Figurative images have long played a critical, if largely unexamined, role in Africa—mediating relationships between the colonizer and the colonized, the state and the individual, and the global and the local. This pivotal volume considers the meaning and power of images in African history and culture. Paul S. Landau and Deborah Kaspin have assembled a wide-ranging collection of essays dealing with specific visual forms, including monuments, cinema, cartoons, domestic and professional photography, body art, world fairs, and museum exhibits. The contributors, experts in a number of disciplines, discuss various modes of visuality in Africa and of Africa, investigating the interplay of visual images with personal identity, class, gender, politics, and wealth.
Integral to the argument of the book are over seventy contextualized illustrations. Africans saw foreigners in margarine wrappers, Tintin cartoons, circus posters, and Hollywood movies; westerners gleaned impressions of Africans from colonial exhibitions, Tarzan films, and naturalist magazines. The authors provide concrete examples of the construction of Africa's image in the modern world. They reveal how imperial iconographies sought to understand, deny, control, or transform authority, as well as the astonishing complexity and hybridity of visual communication within Africa itself.
Images and Empires Visuality in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa
An Amazing Distance: Pictures and People in AfricaPaul S. Landau
"Truly here are real savages by our standards; for either they must be thoroughly so, or we must be; there is an amazing distance between their character and ours."1 Michel de Montaigne makes this observation in his essay "Of Cannibals." His point, especially apparent in the word "amazing," is that the derogatory European appraisal of Brazilian indigenes as "savages" is ironic. For while European "civilization" has left behind the valor and moral simplicity of the classical past, the Brazilian "cannibals" have not, and are pure of heart. The argument is made mostly by implication, especially in the consistency with which Montaigne quotes King Pyrrus,, Plato, Aristotle, Zeno and other such luminaries in describing the "cannibals": Plato for instance would have seen mankind's Golden Age in them, and the cannibal language resembled Greek. "Of Cannibals" can be read as an early formulation of a theory of what some modern writers call "alterity," the idea that certain kinds of interactions tell people who they are and who most certainly they are not.2
This book is about Africans, not about Brazilians, and in fact, about Africans and visual mimesis. Our authors come from various fields, but each chapter focuses on visual images as they were deployed in their contexts of apprehension. Most of the chapters juxtapose two different kinds of images, in the sense of the editors' suggestion that essays compare "African" iconographies and readings, with "European" ones. More accurately, their discussions can be said to concern "the global and the local." They embrace advertising and folk art; colonist and indigene; photography and funerary sculpture; film and dance; public spectacle and private behavior; and international and street cartooning, among other topics. By focusing on the intersections between such domains, the authors, as a group, make several related arguments , demonstrating that images change depending on who is looking at them and showing how images have both underwritten, and undermined, the hierarchies that governed colonial Africa. Most interesting to me, the chapters in this book all reveal how people use images to draw together previously inchoate social meanings from their own societies, and then how they use them to "recognize" people from other societies. Our contributors are smart enough to know that any kind of dualism is an inadequate model for human interaction. Nonetheless, and this is my point, they all contemplate the same "amazing distance" remarked upon by Montaigne. It seems as if images lend themselves particularly to doing so.
"Image" is a very forgiving word, even a promiscuous one. In a basic sense, an image means a picture, whether the referent is present as an object, or in the mind. At the same time, a picture, in the sense of a sign that resembles—"a picture is of something"—cannot really be in the mind, as a moment's reflection will show.3 Thus, if we begin thinking about the subject matter of this book in a limited sense, with the idea of an "image of Africa," it should be acknowledged that this image really consists of a set of ideas associated with Africa (albeit ones that, perhaps, also embody visual components).4 Here Montaigne's essay is again a good guide. It reminds us that the history of the European view of non-European peoples has always reflected Europeans' history of imagining themselves.
Patently such was the case with Europe's general knowledge of Africa before the nineteenth century. Armchair geographers reached into what was a rather shallow archive of reports, glimpses, and rumors accumulated over past centuries, and the "Africa" they fabricated owed much to Western demands and prejudices. We might call the resulting collage—the "image" of Africa that, in fact, still survives today—an "image-Africa," paralleling Edward Said's discursive "Orient" constructed by European travelers.5 The history of the development of the image-Africa would include The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (75 c.e.), with its cryptic description of tall trading men; the temporary location of Prester John in Nubia or Ethiopia; the visibility of the pilgrimage of Mansa Musa, emperor of Mali; the white spaces on the Mappa Mundi, and Guy Tachard's and Peter Kolben's woodcuts of Bushmen posed like Socrates. It would account for dark invocations of witchery and fetishism "from" Africa; the popularity of Leo Africanus's narratives; the ancient mystique of the "Mountains of the Moon," and the idea of the Hamites. It would brace us for a reading of two of the volumes of the massive eighteenth-century Universal History. The image-Africa's permutations might be seen as implicitly charting the rise of sixteenth-century Europe out of Asia's shadow, the colonial encroachments of the Portuguese and the Dutch, and the prospects of swift gain along the Ivory, Slave and Gold coasts.6 Its accretion of images and figments and blanks either followed the contours of the familiar or detoured into obscenity, exoticism, and incomprehension.
At the height of the African slave trade, the image-Africa underwent a change. Joseph Miller has called the transatlantic commerce in human beings the "way of death." Its effect on to the West's picture of Africa was also pernicious, as the degradation of millions of Africans soured the Western imagination of their places of origin.7 The contrary response was to assert the commonality of the slaves' humanity. The freedman Olaudah Equiano went further than this and effectively recapitulated Montaigne's cannibal trope in "Of Cannibals." Equiano grasped that even if Westerners could not see contemporary Africans as their equals, they might still be led to understand Africans as embodying the essence of Europe's ancestors and so he drew an analogy between "the manners and customs of my countryman and those of the Jews before they reached the Land of Promise . . . [in other words,] the Israelites in their primitive state. . . . As to the difference of colour between the Eboan Africans and the modern Jews," he continued, "I shall not presume to account for it."8
Equiano was asking his European readers to project aspects of their imagined past selves into the void of their knowledge about Africa. He knew they could not understand his own Igbo-speaking people on Igbo ("Eboan") terms, because they had no idea what those terms were, and possibly no desire to know.9 But just like Montaigne's "cannibals," the Igbos held within them a critical part of Europe's most authentic self. In the history of the circulation of images in and about Africa, this mode of interpretation consistently recurs: the substitution of what is familiar for what is alien. Westerners' visualizations of Africa did this, and Africans' visualizations of Westerners did it too.
In the fullness of the West's nineteenth-century engagement with Africa, the slave era's harsh views were fragmented. Of the many varieties of observations that jostled against one another, several again reflected Montaigne's ironic reversal. It was maintained that Africans were children; that the present day in Africa was somehow the primitive past of the West; and yet, conversely, that the ancient history of Africa belonged to the biblical past of the West.10 Wild men of the dark forests and magical pygmies were linked with lost Egyptian tribes and forgotten cities. Maybe, some imperialists thought, Africans could attain the same level of civilization as Europeans. Perhaps, however, others felt, they should be discouraged from wanting to. European theorists ranked subsets of humanity from fauna up to Caucasian, informing the evangelical and military engagement of Africans from Isandlhwana to Kumase.11
In all this mixed-up thinking, the images of Africans and Europeans both repelled one another and overlapped. The West's distancing of the image-Africa was met again and again by a sense of slippage toward it, or even a congruence with it. When one of Montaigne's "cannibals" was captured in internecine battle, he typically challenged his mortal enemies to eat him, taunting them that his own body had been nourished by the blood of his captors' ancestors. "These muscles. . . . Savor them well; you will find in them the taste of your own flesh," he would say.12 Just as the absorbed ancestors of the cannibal's opponent were part of the very stuff of the cannibal, Montaigne finds traces of "our" (or at least his) ancestors inside the "savages." He announces "an amazing distance between their character and ours" and locates classical virtues in theirs, not ours. In the same way, Equiano, by asserting the Igbos' similarity to the Hebrews of antiquity, dared Europeans to savor "the taste of your own flesh." For if the past of the West was mixed with the present of Igboland, slavery was also a form of cannibalism. In the chapters to come, while images are shown to behave in all sorts of ways in all sorts of different situations in colonial and postcolonial Africa, this dizzying, self-devouring, "us-them" reversal recurs over and over again.
When Christian travelers encountered slave traders and plantations in Central and West Africa, they reacted in horror and attributed what they saw to an extreme "otherness" of essence, to the irreducibly "barbaric" character of "Arabs" (actually Swahili) or Africans. They did not know or did not credit that the slave trade and the importation of European firearms had destabilized new African polities; nor that the subsequent abolition of the Atlantic slave trade had cheapened slaves in Africa without shutting off their supply.13 Toward the end of the nineteenth century, when the providential benefit of slavery in the Americas was no longer argued, Central Africa's garrisoned states and the incorporation of slave carriage into legitimate commerce in West Africa continued to reinforce European prejudices. All the while, Westerners accumulated a library of knowledge about Africa, developed ethnological comparisons, and applied their misprisions of Darwinism to them. As African identities were essentialized in terms drawn from the growing image-Africa of these paper representations, a science of bodies and races emerged and became a sourcebook of biological arguments for African inferiority. The "amazing distance" became a chronological gulf: Africans lived in a past era, which had accidentally been mislaid in the present.14
Such were the ideas and assertions of the learned. In comparison, the late Victorian public's ideas about Africa were probably more nuanced.15 A host of material entered the corpus of the image-Africa as the nineteenth century drew to a close in the form of explorers' accounts, sentimental missionary vignettes, promotions, tales of hunting exploits, and yellow press reports of military campaigns, all aimed at the burgeoning middle class. Some of this reflected the concerns and ideas of Africans in an imprecise way, but not much. Once-popular accounts have today been forgotten: not only explorers and missionaries, but boys'- adventure writers (Rockwood, Henty, Lloyd, and other lesser lights) also "visited" Africa. Those authors who participated in inventing the modern best-seller are still remembered today. David Livingstone's Missionary Travels and Adventures sold 70,000 copies in 1857, and Henry Morton Stanley's In Darkest Africa sold 150,000 in its English 1890 edition alone. Teddy Roosevelt, Frederick Selous, and other hunters were widely read, and Rider Haggard's sensational novels, which drew on South African history, had a broad impact. Like Montaigne's Brazil, the image-Africa of Stanley and Haggard was at once part of Europe's glorious past and the antithesis of Europe's refined present.16
During the twentieth century, the "archive" of both visual and textual Africana grew, but the image-Africa became even simpler and flatter in its resonances. Edgar Rice Burroughs, one of the most successful novelists of his century, fixed the image of Africa in the American imagination as a jungle playground for masculine innocence. Laurens van der Post helped distill the modern image of the mystical Bushman as a sort of Jungian self of his white readers.17 Despite the forward march of scholarship on Africa from the 1930s on, the Western public today is by and large left with decontextualized vision-bites of the continent and its peoples. Steamy jungle, arid savannah, Stanley and his bearers, Livingstone in a cauldron, the wise Bushman squinting in the Kalahari sun, bronze bodies, spears, lions, witch doctors and bones, tom-toms and war cries, wild-eyed rites and wildebeest on the plains, all hang in front of Africa like a theatrical scrim. They reproduce themselves over and over again, fade into the dark, the squalid, the starving child and the refugee camp, the irrational war cry, before returning in fresher forums: Saturday morning cartoons, Star Wars movies, and television commercials. The release and subsequent recollection of visual tropes replenish the tableau in an unending spectacular cycle of images already partially familiar to Western viewers.
Unlike the discursive field that "is" other parts of the imperial world—for instance, the Muslim Orient—the image-Africa lives on almost solely in picture form. This notwithstanding an African literary canon stretching back centuries in Sahelian, Sudanic, and coastal East Africa. The African "savage" is the inarticulate twin of overcivilized "man." North Africa, as an adjunct of the Mediterranean world, has been conspicuously excepted from this effect: in the Sahara, Beau Geste makes his way among all-too-human scoundrels, but in "darkest Africa," the society scion Greystoke grows up as a monosyllabic Tarzan of the apes.18 In contrast to the cacophony of the bazaar and the music of the harem, sub-Saharan Africa appears muted and speechless, deriving almost entirely from descriptions of Africa and Africans, and pictures of Africa and Africans.19
Items of visual media were therefore critical to the image-Africa. Colonial-era cinema, stereoscopic slides, tobacco-package inserts, Senegalese postcards, Tintin comic strips, half-tone news photographs, colonial exhibitions, Natural History Magazine, animal trophies, and mounted spears and shields all informed it. The serious investigation of visual signs in the experience of colonialism has only just begun. Christraud Geary has written a pathbreaking study of photographs from the kingdom of Bamun, Cameroon, and Andrew Roberts has directed scholars' attention to photography in Africa as an historical source.20 Annie Coombes has produced an innovative work on the evolution of Victorian and Edwardian modes of seeing Africa in museums and colonial exhibitions.21 Jan Nederveen-Pieterse has written a general overview of images of Africa and African Americans, and James Ryan has published a history of photography in the British empire.22 Pascal Blanchard and the Association Connaissance de l'histoire de l'Afrique contemporaine have archived, exhibited, and commented on colonial images throughout francophone Africa.23 And as Pippa Skotnes discusses in this volume, her important exhibition Miscast visually deconstructed the conditions of the making of the peculiar South African "archive" that has kept Bushmen at "an amazing distance" for so long.24
Of course, even in a banal sense, as Ulf Hannerz writes, "distances, and boundaries, are not what they used to be."25 High-speed travel, television, and the Internet have all trivialized "the distinction between the propagation of images or waves and that of objects or bodies."26 And so Montaigne's "amazing distance" may be shrinking, too. Nowadays it is fashionable to claim alterity and similarity at one and the same time. Western television commercials are rife with South African Bushmen, elderly Australian Aboriginals, Tibetan monks, Vietnamese fishing people, Maasai and Ovahimba pastoralists, Taiwanese urbanites, and Indian washerwomen.27 They proclaim the globalization of information and the (supposed) blurring of ethnic and class distinctions as they sing the praises of a software company, a cellular phone, or a sports utility vehicle. The effect is jocular, a disruption of visual knowledge, a "creolization" of the exotic. Have these insouciant people so consumed the culture of their alter-egos, that they have become them?28 No. They are entirely visual beings, straight out of the pages of the National Geographic magazine in a pediatrician's waiting room. Their projection serves to hide the reliance of major manufacturers on the labor of their kind: cheap, brown-skinned, Third World. Thus once again images of people in the postcolony serve as interfaces for an oscillation of perspective, from one end to the other of the "amazing difference": from alterity, to shared identity, and back again.
Of course, while there is always an "us" and "them," neither pronoun stands consistently on any one side of a permanent divide. Us and them change their shapes with the ingestion and expulsion of all sorts of constellations of people.29 The chapters in this volume deliberately consider, not only Africans' images with Europeans, but also quite varied Africans' descriptions, interpretations, and distributions of images among themselves—both within and beyond the venues provided by colonial and postcolonial state structures. None of our essays make the mistake of assuming the primacy of "ethnicity" for Africans' identities; nor do any of them treat Africans' creativity or responsiveness as somehow discernibly "African."
Bridging African Art"No poem is intended for the reader, no picture for the beholder, no symphony for the listener," Walter Benjamin wrote.30 It should be obvious to all that Africans have a long history of art and aesthetics behind them, whether Westerners have understood them or not. Saharan sandstone bas-reliefs, Nok statuary from Nigeria, and rock paintings and the Lydenberg heads from South Africa all instantiate traditions that can no longer be comprehended in their original circumstances. And even when we turn to African art being produced today, it still must be faced that the situation of its widest public, who are upper-middle-class Westerners, obscures the dense cluster of meanings in much of it. Africans' images can never simply be addressed "on their own terms," since those terms do not readily present themselves. Art is a compression of culture. It is no surprise that anthropologists use terms like "translation" or even "conversion" to describe the process of committed scholarly engagement with another culture, of imagining (in Paul Ricoeur's phrase) "oneself as another."31 The process seems so absolutely improbable.
What about attending to unknowable forms in the medium of one's own culture? Since this is what we all do, it must be a genuine form of appreciation! With hindsight, it is clear that mistakes have been made. As Annie Coombes has pointed out, African art is a fairly new category. Until recently masks and staffs and other "ritual objects" were housed in ethnographic collections like the Horniman, the Pitt-Rivers and the Mayer museums, and a body of knowledge was created through them. Since the regrouping of such artifacts as "art," Western art historians have produced new insights, and the essays in this book draw on them. Even the now outmoded framework of "tribal" art has permitted knowledge that no serious student of visuality can reject. And while the simple attribution of artistic styles to ethnic groups may be unsupportable, one can presently speak of Yoruba or Chokwe sculptural trends, just as of Flemish or Venetian art traditions.32 The idea of an African art history also serves to alert us that most of the illustrations in this book show objects of (sometimes considerable) monetary value. Images are not only cherished for what they signify. In this sense, if in no other, paintings, sculptures, and photographs may well be approached together as artworks.
Nonetheless this book does not approach images as art per se. Nor is there any comparison of African art with European art in the following chapters, and the reader may well wonder why. The reason is that neither the things Westerners see as art in Africa, nor the processes that give rise to them, share a single coherent status in Africa. One of our contributors addressed this problem some years ago in an excellent review essay.33 By examining various social-science approaches to African art, Paula Ben-Amos (Girshick) raised the question of what it is exactly that has tied together African art as a category of study. After all, as V.Y. Mudimbe remarks, "what is called African art covers a wide range of objects introduced into a historicizing perspective of European values since the eighteenth century."34 In most cases, Western collectors not only appropriated African objets d'art in the figurative sense but did so literally as well. In its curatorial organization, the African art museum, like the ethnographic collection before it, corresponds less to any African category than to the history of colonial expropriation. It offers its audience, in Maurice Merleau-Ponty's words, "a false consciousness, a thief's consciousness."35 The film Les statues meurent aussi (1953) criticized the expropriation and exhibition of Malian statues in Western museums and was censored by the French government in 1955. Mali is still suffering from the rampant thievery of its art works from archaeological sites today.36 As if to obscure such provenance, collections of African art were given coherence under the rubric "primitivism" (a synonym for "colonized"), an ideology which reached its apogee in the early 1980s. Many holdings still have no other unity now, even as the principles of "authentic primitive art" collapse.
It may be that the West's classification of forms in African art can only proceed by ignoring the content of that art. In a recent essay, Mamadou Diawara traces the African art object from its web of "libation, sacrifice, prayer" to its re-sacralization in the "temple" of the museum; there it is revealed in "the new ritual, that of being shown." In Bamako, Mali, the local museum cannot fully achieve this transformation, and many Mande people are afraid to visit it: they do not just see a mask, they are sucked into its world. Diawara's keen insight is that the aesthetic love of "culture," as an object, only commences when the terrors generated from within the culture subside.37 On the other hand, we must not view such meanings as "mystical" or "fetishistic." The assignation of "religion" to the making of art follows only from the derisory view that all precolonial African practices are somehow religious. Descriptions such as "ritual object," "occult figure," and most of all "fetish," often mean nothing more than that art collectors had little idea how objects were supposed to be used.38 The way in which religion is supposed to have infused African culture is precisely how Leo Frobenius, the influential German anthropologist and photographer, saw art as "manifest in every aspect" of African culture.39 In such arguments what is being remarked upon is nothing more than the inappropriateness of a category. At the same time, as Nelson Graburn, Bennetta Jules-Rosette, and others have demonstrated, the inappropriate category "art" has midwived the vocation of African tourist-artists with their copious output.40
The unfittingness of Western categories—such as "art"—has been apprehended both by anthropologists and Africanist art historians. Robert Farris Thompson promulgated the recognition that "African art" was something in motion, alive, with duration and rhythm, not something contemplated at a viewer's leisure. Johannes Fabian and Ilona Szombati-Fabian adopted the concept of "genre" from folklore in order to surmount the aestheticizing implication of "art" and to accentuate the ramifications of audiences. In a brave and insouciant little book, David Hecht and A. Maliqalim Simone represent similar material as "African micropolitics."41 Henry and Margaret Drewal have discussed the performance of beholding art in Africa, which underlines the fact that quietly lighting a mask behind a piece of plexiglass falsifies the piece itself. Zoe Strother has recently emphasized the history of Pende dance over the history of transitions in the visual forms of masks, and this in a book called Inventing Masks.42 Mary Jo Arnoldi and Kris Hardin opted to shift the field of inquiry from art to "material culture." Susan Vogel, who long held the formalists' position that there are indeed universal criteria for judging quality in all art, rejected in her show Africa Explores the usual distinction between colonial, hybrid pieces and "authentic," precolonial pieces created by tribes in pristine styles. In her more recent show on Baulé (Côte d'Ivoire) art, Vogel advocated contextualizing African art in local African aesthetic systems. Visitors were alerted to the privilege of seeing certain objects when they encountered rooms "restricted" to viewers of only one sex, or glimpsed a mask in the semi-darkness. Her award-winning book Baulé fosters a productive tension between Western aesthetic description and such very different sorts of evaluations by Baulé informants.43
Such a dynamic may nonetheless still conceal problematic hierarchies, in which African aesthetics are "regional" or "traditional," and Western tastes are universal. As Anthony Appiah points out, the attribution of cosmopolitanism to market-driven Western curators is hilariously undercut by their own narrow-minded statements.44 Mudimbe directly addresses the problem of "popular art" within curatorial frameworks in his book The Idea of Africa, and shows how standard classifications have little room for the African artist as metacritic. For instance, Marshall W. Mount distinguishes among traditional, Christian-influenced, tourist, and high art of modern technique. Noting that Mount's taxonomy is based on inconsistent criteria, beginning with the notion of "authentic" art, Mudimbe argues instead that there are three contemporary trends: art inspired by tradition ("to bring the past among us"), art searching for a "modern aesthetic," and popular art, which reinterprets the high culture behind the first two, commenting upon it for the benefit of local patrons. One thinks of the wall murals of Dakar, which blend images of the Statue of Liberty with an iconified image of the Mouride tariqa founder Amadou Bamba. Or the vernacular concrete sculptures fronting asafo women's cults in Ghana. Or paintings in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi that depict scenes of martyrdom, resistance heroes, and deities of wealth and good fortune. One thinks of painted backdrops to West African studio portraits or movie posters; ribald cartoons in the opposition newspapers of Douala, Cameroon; and Koffi Kouakou's witty carvings of lap-top computers and shoes.45 All of which, more or less, comment on the death of authenticity.
It is not hard to think of examples of African art that confound even Mudimbe's classification: Koffi Kouakou, for example, sells his carvings in the international marketplace; and what do we make of the appropriation of African barbershop signs and other ordinary objects by collectors? But let us agree with Mudimbe that the aesthetic hierarchies into which African art has been projected foreclose on potential understandings of it. The trouble is not that Africans have no idea what art is, and nor is it appropriate to say the European concept of art is too limited for what Africans do.46 It is only that the exhibitory view of art, from decoration to subversion, a painted rose to a Marcel Duchamp urinal, is not a good definition of what we are interested in here.
We require a different framework altogether with which to hold together our various discussions of European and African image-making. How might we view the production of popular comics in Kinshasa, Congo (Nancy Hunt, this volume), which stand in tension with Western comic strips and yet follow their markets?47 The resemblance of Manjaco grave posts to caricatures of colonial officials (Eric Gable)? The great importance that indigent women in Dakar attribute to photos of themselves arrayed in the finest borrowable couture (Hudita Mustafa), or the mockery of the innovative court carvers in the Edo Kingdom of Benin (Paula Girshick)? The only coherent framework for Xhosa grave sites (David Bunn), typological colonial photography (Paul Landau), the commercial products set on shrines of Mami Wata (Henry Drewal), and the filmed gestures of Bushmen in game preserves (Robert Gordon) is that they all deal with visual phenomena.48 And so it is good to ask what a visual representation is—especially in a cross-cultural context such as this book.
The Nature of the Image in Diverse Settings"Let us take Africa as she is, and try and see what her people are like. She has no smooth and easy history, each race has its past. What is this history? Not being set down in writing, documents for our information are lacking," says a 1957 photo album49 of French Africana. Where we lack written history, it says, where we find silence in Africa, we can rely on pictures, which can somehow tell us even about the history of something as intangible as a "race." Can pictures indeed speak so meaningfully to us? What do they say?
In order to answer such questions, we must begin by noting that resemblance and signification are separate concepts. A painting, for instance, shows a woman in tears. Whether she is part of an advertisement for antihistamines or a condemned seventeenth-century Italian noblewoman is secondary. The standard theoretical treatment in this regard is C. S. Peirce's distinction between the index, the symbol, and the icon. The first of these, the index, is a contiguous form of signification. It is motional, causal, or gestural: the sign emanates, as a trace or pointer, from what it denotes, and so can be read back to it. 50 In this volume, a small graveyard near Albany in the Eastern Cape indexes the plight of white settlers (David Bunn); animal trophies and ethnographic photographs index game and people (Paul Landau), and resin body casts (Pippa Skotnes) both indexed and resembled the African women's bodies from which they were made.51 Symbolic signification, the second type, is a matter of arbitrary assignment. In writing and speech, meaning is conveyed simply through habitualized conventions: there is no necessary bond between the sounds pronouncing the word "table" and a table, and it is only through past usages that the relationship has come to be. Finally, in contrast to both indexing and conventional symboling, pictorial or iconic signs are held to work by resembling what they denote. They share visual properties with what they sign for: Adam's hand on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel looks like a hand, and a thirteenth-century Ife bronze head looks like a head.
As it happens, this tripartite distinction has been seriously questioned. Peirce himself recognized the complex interplay between these modes and draws a distinction between resemblance and signification: when that bird pecked at Xeuxis's famous painting of a bunch of grapes, it was acting out of hunger, not aesthetic admiration.52 Some critics have then proceeded to argue that icons actually operate in much the same way as conventional symbols do. An early move toward such a position came with Erwin Panofsky's influential critique of perspectival representation; he suggested that perspective was merely a symbolic convention for representing depth, and not a copy of the real. Ernst Gombrich expanded the ramifications of the view in his celebrated treatise on the "language of art." When one looks carefully at that language, he argued, the distinction between "natural" (iconic) and "arbitrary" (symbolic) signs breaks down.53 In Gombrich's view, it is, for example, necessary to learn the conventions inhering in sculpture before being able to recognize even Michelangelo's David. Art functions by relying on visual "terms of art": one must know the "language" of picturing for a given genre before one can see what is actually pictured. The learning process is often hidden in culture, however, and goes largely unnoticed.
The same argument has also been extended to photographs: their apparent realism has been considered by some scholars to be purely a product of convention.54 Often enough, when scholars have questioned the transcultural "transparency" of photography, and even the idea that photographs signify through resemblance, they have looked for evidence in colonial contexts—such as Africa. Following Gombrich's Art and Illusion, M.H. Segall, D.T. Campbell, and M.J. Herskovits together reviewed visual perception among "primitive people" in 1966. Because primitives often cannot recognize what photographs signify without being shown how, they reasoned, it follows that photographs must employ arbitrary conventions that Westerners have naturalized among themselves. Similarly, noting that "primitive" peoples who had never seen photographs apparently do not know what to make of them, Nelson Goodman argued that the photographic sign must be deciphered like any other. In a widely cited article, Allan Sekula again makes recourse to Herskovits's examples to make the same point: the photograph is an arbitrary sign.55
Wherever we come down on the question of whether Africans could or could not read "naturalistic" visual signs before being habituated to them, however, the debates themselves naturalize a host of imbalances in colonial and postcolonial relationships. Even as their results revealed that key aspects of iconic signification are themselves really matters of politics, custom and culture, the experiments undertaken by Herskovits and his colleagues prefigured colonized people as people who lacked, and therefore could highlight, something called "naturalistic conventions." But as W.J.T. Mitchell tells us, the very idea of natural (iconic) signification may have been elaborated at least partly in opposition to the category "non-Western art," "ritual objects of pagan, primitive cultures . . . [in their] 'stylized' or 'conventional' modes." In interpreting Africans' imagery as "ritualistic," Mitchell suggests, Westerners call attention to what they cannot recognize in themselves. He argues in effect that "spirits" are hidden in the highly mimetic images so common in the West. The "natural sign" is a fetish or an idol, in the same way that some African sculptures, which provoked charged behaviors in their home environments, were understood as fetishes by Western collectors (more about this below).56 The edifice of nature (icon) versus culture (conventional symbol) has effectively blocked out more interesting questions of power, politics and thought in the colonial world.
