Photography, European Emblems and Statecraft in Manya Krobo (Ghana), about 1800-1939

Arlt, Veit and Quarcoopome, Nii. (2010) Photography, European Emblems and Statecraft in Manya Krobo (Ghana), about 1800-1939. In: Through african eyes: the European in African art, 1500 to Present. Detroit, pp. 61-74.

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Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/dok/A5256483

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The scholarly revaluation of written documents generated in a missionary context is paralleled by a new interest in missionary photography. For long the camera was only characterized as a symbol of colonial domination, whereby the white photographer depicted the Other as object and thereby subjected and dis-empowered him. Scholars engaging in a close reading of photographs and photographic collections have increasingly come up with results challenging this view. In many cases pictures reveal ambiguities in the relationship of the depicted and the photographer and become an important source revealing African agency. And while pictorial collections such as the one of the Evangelical Basel Mission Society are at first sight a testimony to the prolific activities of missionaries as photographers, a closer look at individual pictures reveals that often the authorship of the picture is not with the missionary credited but with somebody else, be it a European or African photographer. Even those pictures that were indeed taken by missionaries are at times to a high degree determined by the agency of the depicted. This contribution examines photography as a new technology on the frontier of mission and the colonial state. It details how photography is appropriated and used by local leaders in the negotiation of their place in the colony and beyond. In the context of the Basel Mission’s activities in Manya Krobo and the integration of this African state in the Gold Coast colony we can trace a convergence of interests of chiefs, missionaries and colonial agents that is manifest in the photographic record of the period. The mission itself was an important resource used by the Manya Krobo chiefs when crafting their position of authority. In the process the missionary camera was appropriated by the chiefs and photography became an important part of statecraft in Manya Krobo in the same way as dress, regalia and ceremonial were appropriated from other sources – European or African. Combining key photographs from Manya Krobo taken between 1860 and the present day with written missionary and colonial documents the paper highlights the prominent role that photography came to play as part of statecraft in the Manya Krobo traditional state and investigates the ways in which they transport knowledge transcending what is immediately depicted.
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Geschichte > Ehemalige Einheiten Geschichte > Historisches Seminar
UniBasel Contributors:Arlt, Veit
Item Type:Book Section
Book Section Subtype:Book Chapter
Note:Additional series information: Detroit Institute of Arts -- Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Book item
Last Modified:22 Mar 2012 14:24
Deposited On:22 Mar 2012 13:39

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