From 2013 until today African Photography Initiatives has been engaged in the project “Cameroon Photo Press Archives. Protection, Conservation, Access” (EAP542) which included the conservation and partial digitization of the Buea Press Photo Archives (BPPA) (holding a total of approximately 100.000 negatives and 14.000 groundsheet-pages), teaching and research activities in Switzerland and Cameroon as well as the preparation of exhibitions, talks, a website and several publications. The BPPA’s images cover major political, social and cultural events in Cameroon’s Anglophone zone during the period from 1955 to about 1995. The project, however, not only dealt with the Buea Press Photo Archive’s content as such – images, groundsheets, register books etc. – but also very much with the repository itself as an institution located at the crossroads of political, social and cultural developments and dynamics.
In order to stimulate discussions about, and set out an agenda for, the space(s), value, role and future of photographic collections within the broader framework of the ‘Archive’ African Photography Initiatives held the conference Validating Visual Heritage in Africa: Historical Photographs and the Role of the “Archive”. The conference organised in collaboration with the Universities of Buea, Cameroon and Basel, Switzerland will took place at the Pan African Institute for Development in Buea (Cameroon) on 27 – 29 January 2015.
This conference constitutes the transitional stage between concluding the project and exposing it to the public. More broadly, it provides a stepping stone for renewed involvement with a number of burning issues concerning archives, photographs and their users in Cameroon. It will engage scholars, media professionals and artists from Cameroon, Africa, and abroad on a platform to discuss practical, methodological and theoretical questions that arise in critically dealing with photographs and their contexts in distinct fields of activity, disciplines and archival settings. In this way, the event will not simply serve to promote the Buea Press Photo Archives in a narrowly conceived manner, but instead attempt to place the project within a broader framework of the “circulation of knowledge” by means of a) accessing varied visual information resources and b) targeting users with a view to validating visual heritage within the wider realm of its place in the “archive”.
Twelve German documentaries
Collaborating with African Photography Initiatives and in parallel to the conference the Goethe-Institut Kamerun in Yaoundé will screen on three evenings (27, 28, 29 January) a series of twelve German documentaries produced between 1927 and 1939. The film event titled “How Cameroon has been presented to Germans – A critical retrospective of ancient documentary films” (“Comment le Cameroun a été présenté aux Allemands – une Retrospective critique des anciens film documentaires allemands”) taked place at the CURELF Buea from 6pm to 9 pm.
Expanding the academic frame and in order to further promote a critical engagement with the Archives’ rich visual material African Photography Initiatives exhibited artists who reacting on African Photography Initiatives’ Call for Art Interventions submitted artworks using the material of the Press Photo Archives Buea. The selected artworks has been exhibited in Buea, Limbe and Douala from 26-31 January 2015. Clic on the poster to see more: