USAKOS – Photographs Beyond Ruins: The old location albums, 1920’s-1960
This exhibition is a mobile version of the one housed at the Usakos Municipal Building, Namibia. It will open on Tuesday, 16 February at the District Six Museum Homecoming Centre, followed by a walk-about and panel discussion on Saturday, 20thFebruary (The politics, culture and pedagogy of representation) and it will be closed with the launch of a photo and video blog on Saturday, 12th March titled: Tell your story to a ‘born free’!
This mobile exhibition revolves around private photographic collections owned by four female residents of the small town in central Namibia called Usakos: Cecilie //Geises, Wilhelmine Katjimune, Gisela Pieters and Olga //Garoës. The photographic collections lay out the physical and social landscapes of the old location. They range from studio photography; images of particular location sites and buildings; photographs of mission congregations and school classes; music bands and football teams; and many portraits of men and women posing in front of the camera. Most images were taken by local or itinerant African photographers, and they evidence a vibrant aesthetic and visual culture in a cosmopolitan environment that made a stand against the containments and constrictions imposed by the politics of race.
The exhibition will be open to the public from 17th February to 16th March 2016
OPENING TALK: OMAR BADSHA
Tuesday, 16th February 2016
6 for 6.30pm
D6M Homecoming Centre, Gallery
15 Buitenkant Street, Cape Town
GPS: -33° 55′ 36.940707″, 18° 25′ 28.475475″
Contact Zahra: 021 4667200 / email@example.com
Usakos, a railway town
Usakos developed as one of the main hubs of first the German colonial and later the South African railway system. Its urban morphology was marked, from its early beginnings, by the policies of segregation and apartheid urban planning. The exhibition highlights a particularly traumatic moment in the town´s history, when in the early 1960s the apartheid administration began to remove African residents out of what was then called the old location into newly built townships that were geographically removed from those parts of the town subsequently reserved for ‘whites’.
The collectors and the collections
The four women and their photographic archives are part of a trans-generational network and practice of collecting and curating. Since their lives and those of their fellow residents have been deeply marked by the experience of forced removal, and concurrently by economic decay and socio-cultural disruption, their collections have become part of diverse discourses and practices of commemoration and memorialisation.
The women´s care for the photographs – the ways in which they have for several decades placed them in albums, displayed them in living rooms, shared them in conversations with family, friends and acquaintances, and stored them in handbags and boxes – is an expression of how these women´s small but continuous daily aesthetic acts powerfully countered the ruination of their living environments. This is why the collections transcend the concern to recover the past alone and also describe an ongoing reflection of the present inviting an opening into the future. The Usakos photographic collections then constitute forms and practices of collective mobilisation – of memory and experience, of vision and imaginary.
The resonances of the old location photographic collections in the past, present and future are taken up in the exhibition through the work of photographer Paul Grendon. His camera follows the traces and layers of the Usakos experience of colonialism and apartheid that remain visible in the physical and social landscape of the town: it exposes ruins of the old location houses, maps out a decaying railway infrastructure, but also explores the many ways in which residents of Usakos have and continue to relate to their environment, turning spaces of ruination into places of belonging.
The exhibition catalogue and content
The exhibition catalogue includes essays on photography and the urban history of Usakos; three image sections including a black and white one introducing the women collectors and their collections of historical photographs; and one section with colour photographs by Paul Grendon.
The exhibition consists of mobile panels on which are printed black and white photographs selected from the women’s collections and colour photographs by Paul Grendon. Additionally there are information panels and two large maps. The mobile exhibition is a newly produced version of the one produced for Namibia and another one for international travel.
Important to the process was the substantial involvement of students in the Usakos and Basel exhibitions. Students from the collaborating Universities of Basel and Namibia, participated in the mounting of the exhibition in Usakos and again in Basel. They also worked on joint oral history projects.
The first exhibition opening was in the Usakos Municipality Building on 27 June 2015. The opening event was planned by the Usakos Municipality in collaboration with the Museums Association of Namibia. The exhibition will permanently remain in Usakos and be integrated into the future local museum.
Europe & USA
A second exhibition was produced for Europe and America, and was opened in Paris at Sorbonne University on 7 July 2015. The exhibition was then scheduled as part of the European Conference of African Studies in Paris on 8-10 July. Following Paris, it was presented at the Basler Afrika Bibliographien in Basel on 28 August 2015, and then at the University of Bielefeld on 7 November 2015. The following venues have been confirmed: the Regis West Gallery, Minneapolis on 5 April 2016 and then the Brunei Gallery, London on July 2017.
The mobile version that will be at the District Six Museum Homecoming Centre, Cape Town in February 2016, is scheduled to go to the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, the University of Fort Hare in East London, and then the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg. Eventually the exhibition will be handed over to the Museums Association of Namibia for further educational use in the country.
The exhibition is curated by Paul Grendon, Giorgio Miescher, Lorena Rizzo, and Tina Smith
PROJECT PARTNERS & FUNDERS
Carl Schlettwein Stiftung Basel
Max Geldner Stiftung Basel
Municipality of Usakos
Stiftung Mercator Schweiz