Culture and Lifestyle
J. Hewlett: Can You Smell the Rain? - Book review by Colin Waugh
Courtesy of Arquivo Histórico de Moçambique, Icon 1012
In the mid-1950s, the city of Usakos in central Namibia, underwent major social and political transformations. Under South African colonial rule, the imposition of discriminatory apartheid laws led to the forced displacement of the African population to a new, racially segregated, residential area. The city, as it existed, was destroyed to give way to a colonial plan of settlement and white supremacy. The physical ruins and social scars produced by this process can still be observed today. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that the residents of this area have been silent – and silenced – victims of this social and political history of dispossession and discrimination. Their personal memories and photographs bear witness to the ability of individuals and groups to withstand sometimes violent circumstances and respond to them through a variety of mobilization strategies, including the production and collection of cultural artefacts such as photographs.
Usakos’ experience is not exceptional. Throughout southern Africa, colonialism and apartheid have produced profound transformations, ranging from forced displacement and expropriation of populations to the destruction of physical spaces and the looting of private lives. As historians and anthropologists have been at pains to emphasise, colonial and liberation stories are not merely records of a past victimisation. On the contrary, colonialism, war, and violence of state racism have produced ruins, both physical and immaterial, that remain present and constitutive of the post-colonial period. The skeletons of ships and buses, abandoned buildings and ruined landscapes are all testimony to a past of conflict and struggle that remains present not only in its material manifestations but also in memories and images.
Images of the past, organised and indexed in photographic archives, are not merely evocative or documentary traces of a distant, inert memory in need of rescue. As objects, photographs are subject to editorial reproduction processes, renegotiation of their meaning at the hands of artists and curators, and renewed circulation through exhibitions and facilities, museums and catalogues. They also help us to better understand the complex set of ruptures and continuities between past and present, between colonialism, liberation, and the “post”. Alongside the ruins, photographs allow us to access a lively, pulsating political and social experience. Objects and imaginaries, they are, in themselves, vestiges of a past and a memory in constant transformation.
With these considerations in mind, the event “Visual History Workshop: Photography and Memory Beyond Ruins” aims to promote a debate among scholars, archivists, photographers and curators on the role of photography and other visual aids in writing history and in the production of collective memory in Mozambique and other countries in the region. Academic history, as well as anthropology and other social sciences, are still text-based disciplines, or “made of words”, to paraphrase the anthropologist Margaret Mead. Among historians, relatively few make consistent use of photographic archives, or use photographs beyond their documentary function. In this event, we intend to question both the role of images as historical documents and in their memorialist function, expressive of individual lives and collective experiences, and as mediators of a politics of affection.
In Mozambique, this debate takes on special importance in view of the existence in the country of a unique, substantial and urban photographic tradition, within the practice of colonial journalism, but also as a weapon of struggle, during the years of the War of Liberation.
These contexts have already produced works by exceptional authors, such as Ricardo Rangel, Kok Nam and Moira Forjaz, as well as from photographers working for a collective of struggle, such as José Soares, Daniel Maquinasse, Simão Matias, Artur Torohate and Carlos Jambo.
A new generation of authors has internationalised Mozambican photography, taking it beyond the continent and producing major interventions in the field of visual and visual arts, with Mauro Pinto, Mário Macilau, Filipe Branquinho and Eurídice Kala among them.
In addition to this productive and creative dimension, important photographic collections are found in the country, both in the Historical Archive of Mozambique and in the Centre for Photographic Training and Documentation, among other institutions and private collections.
With these questions in mind, we invite historians, anthropologists, photographers, artists, curators and professionals from similar fields to submit proposals of no more than 300 words by June 12.
Authors will be contacted on 19 June.
Proposals may respond to one or more of the following themes:
Methodology: Approaches and methods of using photographs and other visual media in research, writing, publications in history and social sciences;
Institutions: The role of institutions and photographic archives in the organisation, indexing, preservation and public presentation of images;
Authors: the biography and professional trajectory of photographers, directors or visual artists, and their role for the construction of history and memory;
History: Photography as document and historical artefact;
Memory: Photography as a memorialist expression, as object and artifact producer of individual and collective memories;
Circulation: production and circulation of images and their role in the formation of imaginaries, stories and memories;
Spaces: Photography in the imagination and construction of physical space, urban or natural, in process of transformation or “ruin”;
Agency: Production of images as historical agency or form of social and political protest;
Movement: Relations between photography and moving images (cinema, audiovisual, etc.);
Collection: Photographs and practices of assemblage, construction of archives, albums or collections;
Abstracts or questions should be sent to: email@example.com
For more information: https://oficinadehistoriavisual.wordpress.com/chamada-de-trabalhos/
This event has financial support from the Camões Portuguese Cultural Centre in Maputo, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Swiss Foundation for Culture through the Pro-Helvetia organization in Johannesburg. It also receives institutional support from the Mozambican Historical Archive and the Mozambican History Workshop.Source: Centro Cultural Portugues Maputo
J. Hewlett: Can You Smell the Rain? - Book review by Colin Waugh
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