978-0-8223-6270-8_601.pdf

I am equally grateful to the staff of the western

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I am equally grateful to the staff of the Western Cape Archives in Cape Town, South Africa, and to Erika le Roux for being the kind of archivist researchers like me always dream of. Erika pointed me in the direction of a collection of photographs that has captivated me from the moment I laid eyes on them. As with my last book, Pete James continues to guide my path to rich, new collections of images, and it is thanks to him and Kieran Connell that I was introduced to the visual poetry that is the work of Janet Mendelsohn. To her and her husband, Marc: thank you for open- ing my eyes to a now-invisible side of Birmingham. I also thank Anke Bagma of the Tropenmuseum in Leiden, Holland, for introducing me to the vast photographic collections of the Volkerkunde Museum. In many ways, Christoph Ripper served as my intellectual guide to these images, particularly those of the Mariannhill Mission. His path- breaking work has been essential to my understanding of this complex community. I must acknowledge Artur Walther for his generosity and expansive vision as a collector and curator of African, diasporic, and vernacular photography. The Walther Collection has become an invaluable resource for me and it is thanks to Arthur’s willingness to share the exceptional works that he has acquired (with the support of his wonderful staff Bren- dan Wattenberg and Evelyn Owen) that I have been able to weave a rich pattern of historical and aesthetic relationships between artists, images, and the image-making practices of African Diasporic communities. Finally, there is a group of beloved friends and family members with- out whom I could not and would not have undertaken writing this book. Kathy Barr opened the world of southern Africa to me and remains my conduit to an ongoing love affair with its cultures and communities. Wij- nanda DeRoo helped me to see the images we preserved and collected through her keen and uncompromising eye. Yara-Colette Lemke Muniz de Faria schooled me in the conceptual landscape of identification photogra- phy. And, last but never, ever least, my Aunti Jo and my husband, William Nitzberg, held my hand and encouraged me from the moment I began this unlikely project. To all of you, I am endlessly in your debt.
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I N T R O D U C T I O N LISTENING TO IMAGES An Exercise in Counterintuition
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Like any good introduction, this chapter might best be described as a “throat-clearing gesture”—the kind that introduces any inquiry with a series of queries and propositions that create an analytic space for think- ing. My own space-making gesture ruminates on two central questions: how do we build a radical visual archive of the African Diaspora that grapples with the recalcitrant and the disaffected, the unruly and the dis- possessed? Through what modalities of perception, encounter, and en- gagement do we constitute it? These two questions induce a volley of corol- lary queries. What is the place in this archive for images assumed only to register forms of institutional accounting or state management? How do
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