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NCCR Mediality

Die Nationalen Forschungsschwerpunkte (NFS) sind ein Förderungsmittel des Schweizerischen Nationalfonds.
X. Display
X.4. Circulation, Appropriation, Redefinition – Colonial Photography in the Postcolonial Context

Historical photographs that originated in Africa’s colonial period circulated over time in various spaces and media forms and were published and displayed for multiple reasons. In the post-colonial context, photographs are again appropriated, redefined and utilised in various ways: portraits of prisoners of war that were once used to depict different “racial types” or to discourage “uprisings”, are nowadays used in schoolbooks and scientific publications as documentary witnesses of colonial resistance.
The project analyzes the contemporary public and private use of historical photographs from Tanzania. Following Elizabeth Edwards’ approach, it applies methods of visual and oral history to trace the biographies of selected photographs – from their origin in the colonial period to their recent use and storage – tracing not only the interpretations of the producers and different recipients but also the forms of (re-)presentation. The main focus lies in the processes and inherent medial logic which enable pictures to have different medial effects and repercussions within different contexts. In other words, the project focuses on the ambiguous character of photographs as yielding a broad repertoire of utilization and reinterpretation.
The analysis of their various uses in the past and present allows us to decrypt the photographs in both the colonial and postcolonial context, and also to grasp their proper characteristics. Last but not least, the project contributes to the history of photography in Tanzania and sheds light on the question of how colonial heritage is used in a post-colonial context.