Consider three short examples concerning the relationship between imagery and money. One: A missionary in the 1870s wrote that many black South Africans felt of the queen of England that "she can only be an image on the money . . . not a real person." What were the roots of those doubts? Is it justifiable even to consider what they might be, without looking at the meanings of British sterling as it cropped up on the Highveld after the opening of the diamond fields at Kimberley? Two: A schoolboy named Anton Lembede, later the intellectual leader of the African National Congress Youth League in South Africa, wrote an "essay on money" in about 1927, saying: "Money is a small coin, a small wheel bearing the picture of the King's head. Round this head is an inscription—head of the King of England—George V. You can go to any store. If you present this coin the store-keeper gives you whatever you want."57 Here the head of the king becomes a kind of passbook, and text validates image. The young Lembede understood commerce as a form of social regulation. Is this relevant to his notion of "naturalism"? Three: In the 1990s, platinum miners in South Africa claimed that some of their co-workers were disappearing underground and resurfacing after several weeks with mysterious "writing" on their bodies. A mine spirit had fed them "clay," which X rays revealed in picture form; the writing instructed mine authorities to release them and pay them a generous severance package. Now, in one sense, the ideas about photographic truth and captions in this example are simple misunderstandings about X rays and silicosis. Is it important here that there was a massive strike at the same mine shortly after the interview was recorded?58
The idea that Africans, Melanesians, and Aboriginals can reveal the hidden mechanisms of Western representation because they "have" or "do not have" certain aptitudes thus needs to be joined to another fact. The West has muted, observed, put to work, and classified those peoples, and rarely engaged them as equals. In South Africa, the "National Institute for Personnel Research" showed photographs to "illiterate, relatively primitive Africans" in order to see whether they could estimate three-dimensional distances; its conclusion was that Africans and Indians lacked "pictorial depth perception" because of "cultural" reasons.59 What balderdash. When colonial power is naturalized, the "primitive" visual sense is wrongly imagined to be some sort of definable category—one that is, tellingly, cultish and overschooled and naïve and unschooled all at the same time.60
Power is therefore hidden in "ways of seeing." Pierre Bourdieu has further argued that the license to appreciate and evaluate the worth of images in the Western world—in other words, the exercise of taste—is surreptitiously determined by the viewer's class status. In this view, an investment in an expropriated mask or statue and the sentiment that a photograph of African girls is a good one, both serve materialist interests. Status and privilege, according to Bourdieu, continue to affect all subsequent meanings for such images in the West, even subversive ones. By way of illustration here, we might think of the immense differences among various "tribal masks," the statuary in the Musée de l'Homme in Paris, and the semi-nude Senegalese girls in Edmond Fortier's photographs. All these influenced Pablo Picasso in his painting of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907). Picasso "understood" them as signifying together, coherently: they meant the reverse of bourgeois refinement, the exaltation of sexual license. Ninety years later, the magical mask in Jim Carrey's lowbrow film The Mask (1997) means much the same thing. Such consistency would seem to derive more from the perpetuation of colonial-era relationships than from anything else.61
Bourdieu has got hold of a large truth, but the relationships between interpretation and power in Africa were and are, often, more multisided than his analysis suggests. A central question of this volume is how we can begin to understand the jostling between the various realms of collection and approval that competed with one another: sacred and profane (Bunn, Skotnes, Drewal, Gordon, Gable); ethnographic, reportorial, and artistic (Girshick, Olaniyan, Landau, Skotnes, Gordon); even authentic and kitsch (Hodeir, Hunt, Drewal). All of the essays in this book pay attention to the particular political contexts of ways of seeing in Africa. The first two, "'Our Mosquitoes Are Not So Big,'" by Tim Burke, and "The Sleep of the Brave," by David Bunn—chapters 1 and 2—treat aspects of the variances in interpretations of shared images and intertwined signs, in southern African settler colonies.
In both the Eastern Cape and in Southern Rhodesia, power and status were ultimately mortal worries for much of the population. Burke examines the relationships between images, advertising, and refigurations of "modernity" in the latter (today's Zimbabwe). He reveals the considerable effort that businesses made to figure out the ways whites and Africans would react to commercial advertisements. The picture of an infant on Stork Margarine wrappers, for instance, was apparently understood by some Africans to indicate that the product contained baby fat. Whites reacted nervously to such "mistakes," since they pointed out something disturbing about their own taken-for-granted world: the "public slippage between the surface of things" and what lay underneath. Different periods saw different theories of African perception; Colgate and Raleigh and Bayer influenced Africans and, in turn, reacted to them. Advertisers' accounts of "African" interpretations were not neutral, if only because they displaced whites' recognitions of the seductive danger of images in their own lives. By rooting iconography in economic and social relationships, Burke usefully reproblematizes the idea of "difference" between the visual senses (and sensibilities) of Africans and Europeans.
David Bunn argues that the interplay of tombs and gravesites in the Transkei formed a history of competing "sepulchral representations." The modes of burial and the means of memorialization used by Xhosa and by settlers were in constant dialogue with one another, just as in the case of black and white Zimbabweans' mutual misinterpretations. In the course of the violent colonial history of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Eastern Cape, English settlers dislodged graves from their "illocutionary" places in Xhosa memory and made them into spatial markers. Along the way, Bunn argues, Xhosa people's perceptions of the indexes and icons of death also transformed settlers' perceptions of them. Here no one could mistake perception for a value-free activity. Opposing alliances of men sought to protect, respect, make visible, hide, or ruin burial places and graves; they defiled and inscribed corpses, painted burial mounds for reproduction in alarmist English journals, and made soldiers into bas-relief miniatures cut in stone. Focusing especially on representations of the death of the Xhosa chief Sandile, Bunn demonstrates that the fury of Africans, and of whites, paradoxically created a cross-talk of informed interpretation, not only about new representational forms, but about authority, pollution, and citizenship.
Image and TextBurke and Bunn show how habituations to representational conventions have had contested and turbulent histories. Yet, as I have pointed out, iconicity also has a rather passive, objective dimension, that of resemblance. It is possible for a small child to be "fooled" by a wax figure, or for a first-time spectator to be nauseated by the roller-coaster ride in the pioneering film Cinerama. Even if the conventions of painting, film, or sculpture need to be learned, visual mimesis may still be self-evident. Panofsky recognized the necessity of distinguishing between illusion and symboling, and separated the initial denotation of an image, which he called "pre-iconographic," from the reading of conventions that relate it to specific themes. "Signifying" in this view depends on experience. Consider the following vignette, reported by Henry Methuen, a traveler in Bechuanaland in the 1840s: "[T]here were in Mr. Moffat's house two good likenesses of himself and his lady, on first beholding which, the Bechuanas were struck with amazement; saying that they were glad that the originals of the pictures were both present else they should have concluded that these were their ghosts, or their skins stuffed."62
The contemplation of pictures by Tswana ("Bechuana") observers in this example cannot be disentangled from the prestige of Robert and Mary Moffat, the white missionaries, the assertion of status involved in displayed portraits, and the condescension of Methuen's reportage. Yet the Tswana were in fact unfamiliar with the portrait as a thing in itself. While they at once noted some kind of resemblance to the Moffats, it is by no means clear that they fathomed the general situation of the images at all. These Tswana had never encountered a surface as a fragment of dimensional space, but they had encountered John and Mary Moffat.63 The essence of the mimetic image, this distinction has been called its "double reality," in that it is simultaneously a part of a plane, and a section of real space.64
In the situation described above, Methuen perhaps tried to tell the Tswana what the pictures were. Text or voice can indeed substitute for experience and can convert resemblance into representation—turning, in other words, Panofsky's "pre-iconographic" denotation into iconography.65 In this case, "European painters have this skill" or "the Moffats sat for a long time while they were copied" was very likely given in explanation. Mark Twain, having seen Guido Reni's painting of a sixteenth-century Italian noblewoman, Beatrice Cenci the Day before Her Execution, commented: "It shows what a label can do. If [observers] did not know the picture, they would inspect it unmoved, and say, 'Young girl with hay fever; young girl with her head in a bag.'"66 For Twain, as for the Tswana, the text in the painting's label elevated what could already be distinguished in some fashion, to a more specific variety of sign. The picture's meaning would otherwise have been guesswork.
In this volume, chapters 3 and 4 offer extended analyses of iconic media that make no bones about relying on text: political cartoons and comic strips (in French, bandes dessinées or "BDs"). Along the way, their authors, Nancy Hunt and Tejumola Olaniyan, confound any attempt to distinguish African from European forms of representation. While recently in Nairobi, in a rather dingy local travel agency, I found myself staring at a poster: "Remember your first time in Africa?" it asked, above a picture of a lad paging through Tintin au Congo. Nancy Hunt takes on this tiny giant in "Tintin and the Interruptions of Congolese Comics," placing her discussion in opposition to the suggestion Deborah Kaspin and I sent to our contributors (which was to focus on a "single locale [and] two forms of representation").67 Instead, she describes BDs as a single medium, a complex, transnational social and historical field, with a core vocabulary that has proved remarkably able to traverse multiple locales. Congolese illustrators appropriated elements of Hergé's Tintin, and especially the famous Tintin au Congo; and Hunt traces an uneven trajectory through Kinshasa painting, postwar Congolese-drawn BDs such as Mbumbula and Mbu and Mpia, to the international success of Chéri Samba's paintings and Barly Baruti's BD, "Eva K," and the low-end street BDs in Lingala.
Almost by definition, comics include text. Printed words identifying the funny brown characters in Tintin au Congo as Africans could not prevent some Congolese/Zaireans from identifying with Tintin and putting his perspective to new uses. On the other hand, by fixing meaning in an image, text can greatly reduce the free play of its interpretation. After all, the very word "stereotype" comes from the plate that laid down print on the pages of newspapers like La Croix du Congo and the West African Pilot, an important early nationalist Nigerian newspaper. Tejumola Olaniyan analyzes the assumptions and messages in the political cartoons of a single draftsman in the Pilot, Akinola Lasekan. On behalf of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), Lasekan evolved an accessible style derived almost entirely from European and American newspapers of the 1930s and 1940s; ironically enough in light of European perceptions of African art, Lasekan explained his choice with the remark "African people seem to prefer realistic art." Quite unlike Hergé, who adopted the minstrelsy rubrics of the same era (what Hunt calls "a global iconography used to depict black people"), Lasekan employed a heavy-lined "graphic realism," in Olaniyan's words, another sort of global iconography, to economize on his use of text and further bring home his meaning. What strikes me is how relentlessly mythified Lasekan's symbology nonetheless was, how much it relied on clichés. Even when he labels a figure "Zik," for the NCNC leader Azikiwe, the figure is also a shepherd threatening to abandon his flock. The United Africa Company's comic strips were also technically derivative but were filmic and narrative. Lasekan spoke in stylized visual proverbs, in a suitable international style.
Oscillations and IdentityIconic images do not dictate to us. As Twain's remark about Guido Reni's painting shows, the conceit that titles are irrelevant to the expressive message of artworks is a pretense of high art. Captions at the bottom of lowly news photographs are even more important.68 Even if we accept purely iconic signification as a theoretical possibility, it is awfully rare in practice. Museums have wall text, comics have dialogue, photographs have eager owners, paintings have titles, video has sound—and experts are always ready with narratives and theories. Nor is it only through conventional (vocal or alphabetic) signification that viewers are aided in interpreting images: indexical elements offer less obvious help. Knowing that a Rockefeller called an African mask "art," like knowing that a Rockefeller donated a Rothko to an exhibition, at least inclines audiences to pay attention. In photography, blurring or strobe-light effects (and in film, slow motion) do not accord with the perception of moving subjects, but they come from the circumstances of visual capture and so add "realism." Rosalind Krauss has even argued that the photograph is fundamentally an indexical sign, not an iconic one. In her view, the "quasi-tautological" relationship it posits between signified and signifier mandates textual captions to a far greater degree than painting, which more easily accommodates visual symbols.69
The trouble is, when an image is passed from situation to situation, from predicament to predicament, the conventional signs that once went with it fall by the wayside. A common feature of many of the visual signs discussed in this book is their mobility. Chapters 5 through 8 focus on images especially as they were shifted away from their original performative or ceremonial context. As they entered alien circuits of information and exchange, images often arrived without any linguistic accompaniment.70 In fact, when observers adjusted and manipulated the identity of represented figures, they relied on the relative mobility of images, and the relative immobility of signifiers that worked by convention. It was the momentary parting of resemblance, or "mimesis," from signification, which allowed an image to be invested with relevance, and often, with key parts of the observer's own world.
Chapters 5 through 8 all treat this process in one way or another. They each discuss the relationship between mimetic representation, and the construction of dialogues between the self and the "other." In chapter 5, "Empires of the Visual" (Paul Landau), I contextualize the production of colonial photographs of Africans in the political economy of indirect rule. I argue that hunting and shooting established a technology and a discourse that subsequently accommodated the visual typing of African ethnic groups. The catalogue of recognizable peoples that informed colonial administrations operated largely, I suggest, through distance, which allowed Europeans to project various qualities into images. The "realism" of colonial photography was itself colored by the practice of photography, which changed from something that happens in a studio to something that happens "instantly" at the hands of the shooter. Instant "capture" furthermore reinforced the indexical character of the chemical reaction that froze the visible world on film and vouchsafed its reality.
The indexical nature of photography can itself even become a trope for verification. In southern Africa, the concept of the "photo" can express facticity even when no specific photograph exists. Photos have become stand-ins in important ceremonies for distant kin or friends.71 In one southern African account of Luther's objections to Catholicism that I know of, Luther "took a bottle of ink and threw it in the Pope's direction," a notion which nicely captures the centrality of text in the Reformation, but the proof that the ink stained the wall was "some of the people have a photograph."72 The leader of the "Ghathlian Church," a small movement in the 1920s in South Africa, wrote in a letter to the editor of The Negro World: "All I [can] do is to spread the opinion of the United Negro Improvement Association and get books of its photos to spread this spirit of the new Negro."73
Once the truth claims of photography had been advanced, they could also be manipulated. The same Mark Twain who noted the indeterminacy of Guido Reni's painting—a histamine attack or grief—in 1905 extolled the reportorial power of the photograph in a satirical pamphlet, King Leopold's Soliloquy, in which Leopold blames the exposure of his tyranny in the Congo on "the incorruptible Kodak . . . the only witness I have encountered that I couldn't bribe."74 Yet the Portuguese government supplied dozens of photographs to its pavilions in the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition, illustrating the wonderful benefits of Portuguese colonialism in Angola and Mozambique. A careful reading of the pictures reveals children working in a cigarette factory and a somber African driving a tractor over an already-harvested field.75 In Ghana, portrait photographers supply elaborate backdrops, painted with television consoles, refrigerators, or fancy cars, not as visual trickery but to supply "a mask of cool."76
In this volume, chapter 6, "Portraits of Modernity," recounts the manipulations of photography in the latter sort of context. There are, as of yet, very few histories of ordinary Africans' creation and deployment of photographs.77 In Dakar, as Hudita Mustafa shows us, women go to extraordinary lengths to create images of themselves wearing expensive, often borrowed, clothing. They strike poses aimed at projecting a precise form of double in the frame of the photograph, so that a poor woman can "look like the President's wife."78 Mustafa's analysis suggests that in these staged photos, several interpretations of women find concurrent expression: as objects of male desire, bearers of patriarchal decorum and prestige, and at the same time, independent and competitive individuals. In West Africa generally, "there is a strong tradition of remembering events by clothes and clothes by photographs," and photographers often start out as tailors.79 The "double reality" of photographs is manipulated, and the photograph as a façade indexes another façade: dress. In the same vein, we might think of the Bamun king Njoya's wearing of locally manufactured German uniforms and Hausa royal garb; of South African "Zionist" Christians' adaptations of clerks' uniforms; or even African youth's T-shirts emblazoned with pictures of their heroes. All are assumptions of the signs of power.80 When Dakar women "dress" themselves photographically, when they distance themselves from their daily lives in images, they create alter-ego selves.
In order to draw conclusions about the intention of signs—to make signification out of resemblance—we need as many clues as possible. The elements of a Kuba statue that make it of a king are akin to the title that explained Guido Reni's painting to Mark Twain; those elements are located in a visual vocabulary of Kuba conventions, which may or may not be intelligible in a museum, depending on the "reading" knowledge of the beholder. In any and all cases, however, the elements of the nose, mouth and eyes, the relationship between the position and shape of the limbs, all correspond to a person's body rather more closely than a cooking pot, a cat, or a mountain. The images and indexical signs of Africa pitched and rolled in oceans of speech, were hung in cathedrals of text, and winked and vanished in great tapestries of historical knowledge; but in the absence or mistaking of such contexts, interpretation nevertheless proceeded apace. The results have sometimes been astonishing. A Kongo nkisi became an African fetish on a Portuguese slaving ship, an ethnographic item in a museum of natural history, and a work of art in a gallery. Leonardo's Last Supper has been copied and recopied in Africa by hand and in halftone: versions of it hang in the homes of strict Methodists in South African townships and grace the rear of dozens of Nigerian buses. The first Apollo landing stimulated "trucker gossip" in the Tio kingdom that "the Americans" were going to hide the moon with a Coca-Cola sign and disrupt human and natural fertility: a prescient understanding, given the numbing ubiquity of Coke signs in Africa today. In these cases, previous usages are reworked in a way that erases the distinction between misprision and evaluation.81
The unfamiliar is not only malleable but also potent. A picture of a Sri Lankan may speedily take on deep meaning for a Ghanaian Twi-speaker. A note written in Sinhala (a Sri Lankan language) could not do this—even if the Twi-speaker knew as little of the intentions of the writer as of the colorist. Icons are polysemic: their resembling aspect is itself what allows interpretations to differ from one another, and sometimes to oppose one another. Much like ideologies, icons weave different audiences together and link mutually incompatible interpretations, all of which will be held to be legitimate. Such is one theme in chapter 7, "Mami Wata and Santa Marta," by Henry Drewal. A successful German circus master and keeper of exotic beasts, Carl Hagenbeck, included in his show a woman from the "East," possibly a Sri Lankan. Hagenbeck had a chromolithograph made of her as an Oriental snake-charmer. The picture reached West Africa, where many people apparently understood it as a reflection of something they already knew, a deity of personal ambition. This "Mami Wata" was associated with foreigners and water, and so fish, and via synecdoche, snakes. In making the snake charmer picture their own, Twi-speakers (among others) subsequently reimaged Mami Wata in its form. If the lithograph had been but a written text, no West African could have appropriated even part of its meaning without a translation. The history of the chromolithograph involves a break in the continuity of text and speech, while history of the idea of Mami Wata connects ever-new speakings with metamorphosing images. The picture of Hagenbeck's employee was but one: Drewal ends his chapter by considering her American incarnation, Santa Marta.82
Recall Montaigne's "amazing distance." Seeing a picture of a Sri Lankan snake charmer as Mami Wata required such a distance from Ceylonese-looking people. Seeing a picture, or a woman, as "an African" similarly relied on distancing, since otherwise such a picture would resolve into a more particular identity. Indeed, generic African identities were and are supplied to Western consumers merely by recycling their prior gleanings of the image-Africa. States and businesses have choreographed spectacles (Hodeir) and distributed caricatures (Hunt), required performances of "public transcripts" (Landau) and overt role-playing (Burke).83 Perception was inseparable from power, which is what decided which Africans were "authentic" representatives of their kind, and which were "bad copies" of others (Gable). In chapter 8, "Captured on Film," Robert Gordon discusses the way that Khoe and San speakers in southern Africa have, for so long, performed the role of "Bushmen." Gordon moves from the era of German photographic ethnography in the nineteenth century, through the filmed "Denver Africa Expedition" of 1925, to N!xao's starring role in the 1981 film The Gods Must Be Crazy.84 Because the expressive "dance" is a critical mode of being and expression among many Kalahari-dwellers, Gordon uses it as a metaphor to argue that the people labeled "Bushmen" have long participated—for better or worse—in performing their filmic, doppelgänger selves. In other words, Bushmen improvise steps in a negotiated choreography. Like impoverished people in the way of tourists all over the world, they conduct interpretations of their lives toward the learnt idea of authenticity in order to survive in an inauthentic world.
Exhibitions and InstallationsThe frequent imposition of identity in the colonial milieu relied on more than the fact that representations of Africans did not simply "work" by resembling something else. In any environment in which people have power over those they depict, identity is a critical node of struggle and compromise. Perhaps such struggle can most clearly be seen in colonial "theater," in which living Africans themselves (who clearly resemble Africans!) can be representations of identities that they are supposed to hold "naturally," but do not. In chapters 9 and 10, Catherine Hodeir and Pippa Skotnes discuss the relationships between exhibition and mimesis in the charged contexts of colonial and postcolonial politics. Like Gordon, Hodeir describes a situation in which Africans perform Europeans' prior ideas of them. In her chapter, "Decentering the Gaze at French Colonial Exhibitions," she shows us how Senegalese men and women portrayed the "Senegalese" of the image-Africa in the Paris exhibitions of 1889 and in 1931. They occupied Hollywood-lot "streets" and proto-Disney confabulations of West African architectural styles; they acted out the ideology of primitivism and innocence, and, as seamlessly as possible, the ameliorative effects of the French civilizing mission. The collective narrative resulted from careful performances by Africans in Paris who rode the metro and took cigarette breaks. Hodeir focuses on the exhibitions from several angles, revealing the motives and methods of their construction, and undermining their iconography in the process.
In chapter 10, "The Politics of Bushman Representations," Pippa Skotnes writes retrospectively as the curator of the most controversial post-apartheid museum exhibition, "Miscast: Negotiating the Presence of the San." The visual displays in the exhibit were recontextualized into widely varying discourses, including acclaim, complaint, humility, irritation, and trauma. One person's view that a picture was of a "bandit," another's that it was of a "victim," and a third's that it was "of a /Xam forager" might each be defended.85 In critiques at the time, even rare considerations of Skotnes's intention as the artist in no way hindered people's interpretations of her work as they saw fit. In her own thinking, Skotnes was influenced by Lucy Lloyd, a nineteenth-century linguist who collaborated in transcribing /Xam myths and traditions; and in her essay here, Skotnes juxtaposes Lloyd's archive with the museological and medical "archive" of body castings, artifacts, and brutal photographs of "Bushmen." But in the wake of "Miscast," Skotnes was herself accused of imposing an externally derived identity on "Bushmen," either that of victim or sensual object.
Skotnes herself is forced to conclude that she could not predetermine all the meanings her installation would convey. As we have seen, such changefulness is a general feature of images as they cross borders. Suggestions that a figure is an Igbo Mbari statue or a god of thunder do not rule out its reading as a white colonial officer. A "Kota" reliquary figure appears both in a dark corner of a men's association in Gabon and a street vendor's spread in front of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.86 Because images involve both resemblance, and conventional associations rooted in experience, they are bound to be differently interpreted by different audiences.87
Depersonalizing OthersIn his pioneering book The Savage Hits Back, Julius Lips noted that European artists most commonly depicted Africans as "unspecified figures." In contrast, he pointed out, African artists showed Europeans as individuals, and indicated their nationality, status, and even their personal character in their artworks.88 In fact, in almost all pictorial traditions, regardless of the national origin of the artist, only those persons recognized as powerful or relevant attain the full status of named individuals (see Landau, Gordon, and Hodeir, this volume). The same was sometimes true when Africans depicted Europeans. Sixteenth-century Benin guild artists represented white people mainly as generic "Portuguese," who became in their bas-reliefs figures supportive of (or ancillary to) the Benin court. This was much as they were in life.89
In chapter 11, "Omada Art at the Crossroads of Colonialisms," Paula Ben-Amos Girshick investigates how a lesser-known group of carvers in the nineteenth-century Edo kingdom of Benin (Nigeria) represented Portuguese men just as the balance of power in Benin began to shift. In delightful sculptural reliefs, these young artisans, called Omada ("bearers of the king's sword"), took advantage of their casted status to widen the space for their personal creativity. The Omada depicted Europeans and their material accoutrements on doors, boxes, stools and chairs. Their iconography sometimes ridiculed white men in Edo idioms, but it also betrayed a new and uneasy sense that Europeans' possessions were powerful objects. At the same time, the situation of the Omada placed them at a sufficient distance from Europeans so that the personal identities of the "Portuguese" could disappear. Girshick argues that the Omada's "in-between" stature, their position at the fulcrum between the high-status Edo hierarchy and increasingly importunate foreigners, gave them their license. It allowed them to evade the sacred strictures associated with guild sculptors and create a more charged commentary on political change.
In chapter 12, "Bad Copies," the last essay before Deborah Kaspin's Conclusion, Eric Gable offers an example of a mutual repudiation of individual stature, a mutual gesture of distancing, disdain, and appropriation. Like David Bunn, Gable examines the interplay between the resilient politics of African chiefdoms and the insistent hegemony of Europeans. He discusses how a Portuguese colonial administrator, Artur Martins de Miereles, created an illustrated archive of the bodies of thousands of African women. Miereles's effort to capture the image of the "traditional" part of Manjaco society in twentieth-century Portuguese Guinea (Guinea-Bissau) focused on the scarification of women's torsos. He catalogued 56 percent of the Manjaco's bodies, over 42,000 people, and photographed hundreds of women. Retrograde, feminine, authentic, naked and collective, Miereles's pictures suggest the quintessence of the image-Africa.
The Manjaco first evaded and then chafed against colonial rule. They also sought to copy its parts for their own purposes. The "smart Manjaco" who dressed in fashionable clothes and lived in urban settings appeared to Miereles as "bad copies" of Europeans. They were too close to the observing European self, and so insufficiently Manjaco. In contrast to Montaigne's understanding of Brazilian cannibals, these persons discomfited Portuguese rulers by resisting the "amazing distance" between civilized and savage, defying Miereles's attempts to transform them into embodiments of difference. Most fascinating of all, some Manjaco created a parallel to Miereles's attempts to record their nameless selves in his anthropological project. They carved deindividuated "Portuguese colonials" as wooden posts in commemoration of chiefly ancestors. The Manjaco were eclectic in their borrowings, Gable tells us; they were not cargo cultists, not obsessed with European capacities; with their "European" markers staked at the margins of physical life, they were simply exercising their right to copy. They reworked themselves on their boundaries with images—much as they had done, in another fashion, by scarifying their bodies.
Magic, Authenticity, Doubleness, and EcstasyMiereles was after the impossible. No one can measure and freeze what he sees as another's authenticity. Even grasping it for a moment feels almost impossible, since its reality is predicated on distance. When the photograph captures authenticity, then, having been taken at close quarters, it tends to erase authenticity from whatever it pictures. Such an image is then relevant only because it shows something that no longer exists. What happens when the meaning of an image is the disappearance of its subject? It becomes magical. The early photographs of South African Bushmen, as discussed by Gordon, clearly have this quality (see also the essays by Mustafa and Drewal in this volume). Seventeenth-century users of the "magic lantern" understood the same principle when they claimed they could commune with spirits of the dead. And in 1839, the photographic pioneer Fox Talbot called photography "natural magic," seeing in it "the character of the marvellous."90 In discussing the impact of a photograph of himself and his mother, Roland Barthes suggests we "keep in mind the magical character of the photographic image." In West Africa, photographers were long called "image magicians," and even today, "studio names such as Magic Photo Studio or Mr. Magic" are common.91
In discussing this magic, let us remember the odd notion that "savages" and "primitives," people in other words on the other side of the "amazing distance," also seem to possess magic powers. This goes for faraway rural peoples, for elves, Pygmies, leprechauns, Bushmen—and from some past African perspectives, Europeans. "Primitive" people are uncanny imitators (see Gordon, Hodeir); they are in touch with spirits; they shamelessly traffic in pretend magic.92 When George Eastman introduced a camera costing a dollar, he named it the Brownie, after the lilliputian people called "Brownies" by the children's author Palmer Cox.93 Surely a magical people called "Brownies" also gestures to the brown Bushmen or brown Pygmies of the image-Africa, whose remote alterity made them the perfect foil for hi-tech wizardry.94 In this unexpected and circuitous way, the "double reality" of the mimetic image, its startling ability to be and not be at once, again bridges the "amazing distance" between the civilized self and the savage other. That's "the magic of Kodak."
Just like other aspects of iconicity, the "magic" of mimesis is subject to the effects of interpretive hegemony. We can ground the point by considering the treatment by some Baulé women of certain small sculptures that Susan Vogel glosses as "spirit husbands." All images routinely imply presences beyond themselves to some observers without revealing them to others. "Spirit-husbands" are one such case. Baulé women marry them, care for them, and are troubled by them. One might say here that the image (the sculpture) has a presence beyond itself as an object of wood and paint. At first glance perhaps this looks like a peculiar feature of "tribal" art, or of African magic. But it is really no different from the "double reality" of the photograph: that it is simultaneously a flat design, and a section of the real: simultaneously an object and its referent, to at least some interpreters. The special care given to spirit husbands (and spirit wives), the way they are tended and hidden from public view, seems to derive only from the deepest meanings of husbandhood and wifehood in the culture of their living spouses. It is the signification of the statues.95
When such items are removed from the matrix of interaction in which they signify, when they are appraised under florescent light in air-conditioned galleries, then their prior meanings become spirits or specters. It often happens that the thing pictured or referenced is important for its fragility or evanescence. Its scaffolding, its "belief system," smashes on the shores of the modern world. At that moment, the mask, sculpture, or photograph that represents this thing at once becomes a fetish or a magic trinket. The "spirit" presence of a "spirit-husband" figure, once it is described in this way, is something that must be "believed in" by Baulé women (with the implication that they are wrong). Such women then take their places beside credulous Zimbabweans (Burke), hushed visitors to graveyards (Bunn), naïve spectators in a colonial fair (Hodeir). They are like the Malians who are afraid to look at a mask at a Bamako art museum. When Walter Benjamin discussed the vanishing "auras" of artworks in the "age of mechanical reproduction," he was alluding to just such spirits. In short, recognizing a specter presupposes its superannuation as natural meaning in life.96
The aura of a person means either personality or ghost, does it not? In Africa, these are often kindred concepts: the essence of personhood and the chimerical reflection of the outward self. It was frequently the second phenomenon, the human image, that was thought to survive after death as a "ghost." In Zulu, for instance, isithunzi means reflexive self, double, or image, and it is often given as "shadow."97 When it was used in ways that missionaries recognized as referencing the past, the same notion became "ancestor" (idlozi). Similar to isithunzi, the word modimo in Tswana located a person as a fading but ever more powerful and inclusive memory, a "shade."98 Note the association between image and self in these ideas, a matter that also occupies David Bunn in his discussion of South African spirits and grave images (this volume).99 On the western side of the continent, one finds a similar variety of image and essence. Explaining the relationship between Ibeji dolls, twins, and photographs, a Yoruba spiritualist interviewed by Hecht and Simone called "Mr. Deja Vu" said, "When you snap [photograph] . . . someone, you are looking at a picture of the soul of that person, not the person. ._._. That is why, when one twin dies, we snap the other and we find the dead twin again."100 Behrend and Wendl tell us that "in many African languages, the word for (photographic) "negative" is the same as for "ghost or dead spirit," and (to return once more to "shades") that photos have been in many places integrated into ancestor veneration.101
Yet Henri Junod, in his grand ethnography of "the Thonga" (an ethnic group his orthographic standards helped to construct), remarked that Thonga people did not really know the category "soul" at all. Instead of soul, Junod found a Thonga word that correlated with "Breath, viz., something of the nature of the wind, the shadow, the image, the external likeness, or fashion of man as opposed to his flesh." Quite obviously, these listed ideas are widely differentiated in English. As a result of their semantic affinity in Thonga, the human being is a "double" and can be "unsheathed" by witches or even, under some circumstances, by a photographer ("the magic of Kodak" once again). Thus when Thonga observers were shown a lantern slide of their people, they cried out, "That is how they ill-treat us when they take our photographs!"102 Now, one might still chuckle at this, since the projections were after all "just images." But one might also try to understand the manner in which the Thonga were correct. Europeans had long associated the double-natured image with magic. If they denied it in the milieu of colonial administration, if they located its magic only among children and "natives," they did so because they had failed to transform imagery completely into common sense. Moreover, they always cherished their ability to manipulate signs of all sorts—textual, aural, pictorial, and numerical ones. When it came time to make policy, they even seemed to privilege the importance of images over tangible people. The Thonga were perceptive.
As both Gordon and Burke remind us (this volume), colonial censors consistently banned cinematic scenes of Africans kissing or drinking: evidently they held it as a principle that Africans would read themselves into the diegesis of the shadow-play. Fritz Kramer does indeed notice this kind of "identification" in Africa, referring to it as an "ecstatic" and (for him) nonrational beholding of difference. In his challenging book The Red Fez, Kramer argues that in small-scale African societies, when mysterious "outside" presences possess people or things, what in fact is happening is that people are adopting alterity ("otherness") through mimesis ("imitation"), and so are empowering themselves. He views such imitation as an empirical activity, a sort of tactile phenomenology; and so he pronounces it utterly devoid of specters or spirits.103 Ecstatic (beside-the-self) imitation is "realism" in the same sense, according to Kramer, that Honoré de Balzac's writing is realism: it so full of perceptions, of "suggestive, intuitively grasped images" that they simply "overwhelm" the self.104
This might also remind us of the Sudanese Z&r, or the Niger Hauka cult, in which people perform, in altered states of being, as powerful others. Whether or not we call such ecstatic behavior "realism," it may certainly have real effects on the social relations of men and women.105 The cowboy "Bills" gang in Zaire borrowed from Gene Autry, and gangsters in South African townships emulated Spencer Tracy. As Drewal tells us (this volume), an Ewe person in Ghana likewise can adopt the guise of a Mossi or Hausa foreigner—or the image of Mami Wata—not by mulling it over but by "engaging" it. Such an argument might be tied to Theodore Adorno's claim that true understanding is not dispassionate, but instead "engages the specific experience of a matter . . . [in a] relatedness to the object."106 As an example, Adorno refers to one's submission to a work of art as giving way to "the compulsion of its structure." This "losing oneself" in dis- or different embodiments may be violent (as for instance in the disturbing Hauka episodes Jean Rouch filmed in Les maîtres fous), or somnambulant. But unless we distinguish "engagement" from understanding and empathy, which are functions of protracted interaction, we risk falling into the same mysticism that infused Picasso's milieu when he intuitively "engaged" African art.107 Sculpting a drunken foreigner (Girshick), dressing up as a rich woman (Mustafa), gazing upward at a film (Burke), and miming "African" blacksmithy (Hodeir) need not involve any sort of "understanding." Nor does the donning of blackface. In twentieth-century Cape Town, "Coloured" people still trouped in blackface in a "Coon Carnival." In Ghana, Africans did so. In Zaire (Hunt), artists reworked comic-book minstrelsy for new purposes. None of these instances of blackface required much knowledge of American blacks. On the other hand, they were not about ridiculing blacks either. The reuse of minstrelsy was about wealth, cool, and danger, from a sort of image-America (or image-France); of songs and adventures; of automobiles and black celebrities. The high prices that Michael Jordan T-shirts fetch in Kenya's outdoor markets indicate that minstrelsy is alive and well as of this writing.108
These examples might seem rather trivial, but the fact is that imagic appropriations, however tendentious they are, often create new versions of the self. Through that self, they channel preexisting forces, whether of anticolonial rage, monetary greed, or adolescent posturing. Sometimes, however, the effect fails to take. The images fail to work, and encounters remain a puzzle.
We have already seen how visual interpretations can be rerouted by hidden conventional symbols that signify in untoward ways, such as (perhaps) in the case of the United Africa Company's comic strips (Olaniyan), whose conventions marked them as manipulative, or "Stork" brand margarine (Burke), which accommodated a profound suspicion of colonial authority. But the removal of self from signification altogether is a different matter, and ends the alteric relationship completely. Montaigne's cannibal disgorges his enemy, ceasing to be his alter-ego because he no longer contains any part of him. The image of an "other" becomes "a mere image," a naked sign; the chain is broken, and the prior "meaning" of a sign becomes spectral, illusory or just phony. Thus in a remarkable sermon, the South African Griqua leader A.A.S. Le Fleur scolded his parishioners in the late 1920s:
Pentecost is no reality to the Ministry of today, the spirit of God is lost and the spirit of sects race or colour, has taken its place. This is the age, church without God, [so God becomes] ... a sort of show more the nature of a cinema imaginary, . . . for to them Jesus is a stranger, the spirit of God, a mere shadow.109A "mere shadow" here is the opposite of the Thonga's notion of the "shadow" as one half of our double-nature. Le Fleur's "shadow" is what is left when aura dies, when cynicism sets in. "Unity is a picture in the air," says a bitter Zimbabwean survivor of President Mugabe's purges of the 1980s. "What colour is it? What shape is it?"110 In 1879, a band of Jesuits passed through Shoshong, a town in Bechuanaland(now Botswana); they carried a painting of figures which, they hoped, would provoke Africans to lose themselves (as Adorno says) in "the compulsion of its structure." The imaging of oneself as another, as I noted at the beginning of this essay, is describable as "conversion." In this case no one converted.
For two days the entire population of Shoshong came along to admire our picture of Christ. But they were shocked at seeing a Zulu, a Matebele and a Becwana in adoration at the foot of the cross. They were unable to understand how or why these Blacks were there. We could not make them realize that this symbolized the calling to the faith. . . . In desperation, we feel that we shall have to alter the figures in the picture.111The Jesuits presumed that their image was an adoration of Christ. But in Barthes's sense it was "literature," meaning it signified no real thing at all. It was not even a "picture of Christ" in the usual sense; it was a parable, a word-picture in iconic signs, in which the faith was personified in Christ, and the hoped-for future of the faith was signaled by the trio of African "types." The Panofskian "pre-iconographic" representation of the picture—in which it resembled four individuals in the same space—ran counter to the intended message of the picture.
The point here is not that visual signs of a mixed nature were beyond the normal ability of Africans to understand. Rather, when an observer is said to misread an image, it can only be that he is not at home with the "aspect" (to use Wittgenstein's word) or with the "langue" (to use Saussure's) in which it is constrained to signify. He would have to learn that aspect by habit, or else as a set of rules, in order to arrive at a "proper" interpretation. Yet, as we have also seen, for an image to invite the widest audience into its fold of meanings, its beholders must not be too familiar with its components. They should, in fact, glimpse those elements from across a chasm: perhaps from across Montaigne's "amazing distance." Thus in the case of the picture in Shoshong, the Jesuits had to "alter" the Africans in it to render them sufficiently "other," perhaps lightening their skin, or clothing them differently. The figures could then become "types" and not particular persons to black southern African observers.112
The "amazing distance" is a tricky distance. Standing too close leads to scorn ("bad copies") or misunderstandings. Standing utterly outside a sign's ambit can detach its referents, which then become fictive. The Baulé spirit-husband becomes a mere wooden figurine, taken as more than that only by deluded people. In fact, things are no different on this side of the Atlantic. "Do millions of consumers believe a sneaker is somehow imbued with the spirit of their hero?" writes one skeptic about the American success of Nike-brand athletic shoes. "I am forced to conclude that I have no idea why Michael Jordan sells so many sneakers."113 Or so many T-shirts in Nairobi. When such habits are formulated and stated as propositions beyond the "whole aspect" of their usage, they can safely be termed false, even if millions of consumers remain inside Nike's world, and some Baulé people still keep spirit-spouses, and their habits are all logical enough. (Let it be noted that the accounting of images as doubles for the self is not therefore only a phenomenon in acephalous African societies. Indeed, it supports the economy of the Western world.)114 People fathom alterity, and even ecstasy, through images: they want to become wealthy, comfortable, loving, loved, sexy, famous, or just other. Who is to say whether they succeed?
Every unit of meaning, and not just every image, is a public crossroads of histories of interpretation. In the realm of the visual, decontextualized icons sometimes reveal this with sudden clarity. Not only Lady Liberty, but also Mickey Mouse stands beside Cheikh Amadou Bamba in a Senegalese wall-mural graffito. Spiderman works together with Anansi, the mythical Akan spider-trickster, in a Ghanaian comic strip. An ancestral marker looks like a colonial officer. "James Bond" becomes an ancestor figure in East Africa.115 More often, however, the ships of variant interpretations trawl past each other quietly, unflagged as to their origins. Was not James Bond also a type of deity to American boys?116 "Rambo" has been adopted in different ways by populations in Sierra Leone, Benin City, and Angola, but the figure had a bigger impact in New York and Los Angeles.117 The intersections of global and local interpretations need not all be ostentatious ones. Like a film star, the West African deity Ogun has "many faces," which vary from place to place, so that he has a different persona depending on where he is beheld. Each version of Ogun can be seen as a front for a larger unity, or as a separate discourse.118
Everywhere there are images, there are also struggles over what ultimately is real, and what is representational. Some such struggles are profound, others are comical. We shall see how positions vary, and vary legitimately, on different "sides" of images: the adaptation of Tintin to carry social messages in Congo (Hunt), the defacing of grave sites as an act of war between Xhosa chiefs and English military men in the Eastern Cape (Bunn), the attempt by a Portuguese officer to replace Manjaco people with images of their women's bodies (Gable). In all such contests, a fundamental point of contestation is where to delineate the real. Could an "African" ride the metro at the turn of the century (Hodeir)? Were not "tribes" a social reality under colonial rule (Landau)? Among the criticisms of the South African "Miscast" exhibition (Skotnes), the most interesting was the notion that the displayed body casts "were," in effect, the grandparents of some observers.
It is only right that we have trouble separating images from reality. Mimetic images seem attracted to that "amazing distance" that marks alterity, that limns the borderlands of the ego, and the "double reality" of mimetic images resonates discomfitingly with our sense of selfhood. Indeed, a picture in this book, and you, the reader of the book, are both in the world, and embracing of wider parts of the world, at one and the same time.119 The image possesses an address and yet encompasses territory far beyond it; it is simultaneously opaque and transparent, "there and not-there" at the same time; ultimately, it is uncontained. These same attributes describe consciousness. It is hoped that the following essays help make sense of this unsettling correspondence, perhaps not in the well-fitted vocabulary of nineteenth-century Thonga or Zulu observers, but nonetheless.
Notes1 Michel de Montaigne, "Of Cannibals," Essay 31 in Complete Essays, trans. Donald M. Frame (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1958), 158.
2For a fascinating if not entirely convincing discussion of the origins of this relationship, see Tzvetan Todorov, The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other (1984; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999). The best history of the "noble savage" concept is offered by Anthony Pagden, The Fall of Natural Man: The American Indian and the Origins of Comparative Ethnology (1982; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986). See also Michel de Certeau, "Montaigne's 'Of Cannibals': The Savage 'I,'" in Heterologies: Discourse on the Other, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 67-79. I am, of course, aware that Montaigne's real subject in "Of Cannibals" is his fellow Europeans.
3Ludwig Wittgenstein, cited by Ray Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius (New York: Free Press, 1990); I cannot recover the page reference.
4Philip Curtin, The Image of Africa (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1975).
5Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1978).
6James Blaut, The Colonizer's Model of the World: Geographical Diffusionism and Eurocentric History (New York: Guilford Press, 1993); M. Van Wyke Smith, "The Most Wretched of the Human Race': The Iconography of the Khoikhoin (Hottentots), 1500-1800," History and Anthropology 5, 3-4 (1992): 285-330; Philip Curtin, The Image of Africa (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1975), esp. 23, citing Bryan Edwards, The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies (2d ed., London: John Stockdale, 1794), 2: 60-79; The Periplus Maris Erythraei, ed. Lionel Casson (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989);and An Universal history, from the Earliest Account of Time (London: T. Osborne, 1747-68), with articles by articles by George Sale, George Psalmanazar, Archibald Bower, George Shelvocke, John Campbell, John Swinton, and others. There were exceptions to the generally deprecatory way of depicting Africans, in pictures of royalty, and in Caspar the "black" of the three magi. See also The Voyages of Cadamosto and Other Documents on Western Africa in the Second Half of the Fifteenth Century, ed. G.R. Crone (London: Hakluyt Society, 1937; Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus Reprint, 1967), cited in Peter Mark, Africans in European Eyes: The Portrayal of Black Africans in Fourteenth- and Fifteenth-Century Europe (Syracuse, N.Y.: Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, 1974), 66-68; Frank Snowden Sr., Blacks in Antiquity (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970), and Jean Devisse and Michel Mollat, From the Early Christian Era to the "Age of Discovery," vol. 2 of The Image of the Black in Western Art (New York: Morrow, 1979); Paul Landau, "With Gun and Camera in South Africa: Constructing the Image of Bushmen, ca. 1880-1940," in Miscast: Negotiating the Presence of Bushmen, ed. Pippa Skotnes (Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, 1996).
7This is the classic argument of Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1944); see also George M. Frederickson, The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American Character and Destiny, 1817-1914 (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England/Wesleyan University Press, 1971); and Seymour Drechsler, "The Ending of the Slave Trade and the Evolution of European Scientific Racism," in The Atlantic Slave Trade: Effects on Economies, Societies, and Peoples in Africa, the Americas, and Europe, ed. Joseph E. Inkori and Stanely Engerman (Durham. N.C.: Duke University Press, 1992), 361-96; and for an excellent recent overview of the relationship between slavery and images of Africans, see David Brion Davis, "Constructing Race: A Reflection," William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 54 , no. 1 (January 1997): 6-16, and the essays published in that issue. And Joseph Miller, Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730-1830 (Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1988).
8 Olaudah Equiano, "The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The African. Written by Himself," in id., The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, ed. Vincent Carretta (New York: Penguin Books, 1995), 43-44.
9 Equiano's narrative first appeared in 1787. Mainstream Protestants of the day commonly reflected on their own putative similarity to biblical Jews (David Waldstreicher, pers. comm., April 1999). Vincent Caretta has recently (and cautiously) cast doubt on whether Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, as he was known for most of his life, was born in Africa or in the Carolinas, which makes his comparison even more interesting; see Carretta, "Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa? New Light on an Eighteenth-Century Question of Identity," Slavery and Abolition 20, 3 (1999): 96-105.
10 Curtin, Image.
11 By locating the "true church" somewhere on the African continent, for example, Swedenborgians amplified the idea that Africans lived especially "spiritual" lives. Curtin, Image, 39; Patrick Brantlinger, "Victorians and Africans: The Genealogy of the Myth of the Dark Continent," in "Race," Writing, and Difference (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), ed. Henry Louis Gates Jr., 185-223; Ann McClintock, "Maidens, Maps, and Mines: The Reinvention of Patriarchy in Colonial South Africa," South Atlantic Quarterly 87, 1 (Winter 1988), 146-92; Martin Bernal, Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1987), esp. vol. 1, The Fabrication of Ancient Greece, 1785-1985, chs. 4 and 7; Saul Dubow, Scientific Racism in Modern South Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); and Jean-Bernard Ouedraogo, "Scénographie d'une conquête: Enquête sur la vision plastique d'un colonial," Cahiers du LERSCO: Iconographie et Sociologie (1991). Hermann Wittenbergh's forthcoming work on the capture of African landscapes into biblical and classical terminology will prove significant here.
12Montaigne, "Of Cannibals." This is also a reworking of transubstantiation.
13Brantlinger, "Victorians and Africans"; see also Patrick Manning, Slavery and African Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), and Paul Lovejoy, Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).
14 "At Harvard . . . in a museum[,] a series of skeletons [were] arranged from a little monkey to a tall well-developed white man, with a Negro barely outranking a chimpanzee. Eventually in my classes stress was quietly transferred to brain weight and brain capacity, and at last to the 'cephalic index.'" W.E.B. Du Bois, "On Being Ashamed of Oneself (1933)," in The Oxford W.E.B. Du Bois Reader, ed. Eric J. Sundquist (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).
15The 1890 Stanley Africa Exhibition, for example, avoided many of the stereotypes very much in evidence now: see Annie E. Coombes, Reinventing Africa: Museums, Material Culture and Popular Imagination in Late Victorian and Edwardian England (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1994).
16 Carolyn Hamilton, Terrific Majesty: The Powers of Shaka Zulu and the Limits of Historical Invention (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998), argues for the sustained influence of Africans' concerns in colonial stereotypes of the Zulu. On travel writing generally, see Mary Louise Pratt, "Fieldwork in Common Places," in Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, ed. James Clifford and George E. Marcus, 27-50 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986); and Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London: Routledge, 1992); Laura Ann Stoler, Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault's History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1995); Brantlinger, "Victorians and Africans"; and Paul Landau, "With Camera and Gun in South Africa: Constructing the Image of Bushmen, ca. 1880-1940," in Miscast: Negotiating the Presence of Bushmen, ed. Pippa Skotnes (Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, 1996), 129-41.
17For Tarzan, ignore Kenneth Cameron's empty analysis of the many Tarzan movies in his Africa on Film (New York: Continuum Press, 1994), and see Gail Bederman, "Tarzan and After," in her Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), who points out that the written Tarzan was a "killer of many black men" (in Tarzan's words), an emphasis missing from the filmic Tarzans. For van der Post, see, e.g., Alan Barnard, "Laurens van der Post and the Kalahari Debate," in Miscast: Negotiating the Presence of Bushmen, ed. Pippa Skotnes (Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, 1996), 239-47, who discusses "images" and van der Post; and we await Edwin Wilmsen's fuller study.
18Despite the quip about Africa beginning at the Pyrenees, for most Westerners Africa refers to latitudes south of the Sahara.
19For a recent summary of our advances in knowledge about (mainly precolonial) African history, see Joseph C. Miller, "History and Africa/Africa and History," American Historical Review 104, 1 (1999): 1-32. See also Said, Orientalism; Percival Christopher Wren, Foreign Legion Omnibus: Beau Geste, Beau Sabreur, Beau Ideal (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1925); Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes (1912; New York: Ballantine Books, 1983); Malek Alloula, The Colonial Harem (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986).
20Christopher M. Lyman, The Vanishing Race and Other Illusions: Photographs of Indians by Edward Curtis (New York: Pantheon Books, 1982); Christraud M. Geary, Images of Bamun: German Colonial Photography at the Court of King Njoya, Cameroun, West Africa 1902-1915 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988). Andrew Robert's pioneering work on photography and film archives includes Photographs as Sources for African History: Papers Presented at a Workshop Held at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, May 12-13, 1988, ed. Andrew Roberts (London: SOAS, 1988); and id., "Review Article: Photographs and African History," Journal of African History 29 (1988): 301-11. See also The Raj: India and the British, 1600-1947, exhibition catalogue, ed. Christopher Bayly (London: National Portrait Gallery, 1991), esp. Christopher Pinney's essay, "Colonial Anthropology in the 'Laboratory of Mankind'"; David Prochaska, "Fantasia of the Phototeque: French Views of Colonial Senegal," African Arts 24, 4 (1991): 40-47; and Nicolas Thomas, Colonialism's Culture: Anthropology, Travel, and Government (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994).
21 Coombes, Inventing Africa, and Raymond Corbey, "Ethnographic Showcases, 1870-1930," in The Decolonization of the Imagination: Culture, Knowledge and Power, ed. Jan Nederveen-Pieterse and Bhikhu Parekh (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Zed Books, 1995), 57-80; Sylviane Leprun, Le théâtre des colonies: Scénographie, acteurs et discours de l'imaginaire dans les expositions, 1855-1937 (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1986);' Catherine Hodeir and Michel Pierre, L'Exposition coloniale, 1931: La mémoire du siècle (Paris: Éditions Complexe, 1991); and Robert Rydell, All the World's a Fair: Visions of Empire at America's International Expositions, 1876-1916 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984). See also Grace Sieberling with Carolyn Bloore, Amateurs, Photography and the Mid-Victorian Imagination (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986); and Roy Flukinger, The Formative Decades: Photography in Great Britain, 1839-1920 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985).
22Jan Nederveen-Pieterse, White on Black: Images of Africa and Blacks in Western Popular Culture (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992); James Ryan, Picturing Empire: Photography and the Visualization of the British Empire (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), and Alloula, Colonial Harem.
23Pascal Blanchard et al., eds. L'autre et nous: Scènes et types (Paris: Syros/Association Connaissance de l'histoire de l'Afrique contemporaine, 1995).
24 Allan Sekula, "The Body and the Archive," in The Conquest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography, ed. Richard Bolton (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1989), 343-89. Skotnes insists on her own entrapment in the "politics of [her] own knowledge," to quote her wall text (which quotes the anthropologist Greg Dening). That may, of course, be so, but her exhibit nevertheless also attempted to contextualize the creation of colonial knowledge about so-called Bushmen.
25Ulf Hannerz, Transnational Connections: Culture, People, Places (New York: Routledge, 1996), 3. Thanks to John Comaroff for introducing me to Hannerz's work
26Paul Virilio, The Aesthetics of Disappearance (New York: Semiotext(e), 1991), 74; see also id., Speed and Politics (New York: Semiotext(e), 1986), quoting Paul de Kock (1842): "The railroad is nature's true magic lantern." Major motion pictures that betray a sense of anxiety about visual reality include Terminator (1993) and Terminator Two (1996), The Net (1997), Dark City (1997), Lawnmower Man (1997), The Game (1998), The Truman Show (1998), The Matrix (1999), Existenz (1999), Ed TV (1999), and The Sixth Sense (1999).
27For what it's worth, I refer to the international business elite, to the conjunction of the Northern and Western hemispheres in the so-called First World, and to the likely position of most readers as "the West," for the sake of simplicity.
28 See Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins, Reading National Geographic (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993); Landau, "With Camera and Gun in South Africa,"; and Hannerz, Transnational Connections, 66. The predicament of "civilized natives" is a political analogue to what Mary Douglas has famously described as the discomfort generated by "matter out of place" in Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo ( 1966; reprint, New York: Routledge, 1992).
29There are exceptions—the work of Tobias Wendl, Heike Behrend, Vera Viditz-Ward and Birgit Meyer being a few.
30 Walter Benjamin, "The Task of the Translator," in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, ed. Hannah Arendt (1968; New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 69.
31Paul Ricoeur, Oneself as Another (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).
32The cataloguing of affinities between workshops and artists in tribal domains results in a confusion of tribe and style. Rejecting this was the emphasis of Jan Vansina's important book Art and History in Africa (Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1984), and see also Paula (now Girshick) Ben-Amos, The Art of Benin (London: British Museum Press, 1995); the more "traditional" Africanist art history of such scholars and curators as (to take a few anglophone examples) Philip J.C. Dark, William Fagg, Marshall Mount, Frank Willet has also, of course, been terribly important.
33Paula Ben-Amos, "African Visual Arts from a Social Perspective," African Studies Review 32, no. 2 (September 1989): 1-53.
34 Ibid., 3, and Ben-Amos's citation of V.Y. Mudimbe, "African Art as a Question Mark," African Studies Review 29, 1 (1986): 3-4.
35 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Prose of the World (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1973), 72, quoted in V.Y. Mudimbe, The Idea of Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 67; and see 58. See also Guy Brett, Through Our Own Eyes: Popular Art and Modern History (London: GMP Publishers, 1986). On the problem of thievery, see Plundering Africa's Past, ed. Peter R. Schmidt and Roderick J. McIntosh (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996).
36For the fall of "authentic primitive art" after 1984, see Shelly Errington, The Death of Authentic Primitive Art and Other Tales of Progress (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998), who also offers an extended discussion of the discursive construction of meaning in "tribal art" in general. Chris Marker and Alain Resnais's film Les statues meurent aussi is discussed in Manthia Diawara, African Cinema: Politics and Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), 23. Scholars of African art no longer subscribe to the idea of a "pure" (anti-hybrid) art. See Unpacking Culture: Art and Commodity in the Colonial and Postcolonial Worlds, ed. Ruth B. Phillips and Christopher B. Steiner (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999).
37Mamadou Diawara, "Le cimitiere des autels, le temple des tresors: Reflexions sur les musées d'art Africains," Jahrbuch der Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Berlin: Wissenschaftskolleg, 1997). Cf. David Freedberg, The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).
38William Pietz discusses the fetish as both a projection of European categories of thought in the mercantile era into African culture, and as a theory of African thought, in William Pietz, "The Problem of the Fetish, I," Res 9 (1985): 5-17; "The Problem of the Fetish, II: The Origin of the Fetish," Res 13 (1987): 23-45; and "The Problem of the Fetish, IIIa: Bosman's Guinea and the Enlightenment Theory of Fetishism," Res 16 (1988): 105-23. See also Wyatt MacGaffey, "Dialogues of the Deaf: Europeans on the Atlantic Coast of Africa," in Implicit Understandings: Observing, Reporting, and Reflecting on the Encounters Between Europeans and Other Peoples in the Early Modern Era, ed. Stuart B. Schwartz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 249-67.
