CURRENT | BLACK CHRONICLES IV
13 April - 31 May, 2018 | FADA Gallery, University of Johannesburg
BLACK CHRONICLES IV
A touring Autograph ABP exhibition, curated by Renée Mussai, and presented in partnership with the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD)
VIAD is proud to host the fourth iteration of Autograph ABP’s internationally touring Black Chronicles programme, marking the first time that a wider selection of works from the series – and newly added imagery – are exhibited on the African continent.
Black Chronicles IV presents an extraordinary collection of photographic studio portraits, a majority produced in collaboration with the Hulton Archive from original nineteenth-century glass plates as large-scale modern silver gelatin prints. Buried in the Hulton Archive’s London Stereoscopic Company (LSC) collection for more than 125 years, these negatives were re-discovered by Autograph ABP in 2014 as part of their critically acclaimed curatorial archive research programme, The Missing Chapter: Black Chronicles (2013 - present). Selected LSC portraits, excerpted from a larger body of work, are shown alongside a display of rare albumen cartes-de-visite and cabinet cards from Autograph ABP’s own archive, as well as digital reproductions from the National Portrait Gallery, London and private collections.
Offering a unique opportunity to encounter a diverse range of ‘black presences’ – African, Caribbean and South Asian – through the prism of nineteenth-century studio photography in Victorian Britain, the exhibition foregrounds the narratives of both ordinary and prominent black figures – performers, dignitaries, politicians, servicemen and women, missionaries, students, businessmen as well as international royalty.
Together with W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Paris Albums 1900 – also seen for the first time in South Africa - these exquisitely rendered images are highly relevant to contemporary cultural history and politics of representation, as they reveal alternative perspectives to modes of portrayal prevalent in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and evidence cultural diversity, agency and advocacy.
A highlight of the exhibition is the sound and image-based installation, The African Choir 1891 Re-imagined. The installation, presented in a discrete gallery space, comprises 16 individual photographic portraits of the original members of the African Choir, who toured Britain in 1891. The portraits are accompanied by an evocative five-channel soundtrack of songs composed and arranged by South African artists Thuthuka Sibisi and Philip Miller as a creative re-imagining of the choirs’ 19th-century concert programme.
Enabling different ways of ‘seeing’ individuals often marginalised within Victorian Britain, colonial Southern Africa and the American South, Black Chronicles IV contributes toward an ongoing process of redressing the persistent absences of black narratives within the historical record.
The exhibition’s 19th century photographs are presented in dialogue with Effnik, a contemporary photograph by Yinka Shonibare MBE (b. 1963), which was commissioned by Autograph ABP in 1996."
“The aim of the Black Chronicles series is to open up critical inquiry into the archive to locate new knowledge, and support our ongoing mission to continuously expand and enrich photography’s cultural histories. Based on current research, the portraits unearthed as part of Black Chronicles constitute the most comprehensive body of photographs depicting the black subject in Victorian Britain. Not only does the sitters’ visual presence in Britain bear direct witness to the complexities of colonial and imperial history, they also offer a fascinating array of personal narratives that defy pre-conceived notions of cultural diversity in the nineteenth century. Their complex studio portrayal opens up a dialogue around the politics of subjectivities and agencies in relation to visual representation: some are presented in ways that convey a sense of pride, dignity and respectability, while others are, arguably, still locked in ethnographic or colonial modes of representation.
At the heart of the exhibition is the desire to re-constitute the archive through what I call ‘remedial curatorial work’: resurrecting figures from archival vaults of oblivion, and re-introducing new, annotated narratives into contemporary consciousness.” – Renée Mussai, Senior Curator and Head of Archive & Research, Autograph ABP, London.
Renée Mussai is Senior Curator and Head of Archive & Research at Autograph ABP, a London-based arts charity that promotes photography and film addressing cultural identity, race, representation and human rights. Her research led curatorial and scholarly practice focuses on African, Black British and diasporic photographic practices, with a special interest in portraiture, gender and sexuality. Over the past 10 years she has overseen the establishment of Autograph’s Archive and Research Centre at Rivington Place, and organised numerous exhibitions in Europe, Africa and the US. She lectures and publishes internationally on photography and cultural politics, and has been a regular guest curator and former non-resident fellow at the Hutchins Centre for African and African American Research at Harvard University since 2009. She is presently a PhD candidate in Art History at University College London.
About Autograph ABP
Established in 1988 with the mission of advocating the inclusion of historically marginalised photographic practices, Autograph ABP is a charity that works internationally in photography and film, cultural identity, race, representation and human rights.
Autograph ABP is based in London where it runs a photography gallery and a programme of talks and educational activities. It also works internationally promoting exhibitions, events and publications.
Click here for more information about Autograph ABP and their work.
Black Chronicles is produced in association with the Hulton Archive, a division of Getty Images. Photographs by London Stereoscopic Company © Hulton Archive/Getty Images are shown courtesy of Autograph ABP, London.
Printed by Mike Spry between 2014 - 2017. All vintage photographs and other archive material courtesy of Autograph ABP. Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund. Digitally reproduced photographs of Sarah Forbes Bonetta (Davies) and others are shown courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London and private collections as stated.
Autograph ABP is supported using public funding by Arts Council England. The Missing Chapter/Black Chronicles was supported by Heritage Lottery Fund (UK) between 2013 – 2016.
Black Chronicles IV is supported by British Council Connect ZA, The US Mission to South Africa, the National Research Foundation, and the University of Johannesburg.
The African Choir 1891 Re-Imagined sound-installation has been made possible through generous financial support from the South African Department of Arts and Culture (DAC).
Scrolling image credits: Members of the African Choir, London, 1891. By London Stereoscopic Company (left to right: Frances Gqoba; Katie Manye [later known as Katie Makanya]; Paul Xiniwe and Eleanor Xiniwe) © Hulton Archive/Getty Images. Courtesy of Hulton Archive, and Autograph ABP, London. Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.
A hard-cover book to accompany the exhibition series Black Chronicles will be published by Autograph ABP in partnership with Harvard University’s Hutchins Center, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, and the Visual Ixdentities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD), University of Johannesburg (forthcoming Spring 2018).