Santu Mofokeng’s The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890–1950 (2013) and the Victorian Dispositive. Photographic Staging and Appropriation as Practices of Anticolonial Resistance
Keywords:Santu Mofokeng, The Black Photo Album, visual counter-knowledge, studio photography in South Africa, dispositive, Victorian portrait photography, epistemic violence, colonial photography
This contribution discusses selected historical photographs of the research project, collection, and photobook The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890–1950 published in 2013 by Santu Mofokeng (1956–2020), both within the original context of their emergence as well as taking Mofokeng’s intention in editing the photobook into account. Furthermore, the location of the image content and its aesthetics in the colonial context of South Africa 1890–1950 and within the Victorian photographic dispositive are in the focus. The analysis of the The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890–1950 considers the Victorian photographic discourse of the late 19th century as an influential frame. This discourse entails ongoing mechanisms of epistemic violence in the visual representation of the Black community. Furthermore, the paper perceives the photographs found by Mofokeng as a material testimony of practiced anticolonial resistance. This perspective contributes productively to the critical discussion of Mofokeng’s question, if these images are “evidence of mental colonisation” or did they serve to challenge prevailing images of ‘African people’ in the ‘West’.
Article received: April 5, 2022; Article accepted: June 21, 2022; Published online: September 15, 2022; Original scholarly paper
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