Distance and Desire : Encounters with the African Archive
Part I: Santu Mofokeng and A.M. Duggan-Cronin


The opening exhibition juxtaposes A.M. Duggan-Cronin’s « The Bantu Tribes of South Africa » with Santu Mofokeng’s « The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950. » Duggan-Cronin’s eleven-volume study, published between 1928-1954, is renowned and contested for preserving an ethnographic vision of African heritage. In contrast, « The Black Photo Album, » created in 1997 by contemporary South African artist Santu Mofokeng, is an archive of pictures – commissioned by black South Africans in the early twentieth century – and stories about the subjects, challenging fixed ideas of the « native type » most often associated with photographic representations of Africans.

A three-part exhibition series on photography from Southern Africa, Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive, focuses on rarely before seen portraits, albums, cartes de visite, and books from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and will be on view at The Walther Collection Project Space in New York from September 2012 to May 2013. The exhibitions stage a dialogue between ethnographic visions and contemporary engagements with archival imagery and feature recent work by African and African American artists. Distance and Desire offers new perspectives on the archive, reimagining its poetic and political dimensions, its diverse histories, and its changing meanings. The series is curated by Tamar Garb, Durning Lawrence Professor in the History of Art at University College London.