39Christopher Miller in Theories of Africans: Francophone Literature and Anthropology in Africa (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), tells us that Frobenius saw Africa as marked by a "rough, austere" art, which was in essence the "pure" Africa leaving no room for (in Miller's words) "disjuncture or agency." Frobenius influenced Leopold Senghor, who also came to imagine "Africa" as "an idealistic vision." Senghor' quoted from Leopold Senghor, "Les leçons de Léo Frobenius," Présence africaine 3, 3 (1978): 147-48, and Leo Frobenius, "Die Kunst Afrikaner," Der Erdball 3 (1931): 90, both cited by Christopher Miller, Theories of Africans, 17. W.E.B. Du Bois also articulated an anti-colonialism that, like négritude, reversed, without erasing, many of the images of nineteenth-century colonial writers; see The Oxford W.E.B. Du Bois Reader, ed. Sundquist, 624.
40Robert Brain, Art and Society in Africa (New York: Longman, 1980), quoted in Mudimbe, Idea of Africa,
41David Hecht and A. Maliqalim Simone, Invisible Governance: The Art of African Micropolitics (New York: Autonomedia, 1994).
42Robert Farris Thompson, African Art in Motion: Icon and Act in the Collection of Katherine Coryton White (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1974); Thompson, Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy (New York: Random House, 1983; Vintage Books, 1984); and see the anthropologists Ilona Szombati-Fabian and Johannes Fabian, "Art, History, and Society: Popular Painting in Shaba, Zaire," Studies in the Anthropology of Visual Communication 3, 1 (1976), and "Folk Art from an Anthropological Perspective," in Perspectives in American Folk Art, ed. Ian M.G. Quimby and Scott T. Swank (New York: Norton, 1980), and Johannes Fabian, Remembering the Present: Painting and Popular History in Zaire (narrative and paintings by Tshibumba Kanda Matulu) (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996). See also Henry Drewal and Margaret Drewal, Gelede: Art and Female Power among the Yoruba (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983); Z.S. Strother, Inventing Masks: Agency and History in the Art of the Central Pende (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998); and Mary Jo Arnoldi and Chris Hardin, "Efficacy and Object: Introduction," in African Material Culture, ed. Mary Jo Arnoldi et al. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), 1-28.
43Africa Explores: Twentieth-Century African Art, ed. Susan Vogel (New York: Center for African Art; Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1991);Susan Vogel, "Always True to the Object, in Our Fashion," in Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, ed. Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991); and id., Baulé: African Art, Western Eyes (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997). And see also Vansina, Art and History, and Sidney Kasfir, "African Art and Authenticity: A Text with a Shadow," African Arts 25, 2 (1992): 41-53.
44Kwame Anthony Appiah, In My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 137-39, scathingly discusses Susan Vogel's organization of a 1987 show.
45 Marshall W. Mount, African Art: The Years Since 1920 (1973; Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1989), and Susan Vogel, "Introduction," in Africa Explores and V.Y. Mudimbe, The Idea of Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 160-62. For wall murals, see Mamadou Diouf, "Fresques murales et écriture de l'histoire: Le Set/Setal à Dakar," Politiques africaines, June 1992, 41-54, and David Hecht and A. Maliqalim Simone, Invisible Governance, esp. ch. 6. See also Samba Diop, "Mutual Representations in Colonial Senegal (1900-1960): The Image of the African Native in the French Press and the Native's Perception of the European in Popular Paintings" (paper presented at the Images and Empires conference). For the Ghanaian form called the posuban, see Fritz Kramer, The Red Fez: Art and Spirit Possession in Africa (New York: Verso Press, 1993), 210-11. And see Bogumil Jewsiewicki, "Collective Memory and Its Images: Popular Urban Painting in Zaire: A Source of 'Present Past,'" History and Anthropology, 2 (1986), and id., "Painting in Zaire: From the Invention of the West to the Representation of the Social Self," and Susan Vogel, "Inspiration and Burden," in Africa Explores, 114-75, and 236 (and Cat. 86). In the Congo case, Fabian agrees that interactions between local audiences and artists create art, although he himself contracted the art he analyzes in Fabian, Remembering the Present.
46Robert Faris Thompson, commentary, ACAS, New Orleans, 1998.
47Achille Mbembe, "The 'Thing' and Its Doubles in Cameroonian Cartoons," in Readings in African Popular Culture, ed. Karin Barber (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1997), 151-63. My view reflects that of Pierre Bourdieu, Distinctions: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (London: Routledge, 1986), who points out inter alia that the elevation of photographs of ordinary objects and situations, over special ones, is a characteristic of the aspiring classes, 34-36.
48The way in which this volume moves away from "art" as a category is in an important sense prefigured by African Material Cultures, ed. Mary Jo Arnoldi et al.; see especially the introduction by Kris L. Hardin and Mary Jo Arnoldi.
49Robert Delavignette, introduction to the photographic album French Equatorial Africa (photographs by Michel Huet, Michel Mako, and Pierre Ichac, with notes by Jacques Vulaines) (Paris: Hachette, 1957), 21; a translation of Afrique équatoriale française, Les Albums des Guides bleus 29 (Paris: Hachette, 1957).
50 Indexical interpretations have always been important in Western scholars' understanding of African-wrought objects: the use of organic materials, blood, grasses, and so on has especially come to their attention. The reasons for this are complex, but one might note that material indexing is implicitly suggested as the tribal equivalent of Western iconic signification, in the sense that both are "natural" representations of larger fields of meaning.
51 C.S. Peirce, "The Icon, Index, and Symbol," in Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, ed. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss, (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1931-58), vol. 2.
52Thanks to Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Rezak for her insightful remarks here. Major critiques of Peircean thought have come from Saussure, Barthes, and others. Umberto Eco would get rid of the notion of the iconic sign, but he concedes that some things can perhaps look like other things (Eco, A Theory of Semiotics [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976], 216). See also W.J.T. Mitchell, Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 17
53Erwin Panofsky, "Die Perspektive als 'symbolischen Form,'" Vorträge der Bibliothek Warburg 4 (1924-5): 258-331, cited in Martin Jay, "Scopic Regimes of Modernity," in Vision and Visuality, ed. Hal Foster (Seattle: Bay Press, 1988), 5; Ernest Gombrich, Art and Illusion (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1956). Gombrich subsequently "clarified" his position in order to limit its less supportable implications: see his "Image and Code: Scope and Limits of Conventionalism in Pictorial Representation," in Image and Code, ed. Wendy Steiner (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1981), 11, cited in Mitchell, Iconology, 65.
54Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols (1968; Indianapolis: Hackett, 1976), Roland Barthes, "Rhetoric of the Image," in Image-Music-Text (New York: Hill & Wang, 1977); and Mitchell, Iconology. It must be noted here that C.S. Peirce himself classed the photograph as an indexical, not an iconic, form of signification, because the photograph is an imprint of the real left on a sensitive surface. For more on this point, see my discussion of captions, later in this Introduction. See also Rosalind Krauss, The Originality of the Avant Garde and Other Modernist Myths (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985), "Notes on the Index 2," 210-11, citing Peirce "Logic as Semiotic: The Theory of Signs."
55I am somewhat caricaturing the complex arguments in M.H. Segall, D.T. Campbell, and M.J. Herskovits, The Influence of Culture on Visual Perception (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1966); in fine, they argue against the sort of naïve cultural relativism afflicting other studies set in colonial contexts (32, 52ff.). Goodman, Languages of Art. See also Allan Sekula, "On the Invention of Photographic Meaning," in Thinking Photography, ed. Victor Burgin (London: Macmillan, 1982), 84-109. Sol Worth and John Adair reckoned with the issue by giving their camera to Navajo people in the film Through Navajo Eyes (1972); see the discussion by Jacques Aumont, The Image (London: British Film Institute, 1997), 94-95.
56Vogel, Baulé (I return to Baulé spirit husbands at the end of this essay); Mitchell, Iconology, 90-91, 113. My brief comments on Herskovits dovetail with criticisms from others who have argued that he erred primarily by divorcing cultures from their historical context in the New World. My colleague Stephan Palmié's forthcoming work on the Caribbean will constitute a thoroughgoing critique in this regard. Mitchell is quite aware of the relativistic usage of "fetish" to depict what other people do and cites Patrick Brantlinger's "Victorians and Africans," Critical Inquiry 12, 1 (September 1985), 205, in this regard. For idol he is also drawing on usages in Karl Marx, The German Ideology (1845-47) and Sir Francis Bacon, The New Organon (1620). My thoughts here are strongly conditioned by Wittgenstein's works, especially (to put things perhaps too succinctly) by his effort to avoid the common error of confusing customs with rules. See Philosophical Investigations (New York: Blackwell, 1958), part 1.
57Freedom in Our Lifetime: The Collected Writings of Anton Muziwakhe Lembede, ed. Robert R. Edgar and Luyanda ka Msumza (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1996). The quotation comes from the memory of Lembede's teacher at Inkanyezi Catholic school, Sister Sibeko, and may reflect her own thoughts. Lembede was about fourteen.
58University of the Witwatersrand, Historical Collection, CPSA AB 2259/Gd1.1, William Crisp, vol. 1, Crisp to Aunt Polly, Thaba Nchu, 1/6/1872. Interviews conducted by Mpho Matebula for Paul Landau, Phala Mines, August 1996.
59Saul Dubow, Scientific Racism in Modern South Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 236-40. Aumont, Image, 17, 20, 43, has pointed out that other studies of visual perception have shown that movement is required for recognition, and that the perception of space particularly relies on the movement of the observer, or memories of such movement. The Influence of Culture on Visual Perception by Segall et al. moves in the direction of the dynamic I am stressing.
60W.J.T. Mitchell argues that the debate over the relative weight of image or word in producing iconic signification is itself a displaced contest between ideologies touting nature or culture, respectively. See Mitchell, Iconology, 44 and passim.
61In other words, it is not only that taste indexes status but that status defines good taste through such indexing. See Pierre Bourdieu, Distinctions, and id. et al., Photography: A Middle-Brow Art (1965; Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1990). Phillips and Steiner come dangerously close to sneering at the hoi polloi in their critique of the populist amalgamation of "ethnic art" in Unpacking Culture, 18. On Picasso, see Marilyn McCully, "The Fallen Angel?" review of The Picasso Papers, by Rosalind E. Krauss, New York Review of Books, April 8, 1999, 18-24; and Anne Baldassari, Picasso and Photography: The Dark Mirror (Houston: Houston Museum of Fine Arts/Flammarion, 1997), also cited by McCully; and see Philippe David, ed., Inventaire général des cartes postales Fortier (Saint-Julien-du-Sault: Fostier, 1986-87). In Otto Preminger's film Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965), a tribal mask signifies sexual voyeurism.
62See Paul Landau, "The Illumination of Christ in the Kalahari Desert," Representations 45 (Winter 1994).
63Learned perception is a matter of moving about and deriving information from the constantly shifting sum of one's activities, but a visual frame in a painting or photograph cannot be shifted to make way for independent observations of the section of real space represented, which was new to the Tswana in the 1840s. This argument draws heavily on Terence Wright, "Photography: Theories of Realism and Convention," in Anthropology and Photograph, 1860-1930, ed. Elizabeth Edwards (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992), citing James Gibson, The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966), and The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1979); Wright's discussion of the implications of Gibson's work is particularly good (24-28). And see, additionally, Suren Lalvani, Photography, Vision, and the Production of Modern Bodies (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), 5.
64Aumont, Image, 40: this "double reality" has been mostly discussed for the photograph, but there is no reason to exclude realistic painting
65 Theodore K. Rabb and Jonathan Brown, "Image and Text," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 17, 1 (Summer 1986): 1-6.
66The example is expanded from Mitchell, Iconology, 44, citing Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883; reprint, New York: Reader's Digest, 1987), 262.
67Hunt is here provocatively quoting the editors' invitation to the meetings in which these papers were first delivered.
68Certainly, captions have been all but ignored in histories of photography: Patricia Hayes, personal communication, December 1997.
69Terrence Wright, "Photography," points out that phenomena like blurring segue into convention with accustomed encounters, 27. The photograph's power to convince relies in large part on our implicit or explicit knowledge about how it was produced: as a physico-chemical reaction to light. As noted in n. 54 above, C.S. Peirce classed photographs as indices. In a well-known two-part essay, Rosalind Kraus draws attention to the critical importance of indexing in Western abstract expressionism in producing apparently "self-referential" artworks. Like photography in this regard, such painting is composed solely of the gesture that produces it. See her The Originality of the Avant Garde and Other Modernist Myths (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985), esp. "Notes on the Index 1" and "Notes of the Index 2," citing (inter alia) André Bazain and Roland Barthes.
70Michael Taussig explores this process in his book, Mimesis and Alterity (New York: Routledge, 1993).
71Heike Behrend and Tobias Wendl, "Photography: Social and Cultural Aspects," in Encyclopedia of Africa South of the Sahara, ed. John Middleton (New York: Scribner, 1997), 409-15.
72Oral History Project, University of Witwatersrand, interview of Miss Nkwapa Ramorwesi by Mmantho Nkotsoe, May 25, 1982, Phokeng, "Bophuthatswana," South Africa. The concept of a "written record" can work the same way among the nonliterate.
73Joseph Masagha [Masogha], "South African Agent," Negro World, September 27, 1924. Thanks to the historian Robert Hill.
74 Twain himself supplied nine pictures of rubber-gatherers with their hands cut off: Gore Vidal, "Twain on the Grand Tour," New York Review of Books, May 23, 1996, 26. For the best recent treatment of the atrocities in the Congo, see Adam Hochschild, King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa ( Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998).
75The more one knows, of course, the more one can read the contrivances in photographs, e.g., the famous Stalinist images from which purged Bolsheviks were excised. On the rich set of photographs published in Albuns fotográficos e sescrítivos da colónia de Moçambique, with photos by José dos Santos Rufino (Hamburg: Broschek & Co., 1929), see Eric Allina, "'Fallacious Mirrors': Colonial Anxiety and Images of African Labor in Mozambique, ca. 1929," History in Africa 24 (1997): 9-52.
76 Philip Kwame Apagaya's photographs in this vein may be seen in Snap Me One! Studiofotografen in Afrika, ed. Tobias Wendl and Heike Behrend (Munich: Prestel, n.d. [1998?]), 52-63, "Shama/Ghana." See also Tobias Wendl and Nancy Du Plessis, "Future Remembrance: Photography and Image Arts in Ghana," film (Institut für den Wissenschaftlichen Film, 1997). Thanks to Birgit Meyer for alerting me to this. Her forthcoming work on local video-cinema in Ghana is fascinating.
