutoland was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho upon independence from the United Kingdom on October 4, 1966.

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W. Rausch. 'Indaba of Induna Chiefs, Buluwayo' Zimbabwe, 1890s

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W. Rausch, inscribed:
Indaba of Induna Chiefs, Buluwayo
Zimbabwe, 1890s
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print mounted on card

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InDuna (plural: izinDuna) is a Zulu title meaning advisorgreat leaderambassadorheadman, or commander of group of warriors. It can also mean spokesperson or mediator as the izinDuna often acted as a bridge between the people and the king. The title was reserved for senior officials appointed by the king or chief, and was awarded to individuals held in high esteem for their qualities of leadership, bravery or service to the community. The izinDuna would regularly gather for an indaba to discuss important issues. An indaba is an important conference held by the izinDuna (principal men) of the Zulu or Xhosa peoples of South Africa. (Text from Wikipedia)

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Unidentified photographer. 'Dressing hair. Women of the E. Coast. Africa' Tanzania, early twentieth century

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Unidentified photographer, inscribed:
Dressing hair. Women of the E. Coast. Africa
Tanzania, early twentieth century
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print mounted on album page

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Unidentified photographer. 'Studio photograph of a man' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Unidentified photographer
Studio photograph of a man
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Carte de visite

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Gray Brothers (Diamond Fields). 'Zulu / Young Warrior in fighting order, and in skin Kaross. Armed with hatchet and assegai' South Africa. c. 1870s

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Gray Brothers (Diamond Fields), inscribed:
Zulu / Young Warrior in fighting order, and in skin Kaross. Armed with hatchet and assegai
South Africa. c. 1870s
Carte de visite

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G. F. Williams. 'Studio photograph of two women' South Africa, c. 1870s

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G. F. Williams
Studio photograph of two women
South Africa, c. 1870s
Carte de visite

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Lawrence Brothers, Cape Town (attr.). 'Kaffir girl' South Africa, c. 1870s

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Lawrence Brothers, Cape Town (attr.), inscribed:
Kaffir girl
South Africa, c. 1870s
Carte de visite

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Unidentified photographer. 'Portrait of King Khama III' South Africa, early twentieth century

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Unidentified photographer
Portrait of King Khama III
South Africa, early twentieth century

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Khama III (1837?-1923), also known as Khama the Good, was the kgosi (meaning chief or king) of the Bamangwato people of Bechuanaland (now Botswana), who made his country a protectorate of the United Kingdom to ensure its survival against Boer and Ndebele encroachments.

After Khama became king in 1875, after overthrowing his father Sekgoma and elbowing away his brother Kgamane his ascension came at a time of great dangers and opportunities. Ndebele incursions from the north (from what is now Zimbabwe), Boer and “mixed” trekkers from the south, and German colonialists from the West, all hoping to the seize his territory and its hinterlands. He answered these challenges by aligning his state with the administrative aims of the British, which provided him with cover and support, and, relatedly, by energetically expanding his own control over a much wider area than any “kgosi” before him. Khama converted to Christianity, which moved him to criminalize sectarianism and to deprecate the institutions favored by traditionalists. At Khama’s request stringent laws were passed against the importation of alcohol. (Text from Wikipedia)

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G. T. Ferneyhough (attr.) and unidentified photographers. 'Albumen prints mounted to album page' South Africa, last third of the nineteenth century

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G. T. Ferneyhough (attr.) and unidentified photographers
Albumen prints mounted to album page
South Africa, last third of the nineteenth century

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G. T. Ferneyhough (attr.), Crewes & Van Laun (attr.), H. F. Gros (attr.), and unidentified photographers. 'Album page with photographs of Cetshwayo and his family, Chief Sekhukhune, and unidentified persons' South Africa, last third of the nineteenth century

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G. T. Ferneyhough (attr.), Crewes & Van Laun (attr.), H. F. Gros (attr.), and unidentified photographers
Album page with photographs of Cetshwayo and his family, Chief Sekhukhune, and unidentified persons
South Africa, last third of the nineteenth century

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The bottom right hand text says, “Cetshwayo’s wives who came to England.” Obviously on the ship that took the King to England in 1882 (see below)

Invading Zululand
Lieutenant-General Sir Frederic Thesiger, 2nd Baron Chelmsford, led the invasion of Zululand on 11 January, with British centre column crossing at Rorke’s Drift. Additional British forces massed at Lower Drift on the Thukela River, near the coast, and on the north-western border near Utrecht.

Isandlawana and Rorke’s Drift
Despite an early success at Isandlwana (22 January) where 24,000 Zulu warriors overran the British camp of 1,700 – over 1,300 British and Imperial troops were annihilated (only 60 of the survivors were Europeans). That evening the small garrison at Rorke’s Drift regained British self-respect by defending the (hospital) station against a force of more than 3,000 Zulu warriors.

Defeat at Ulundi
Cetshwayo’s army was finally defeated at oNdini (Ulundi) on 4 July 1879 and his royal homestead burnt to the ground. Although Cetshwayo escaped from oNdini, he was soon captured in the Ngome Forest by British dragoons (28 August). He was informed by Shepstone that he was to be exiled from Zululand and that the nation would be divided into 13 independent chiefdoms under the authority of the British.

Exile
On 15 September 1879 Cetshwayo was dispatched to Cape Town. He was held as a prisoner of war until February 1881 when he was transferred from the castle to Oude Molen, a farm on the Cape Flats.

In 1882 Cetshwayo was permitted to travel to England for audience with Queen Victoria – he petitioned for his return to Zululand as ruler. He was a hit amongst London society and became a favorite of the public.

Cetshwayo was returned in secret to Zululand on 10 January 1883. He was met at Port Durnford by Sir Theophilus Shepstone (who was brought out of retirement for the process). Shepstone arranged the details of Cetshwayo’s restoration (29 January), but he was not permitted an army to defend his somewhat reduced ‘nation’ — part of the arrangement was that the north of Zululand was to be put under the control of his rival, Zibhebhu kaMaphitha.

Defeat and Retreat
By March 1883 Zibhebhu was moving against Cetshwayo’s supporters in his assigned northern territory and Cetshwayo’s uSuthu marched against him. The uSuthu were defeated and driven into Transvaal and back south to oNdini. The civil war between Cetshwayo and Zibhebhu ranged across the Mahlabathini plain and the uSuthu was once again defeated. Whilst Cetshwayo and his 15-year old heir, Dinizulu, were able to escape the capital of oNdini and hide out in the Nkandla forest, theuSuthu leadership was decimated. Cetshwayo was escorted to Eshowe by Henry Francis Fynn jr, the British Resident in Zululand, on the 15 October 1883.

A Disputed Cause of Death
On the afternoon of 8 February 1884 Cetshwayo died. Although officially recorded as a heart attack (Surgeon Scott, the resident military medical officer, was refused permission to do an autopsy and so could record no other cause). However an abortive assassination attempt (by poison) was made against Mnyamana kaNgqengelele, chief of the Buthelezi and Cetshwayo’s chief inDuna, around the same so time it seems likely that Cetshwayo was also poisoned.

Text from the African History website

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Unidentified photographers. 'Albumen prints mounted to album page' South Africa, late nineteen century

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Unidentified photographers
Albumen prints mounted to album page
South Africa, late nineteen century

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Unidentified Photographer. 'Native Policemen' South Africa, late nineteen century

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Unidentified photographer
Native Policemen
South Africa, late nineteen century
from Albumen prints mounted to album page

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Unidentified Photographer. 'Portrait of a Man' (detail) South Africa, late nineteen century

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Unidentified Photographer
Portrait of a Man (detail)
South Africa, late nineteen century
from Albumen prints mounted to album page

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Notice how the white spots have been painted on by the photographer after exposure, presumably to “exoticize” the noble savage.

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Unidentified photographers. 'Album page' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Unidentified photographers
Album page
South Africa, late nineteenth century

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The Walther Collection Project Space

Suite 718, 508-526 West 26th Street
New York
T: +1 212 352 0683

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Saturday from 12pm – 6pm

The Walther Collection website

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11
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive Part III: Poetics and Politics’ at The Walther Collection Project Space, New York: Part 1

Exhibition dates: 22nd March – 18th May 2013

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Undertaking research in to the work of South African photographer Ernest Cole, I wanted to know more about “South African colonial photography” pre-Apartheid. If you type the phrase into Google images there is absolutely nothing online about this historical archive. So it is a great privilege that The Walther Collection has allowed me to publish nearly 40 photographs over two postings on Art Blart. What a honour to be the first online space to promote this important historical record.

It is vital that colonial photographs such as these are visible in contemporary society for they bare witness to the conditions of the past and provide a visual language to textualise our experience and thereby make it available for interpretation and closure – for people of all colours and races. This is particularly true for a post-colonial country such as South Africa where the history of the nation must be examined impartially no matter how painful the subject matter in order to understand how the actions of the past influence the present and will continue to be re/sighted in the future. Through continual re/citation by being present in the public sphere for all to see (not hidden away offline) these images will become a source of pride (for person, family, tribe, country) – for these were strong human beings that survived the vicissitudes of colonialism to form the history and lineage of a nation.

We must thank numerous private collectors that have saved many of these photographs from the rubbish tip when no public institution was interested in collecting them. Interesting books about the South African archive include Surviving the Lens: Photographic Studies of South and East African People, 1870-1920 by Michael Graham Stewart (2001) and Contemporary African Photography from the Walther Collection. Events of the Self, Portraiture and Social Identity by Okwui Enwezor (ed.) Göttingen, Steidl, 2010.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to The Walther Collection for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Unidentified photographer. 'Photograph of a man' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Unidentified photographer
Photograph of a man
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print

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Caney Brothers, inscribed: 'Ordinary & Fighting Dresses.' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Caney Brothers, inscribed:
Ordinary & Fighting Dresses.
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Albumen print

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Henri Noyer (attr.), inscribed: 'Taisaka Spearsmen No. 2' Madagascar, early twentieth century

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Henri Noyer (attr.), inscribed:
Taisaka Spearsmen No. 2
Madagascar, early twentieth century
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print

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The Taisaka come from the South-East coast of the island of Madagascar.

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Unidentified photographer. 'Mouv, Nthaka warrior' East Africa, early twentieth century

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Unidentified photographer
Mouv, Nthaka warrior
East Africa, early twentieth century
Gelatin or collodion developed out print

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The Ameru had an age set system which provided the community with warriors for defense. Boys are circumcised and become Nthaka (warriors). They stay in a Gaaru and learn to defend the community and take care of their families. The warriors were called Nthaka and were isolated from the community for military training

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Unidentified photographer. 'Studio photograph of a man' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Unidentified photographer
Studio photograph of a man
South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Unidentified photographer. 'Studio photograph of a man' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Unidentified photographer
Studio photograph of a man
South Africa, late nineteenth century

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J. E. Middlebrook (attr.), inscribed: 'A Zulu girl. Hair strung with beads' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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J. E. Middlebrook (attr.), inscribed:
A Zulu girl. Hair strung with beads
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Gelatin-silver printed-out print

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The Zulu (Zulu: amaZulu) are the largest South African ethnic group, with an estimated 10-11 million people living mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Small numbers also live in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique. Their language, Zulu, is a Bantu language; more specifically, part of the Nguni subgroup. The Zulu Kingdom played a major role in South African history during the 19th and 20th centuries. Under apartheid, Zulu people were classed as third-class citizens and suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination. They remain today the most numerous ethnic group in South Africa, and now have equal rights along with all other citizens.

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A. James Gribble, inscribed: 'Kaffer woman' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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A. James Gribble, inscribed:
Kaffer woman
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Albumen print

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The word kaffer is a word that is used widely in South Africa and is a derogatory word for a black person. Used mainly by Afrikaans people. In old Dutch it means unbeliever (in God), so should not necessarily mean black, but just unholy or non-Christian. Boers gave the name in early South African history as native Africans did not believe in Jesus. Name came after Bantu – which means the same thing, but was banned as it was discriminatory.

