Black Chronicles IV

Chronicling Black Lives in History

In April of 2018, the British Association of Black Photographers initiated yet another edition of its internationally touring program Black Chronicles. This fourth exhibition focused on images that move away from fixed notions of the archive. Our author Themba Tstosi looks into an exhibition of photos that had been hidden in a drawer, and an exquisite photo collection that belonged to none other than W.E.B. Du Bois.

At the university’s FADA Gallery at the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD), Black Chronicles curator Renée Mussai had assembled photographs in which the notions of care and humanism sought to disavow narratives of erasure and colonial subjectivity. As she is interested in contemporary strategies of artistic and curatorial practice, the exhibition corresponded with VIAD’s research approach of discussing notions of representation without the yoke of traditional strategies imposing themselves on possible new forms of representation. Musicians Thuthuka Sibisi and Phillip Miller, for instance, were commissioned to recreate some of the songs sung by the African Choir as a commemorative gesture. Part of this recreation was aimed at inciting notions of humanizing and demystifying the facility of the archive. Therefore Phillip Miller and Thuthuka Sibisi’s “African Choir Re-Imagined” was incorporated into the exhibition through a sound installation.

The W.E.B. Du Bois’ Paris Album 1900 traveled to South Africa for the first time. Presenting images of a Black middle class in post-slavery America, the collection articulated some of the anthropological documentation strategies, but the subjects were dignified, dressed in modern garb, expressing how they see themselves as emancipated people while redressing the discourse of colonial representation.

The significance of this exhibition was that it dealt with the archive as a colonial tool in the context of post-colonialism. The result was a discourse that sought to address where aspects of representation emanate from, who tries to benefit from these resurrected images, and how they inform notions of curatorial care. At the heart of it lay a facility that records the encounter between two communities and attempts to re-examine the positioning of curatorship in order to question traditional and historical methods of representation.

Themba Tsoti is a freelance writer writing mainly about visual art, based in Cape Town.  He graduated from University of the Western Cape B.A Honours in English and Cultural Studies in 2006.  He was founding member of Gugulective and has recently published his first book titled “Art Movements and The Discourse of Acknowledgements and Distinctions” (Vernon Press).