77However, see David, ed., Inventaire général; Guggenheim Museum, In/Sight: African Photographers, 1940 to the Present (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1996); Steven Sprague, "Yoruba Photography: How the Yoruba See Themselves," African Arts 12, 1 (1978): 52-59, 107; Snap Me One! ed. Wendl and Behrend, and Vera Viditz-Ward, "Photography in Sierra Leone, 1850-1918," Africa 57, 4 (1987): 510-17.
78 The quotation is a citation from an earlier draft of Mustafa's paper.
79 See Kerstin Pinther, "'Wenn die Ehe eine Erdnuß wäre . . .' Über Textilien und Fotografie in Afrika," and also Tobias Wendl, "Francis K. Honny," in Snap Me One! ed. Wendl and Behrend, 36, 74 (in German), and quotation, English, from the unpublished "Proposal for an Exhibition" (1998), 3.
80 Geary, Images from Bamun; Jean Comaroff, Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), 242; see also Clothing and Difference: Embodied Identities in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa, Bodies, Commodity, Text, ed. Hildi Hendrickson (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1996).
81 Errington, Death of Authentic Primitive Art, 4, puts this very well: "Discourses create objects. . . . [in other words, they] materialize and narrativize categories by creating institutions and using media that illustrate, support, confirm, and naturalize their dominant ideas." See also MacGaffey, "Dialogues of the Deaf." For the almost accurate prognostication about the Coca Cola sign, see Jan Vansina, "Venture into Tio Country: Congo, 1963-1964," in In Pursuit of History: Fieldwork in Africa, ed. Caroline Keyes Adenaike and Jan Vansina (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996), 117: Coke executives refer to Coke signs' overexposure as "the red rash."
82 I am aware that the chromolithograph appears in this book as a 1955 print with Hindi on it, but I am highlighting Sri Lankan language as a comparison to the appropriated "Ceylonese" image. See also Tobias Wendl, Mami Wata: Oder ein Kult zwischen den Kulturen (Munster: Lit, n.d. [1991?]); and Charles Gore and Joseph Nevadomsky, "Practice and Agency in Mammy Wata Worship in Southern Nigeria," African Arts 30, 2 (Spring 1997): 60-69, 95. The latter authors grant less importance to the lithograph for the wider Mami Wata cult than does Drewal. "Mami Wata" is a genre in the same way the "Chevrolet Impala" is a genre: such names describe not only a particular car, but also every car in the long history of a brand in its shifting market, even if late models share not even a chassis with earlier ones.
83 James Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1990). Africans on Stage: Studies in Ethnological Show Business, ed. Bernth Lindfors (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1999), was published after this essay was drafted, but the essays by Zoe Strother, Neil Parsons, and Veit Erlmann are relevant to this discussion.
84 See also Robert J. Gordon, The Bushman Myth: The Making of a Namibian Underclass (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1992), 225 nn. 1 and 2. For another view of N!xao, the star of The Gods Must Be Crazy, see the photographs and text in Paul Weinberg, In Search of the San (Johannesburg: Porcupine Press, 1997).
85 It is easier to deal with "archives and artifacts that 'don't talk back,' than with representatives of ethnic communities, who may be hostile or have their own political agenda that is not in harmony with the position of the museum curator," Anna Laura Jones notes in "Exploding Canons: The Anthropology of Museums," Annual Review of Anthropology, 1993 22 (1993): 215. Jones goes on to advise taking the counsel of representative groups. For what it is worth, I see Jones's advice as a recipe for banality.
86 Herbert Cole, Icons: Ideals and Power in the Art of Africa (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989), on a sculpture of Amadioha god of thunder, 56-57; Kramer, Red Fez discusses similar figures; for "Kota," see Vansina, Art and History in Africa, 31-32, 80, and Gable, this volume.
87Sometimes context arises in unexpected ways: a Congolese displays national feeling by owning an oil painting of Patrice Lumumba in her living room; it is significant if it hangs beside a reproduction of The Last Supper. See Fabian, Remembering the Present, and Bogumil Jewsiewicki, "Corps interdits: La représentation christique de Lumumba comme rédempteur du peuple zaïrois," Cahiers d'Études africaines 141-42, 36 (1996): 113-42.
88Julius E. Lips, The Savage Hits Back (1937; New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1966). See also Fritz Kramer, Red Fez, 255. The reality of identity complicates the matter, however, as, for instance, Enid Schildkrout, Jill Hellman, and Curtis Keim, show in "Mangbetu Pottery: Tradition and Innovation in Northeast Zaire," African Arts 22, 2 (February 1989): 38-47, 101, as has other work on the statuettes colons, figurines in Western dress made in Zaire for the international market. These figures are interesting precisely because they do not specify the individual nature of Euro-Americans (tourists and so forth), and they include Africans too.
89In Mustafa's essay, women wish to showcase their conformity to idealized modes of personal expression. See also Sprague, "Yoruba Photography."
90 I have written about the magical character of the camera's progenitor, the magic lantern (or slide projector) in Landau, "Illumination of Christ in the Kalahari Desert." Fox Talbot: see Don Slater, "Photography and Modern Vision: The Spectacle of 'natural magic,'" in Visual Culture, ed. Chris Jenks (New York: Routledge, 1995), 227. Slater also discusses the conundrum of modernity and magic in photography.
91Roland Barthes, "Rhetorique de l'image," Communications 4 (1964): 42, cited and translated by Rosalind Krauss, Originality of the Avant Garde, 211; Behrend and Wendl, "Photography: Social and Cultural Aspects," Encyclopedia of Africa South of the Sahara, 3: 413.
92 My thoughts here are very influenced by Taussig, Mimesis and Alterity, esp. ch. 14, which explores the irreducible "magic of mimesis." But see Hunt's and Gable's arguments, this volume.
93On the Brownie, see the Eastman House Museum exhibit, "The History of the Camera," in Rochester, New York. "Brownie" is recorded earlier as a term meaning a benevolent goblin in Scotland (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v.). Eastman may also have been inspired to name his camera after Robert Brownell, who designed many of his camera bodies, but a public recognition of others was uncharacteristic of him.
94 Image-fixing borrows the cult value of the alter-ego of the self, who is therefore foreign, childish, or primitive. The very "types" who, as we have seen, reflexively defined naturalism by virtue of their lack of it, now become the sign for the mystery of naturalistic mimesis. Similarly, Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse (first appearing in "Tugboat Willy"), appears to have been formed from a caricature of early Jazz Age black vaudevillians.
95Vogel, Baulé, 246ff.
96This again is why Mitchell argues that spirits are hidden in the highly mimetic images so common in the West, in Mitchell, Iconology, 90-91, 113; and see Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, ed. Hannah Arendt (1968; New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 217-52. The point about specters is made differently by Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough," I, 1931 (MS 110), and II, ca. 1948 (MS 143), in Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Occasions, 1912-1951, ed. James Klagge and Alfred Nordman (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993).
97Axel-Ivar Berglund, Zulu Thought Patterns and Symbolism (Uppsala: Swedish Mission Institute, 1976), 85ff.
99 The "historical testimony" of the person's existence, distilled and recalled as his or her image after corporeal death: cf. Benjamin, "Work of Art," 233.
100Hecht and Simone, Invisible Governance, 123. See also Sprague, "Yoruba Photography," and Snap Me One! ed. Wendl and Behrend.
101Behrend and Wendl, "Photography: Social and Cultural Aspects," 411.
102 Henri Junod, The Life of a South African Tribe (2d ed., New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1962), 2: 362-63; see also Patrick Harries, "Exclusion, Classification and Internal Colonialism: The Emergence of Ethnicity among the Tsonga-Speakers of South Africa," in The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa, ed. Leroy Vail (London: James Curry; Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989), 82-117. Taussig, Mimesis and Alterity, 102, shows the "implicitly sacred nature of image-making" (103) with the example of a Cuna (Panama) text in which purba, double or image, was alternately translated as "spirit."
103Lienhardt writes that the deities of the Dinka may be thought of as "the images of human passiones," using the Latin concept "passiones" to describe "events" such as anger and desire. Geoffrey Lienhardt, Divinity and Experience: The Religion of the Dinka (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961), 150, cited in Fritz Kramer, The Red Fez: Art and Spirit Possession in Africa (New York: Verso, 1993), 58; see also Strother, Inventing Masks.
104Kramer's intention is to counterpose Balzac's "ecstatic" knowing (which he calls "demonic") with "the doctrine of decorum evoked by the story of Jesus." Kramer, Red Fez, 253-55.
105Janice Boddy, Wombs and Alien Spirits: Women, Men and the Zar Cult of Northern Sudan (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989).
107 Jean Rouch, Les maîtres fous (1956); Paul Stoller, "Regarding Rouch: The Recasting of West African Colonial Culture," in Cinema, Colonialism, Postcolonialism: Perspectives from the French and Francophone World, ed. Dina Sherzer (Austin: University of Texas, 1996), 65-79; and see Nwachukwu Frank Ukadike, Black African Cinema (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1994), 48-52.
108 I admit that Adorno would be horrified at the connections I am drawing, and further, that he was thinking about music, not visual art. Kramer, Red Fez, passim; and Jean Comaroff, Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance; Boddy, Wombs and Alien Spirits. For African cowboys, I rely on notices of forthcoming or recent work by Pieter Remes, Kolanga Molei, and Didier Gondola, and discussion from Edward Alpers and Charles Ambler, via H-Africa, the e-mail discussion network cited above; for South Africa, see Shamil Jeppie and Bill Nasson, "'She preferred living in a cave with Harry the snake-catcher': Towards an Oral History of Popular Leisure and Class Expression in District Six, Cape Town, c. 1920s-1950s," in Holding Their Ground: Class, Locality and Culture in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century South Africa, ed. Philip Bonner (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1989), 285-306; Ezekiel Mphahlele, Down Second Avenue (New York: Anchor Books, 1971); anything by Nat Nakasa; or Mike Nicol's elegiac compendium, A Good-Looking Corpse. For West African blackface, see Catherine Cole, "Reading Blackface in West Africa: Wonders Taken for Signs," Critical Inquiry 23 (1996): 183-215, and forthcoming work by Emmanuel Akyempong; and, finally, personal observation, Nyanza, Kenya.
109 E.M.S. LeFleur Collection, UNISA, Pretoria. Circulars, A.A.S. Lefleur, "Griqua Independent Church of S.A. [Christmas] Greeting." N.d. (prob. late 1920s); this is an exact quotation, but with my emphasis added
110Jocelyn Alexander, "Dissident Perspectives on Zimbabwe's Post-Independence War," Africa 68, 2 (1998): 175, quoting Mawobho Sibindi.
111H. Depelchin and C. Croonenberghs, Journey to Gubulawayo: Letters of Fr. J. Depelchin and C. Croonenberghs, J.J., 1879, 1880, 1881 (Bulawayo, Zimbabwe: Historical Facsimiles, 1979), 133.
112 The same misprisions occurred in other colonial forums. According to an account in the Nyasaland Times cited by Megan Vaughan, for instance, the screening
of a hygiene film lecture by the Durban City Health Department at a convention of native chiefs ended in uproar when one the of the characters acting the part of a man suffering from venereal disease was recognized by the chairman. "That is my nephew", he cried in astonishment. "What is he doing in a film like this? I never knew he had been sick." "He's related to me too" called out the General Secretary. . . .
The man suffering from venereal disease was recognized as a specific and named person, not a "type," and no "identification," no "ecstatic possession" of the viewers transpired. The audience understood the conventions of cinema, but the "double reality" of the actor-as-image fell away, and the audience was left looking only at a movie of a man's nephew. Vaughan, Curing Their Ills, 187. See also the example on p. 194. In film theory, emotion is the key element to participation in the narrative life of a protagonist; see Aumont, Image, 79.
113Steve Landsberg, "The $10 Billion Man," New York Times, January 24, 1999, A21. The sense of "skepticism and self-correction" is, of course, accommodated by advertisers as ironic or "knowing" sensibility.
114Like rock painting in Bushman communities in the Kalahari, advertising joins transformation and signification in one moment. Cf. J. David Lewis-Williams, Believing and Seeing: Symbolic Meanings in Southern San Rock Paintings (New York: Academic Press, 1981).
115Paula Ben-Amos, "African Visual Arts from a Social Perspective," 45. These are all African appropriations of Western iconography and meaning. Doubtless such images are "metacommentaries" on the conditions of modern life, but is this really saying very much?
116Ian Fleming's character James Bond and some other Western icons have become ancestor figures in East Africa (pers. comm., Richard Waller and Dorothy Hodgson, August 1998; and see Henry Drewal, this volume). Drewal tells us elsewhere that the Hagenbeck chromolithograph was regarded by devotees as a "photo" of Mami Wata, in "Mermaids, Mirrors, and Snake Charmers: Igbo Mami Wata Shrines," African Arts 21, 2 (February 1988): 39.
117 See Paul Richards, Fighting for the Rain Forest: War, Youth and Resources in Sierra Leone (Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1996), 48-60; Marissa Moorman, "Film, Gender and the Nation in Postcolonial Angola: On the Possibilities of Cinema as an Historical Source" (forthcoming); Gore and Nevadomsky, "Practice and Agency"; and see Brian Larkin, "Indian Films and Nigerian Lovers: Media and the Creation of Parallel Modernities," Africa 67, 3 (1997): 406-40.
118Sandra T. Barnes, "The Many Faces of Ogun," in Africa's Ogun: Old World and New, ed. id. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989), 2 and passim. Perhaps not coincidentally, this book and Barnes's book share two contributors. The Ugandan spirit mediums called "Cwezi" also had different shapes in different historical discourses, yet they were "one" phenomenon, and have been considered as "living" art icons: see Renée Tantala, "Verbal and Visual Imagery in Western Uganda: Interpreting the 'Story of Isimbwa and Nyimawiru,'" in Paths Toward the African Past: African Historical Essays in Honor of Jan Vansina, ed. Robert W. Harms et al. (Atlanta: ASA Press, 1994), 223-43. Tantala explicitly connects the Cwezi idea to Jan Vansina's understanding of continuity in iconography in African art; see Vansina, Art History in Africa, 101ff.
119See Ricoeur, Oneself as Another.