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Unidentified photographer. 'Zulu mothers' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Unidentified photographer, inscribed:
Zulu mothers
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Gelatin-silver printed out print

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Samuel Baylis Barnard. 'Hottentott S. Africa [Portait of /A!kunta]' South Africa, early 1870s

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Samuel Baylis Barnard, inscribed
Hottentott S. Africa [Portait of /A!kunta]
South Africa, early 1870s
Albumen print

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The word ‘Hottentots’ was a name disparagingly used to refer to the Khoikhoi people that lived in the southern parts of the African continent as early as the 5th century AD and continued to live till the first colonists arrived in the middle of the seventeenth century. The Dutch colonists called them Hottentots. It means ‘stammerer’ in Dutch. Khoikhoi means ‘people people’. The word Hottentot is no longer used to describe the people.

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“The Walther Collection is pleased to announce Poetics and Politics, the third and last exhibition in the series Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive, curated by Tamar Garb. Poetics and Politics presents an extraordinary 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 DesirePoetics 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 colonialism 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.

Distance and Desire is accompanied by an extensive catalogue, published by The Walther Collection and Steidl, and edited by Tamar Garb. Including twelve original essays, the catalogue offers new perspectives by contemporary artists and scholars on the African archive, reimagining its diverse histories and changing meanings. 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. The Walther Collection is a private non-profit foundation dedicated to researching, collecting, exhibiting, and publishing modern and contemporary photography and video art, based in Neu-Ulm, Germany and New York. Distance and Desire is part of the collection’s multi-year investigation of African photography and video.”

Press release from the Walther Collection website

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Unidentified photographe. 'Native Police' South Africa, Late nineteenth century

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Unidentified photographer, inscribed:
Native Police
South Africa, Late nineteenth century
Albumen print mounted on album page

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Kimberley Studio (New Rush, Diamond Fields). 'Zulu / Warrior in skin kaross, armed with assegais' and 'Guerrier Zulu a manteau de fourrure et armé de piques' South Africa, c. 1870s

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Kimberley Studio (New Rush, Diamond Fields), inscribed:
Zulu / Warrior in skin kaross, armed with assegais and Guerrier Zulu a manteau de fourrure et armé de piques
South Africa, c. 1870s
Carte de visite

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John Salmon. 'Basuto' South Africa, c. 1870s

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John Salmon, inscribed:
Basuto
South Africa, c. 1870s
Carte de visite

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See Sotho people on Wikipedia

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Samuel Baylis Barnard. 'Photograph of a woman' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Samuel Baylis Barnard
Photograph of a woman
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Carte de visite

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William Moore (attr.), 'Macomo and his chief wife [Portrait of Maqoma and his wife Katyi]' South Africa, c. 1869

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William Moore (attr.), inscribed:
Macomo and his chief wife [Portrait of Maqoma and his wife Katyi]
South Africa, c. 1869
Albumen print

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G. F. Williams. 'Studio photograph of a man' South Africa South Africa, late nineteenth century

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G. F. Williams
Studio photograph of a man, South Africa
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Carte de visite

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Unidentified photographer. 'Fingo swells' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Unidentified photographer, inscribed:
Fingo swells
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print

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The Fengu (plural amaFengu) are a Bantu people; originally closely related to the Zulu people, but now often considered to have assimilated to the Xhosa people whose language they now speak. Historically they achieved considerable renown for their military ability in the frontier wars. They were previously known in English as the “Fingo” people, and they gave their name to the district of Fingoland (Mfenguland), the South West portion of the Transkei division, in the Cape Province.

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M. Veniery. 'Choubouk' Sudan, early twentieth century

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M. Veniery, inscribed:
Choubouk
Sudan, early twentieth century
Gelatin or collodion printedout print mounted on card

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Unidentified photographer. 'Bushman' South Africa, late nineteenth century

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Unidentified photographer, inscribed:
Bushman
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print

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A.C. Gomes & Son. 'Views in Zanzibar - Natives Hairdressing' Tanzania Late nineteenth century

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A.C. Gomes & Son, inscribed:
Views in Zanzibar – Natives Hairdressing, Tanzania
Late nineteenth century
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print mounted to album page

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The Walther Collection Project Space
Suite 718, 508-526 West 26th Street
New York
T: +1 212 352 0683

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Saturday from 12pm – 6pm

The Walther Collection website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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