Animated Pawel Kuczynski #3
Original illustration by Pawel Kuczynski
Potraits from South African photographer Andrew Putter’s ethnographic series Native Work which consists of 21 photographs of black Capetonians photographed in black-and-white dressed in various traditional Xhosa attire, each of a particular significance, juxtaposed against colour photographs of the same individuals wearing casual Western garments.
The series undoubtedly carries a heavy colonial framing demonstrated in the nature of Putter’s black-and-white anthropological-like portraits that resemble modern-day versions of colonial postcards that became a norm in colonized lands around the world. This concerning element in Putter’s series is also made more problematic through the racial dynamics of a white photographer in South Africa photographic black ‘subjects’, as well as in the title of this work, which, despite Putter’s admission and recognition of this element of his series, is not something that can entirely be dismissed.
Native Work is a highly intriguing visual framework that provokes the consciousness of the viewer to consider the critical and historical role of photography and the photographer, in both the colonial and post-colonial context, as well as the forced transitional process that colonized populations underwent that violently compromised and stripped them of various foundational elements of their identities.
‘Cognizant of the dangers inherent in Duggan-Cronin’s colonial, ethnographic approach to making images, Native Work nevertheless recognises an impulse of tenderness running through his project,’ writes Putter in an article about his project published recently in the journal Kronos: Southern African Histories. ‘By trusting this impulse in Duggan-Cronin’s photographs, Native Work attempts to provoke another way of reading these images, and to use them in the making of new work motivated by the desire for social solidarity, a desire which emerges as a particular kind of historical possibility in the aftermath of apartheid.’
By exploring his own complex feelings towards an ideologically tainted but aesthetically compelling visual archive, Putter enters the fraught terrain of ethnographic representation to wrestle with himself about his own complicity, as an artist and a white South African, in this troubled visual legacy. Art critic Alex Dodd writes that this new work ‘constitutes one of those rare instances in which it becomes unmistakably clear to the viewer that the primacy of authorial intention has everything to do with the subtle alchemy that determines the meaning and affective power of images. In this case, the immense respect and tenderness that went into the making of the photographs registers visually as a kind of auratic quality of dignity that shines through each and every portrait.’
Victorian Headless Portraits
The Victorian era has many photographs, most of which show the subject sitting or standing with a stern expression. Since photography was still in its infancy, photographers were experimenting with novel ways to create photos that differed from the norm. Animals acting human was one popular concept, and then came the headless portrait. Funny and entertaining, a new genre of photography was born.
Read more at: “Postcolonial Fantasy and Africa - Against the word ‘tribe’”(via dynamicafrica)
The History of Zulu Ricksha Puller’s (1892 - 2000)
The first ten Rickshas / Rickshaws imported to Natal arrived in 1892, imported by sugar magnate Marshall Campbell from Japan.
The ‘Ricksha’ became Durban’s main mode of transportation, both in the city centre and docks. By 1902, 2170 Rickshas crowded the streets, pulled by a small army of registered ‘natives’.
Because of the money offered by this occupation at that time, pulling a rickshaw a highly sought after and competitive means of employment. It is said that in two days a puller might earn a shilling, equal to what a ‘head boy’ working in a home might earn in a month.
Soon after their introduction in South Africa, the British proposed that rickshaw drivers wear uniforms. This was partly done so that police could identify ‘pullers’ from other ‘natives’ who were most likely bound by a strict curfew that restricted their movements after a certain time.
The uniform was an ordinary unbleached calico suit, trimmed with a single band of red braid. Pullers were allowed to dress their hair in a traditional manner and opted to walk barefoot. The feathered tufts (as seen above) were called ‘Isiyaya’ or ‘Isidlukula’.
As time went by, these Zulu pullers began customizing their uniforms by adding extra braids and wearing bangles of plaited reeds with seeds which rattled upon their white washed lower legs. Fierce competition developed among the pullers to design the most original and elaborate costume, giving rise to the elaborate aesthetic now associated with them today.
By 1904 there were over 2000 rickshas trekking around the city. It became fashionable to own your own private ricksha. Durban’s steepest roads had notices stating ‘Dangerous to Rickshaws’. Because of this, overweight people would often employ two pullers, adding to uphill power prowess and downhill breaking.
Durban rickshas became so popular that its imagery was used internationally by the government to lure pith helmeted travellers to the country (centre). Collectable ‘cigarette cards’ (left) were produced as well as large paper fabric labels (right). The labels were used in the UK to visually identify a type of export fabric.
By 1918, horse drawn rickshas had also become popular, but the increasing popularity of the motor vehicle created a traffic problem in Durban.
By 1930 it became unbearable, with over 9000 motor vehicles and an excess of 10000 horse drawn vehicles on the city streets. Increasing numbers of trams and buses added to ricksha competition. Even so, the convenience of short journeys in and around the city centre kept rickshas somewhat popular. However, by 1940 less than 900 were left to ply the streets.
According to public records, by 1968 there were only 260 rickshaw’s left in operation. In 1970 there were one hundred eight six registered pullers and in 1971, ninety. At that moment, the very last of the Mpondo pullers working around the market area were seen. By 1975 there were only twenty nine rickshas working the beachfront. By 1980 - 10 remained, these in poor condition.
(information lifted and partly edited from this source)
Thomas Sankara (via dynamicafrica)
Considered by many to be one of the most important contemporary African artists of recent years, Wangechi Mutu is a Kenyan-born, New-York based artist known for her elaborate collaged works on pieces of Mylar and sculptures. Her work boldly explores the contradictions of female and cultural identity, race, colonialism, and sexual identity just to name a few.
Constructing collages using fragments from fashion and travel magazines, pornography, African art books, images drawn from science fiction as well as hand-drawn and painted elements, Mutu’s work is filled with provocative juxtapositions of the female body. With these collages, she draws the viewer into conversations about the eroticization of women’s body, particularly African women.
Mutu observers that, “Females carry the marks, language and nuance of their culture more than the male. Anything that is desired or despised is always placed in the female body.”
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