Participants´ Abstracts


Appropriating and Modernizing Cameroon’s Plantations Visually: “Kamerun-Filme” by Paul Lieberenz, 1925-1938

Authaler, Caroline

University of Düsseldorf, Germany

Between 1925 and 1938 the German cameraman and filmmaker Paul Lieberenz undertook several “film expeditions” to Cameroon and produced about 30 documentaries about Cameroon. Most of them were set on the German-owned plantations around Mount Cameroon.

This paper argues that the Lieberenz films produced a twofold image: on the one hand they visually re-appropriated the Cameroonian plantations as a German space. Simultaneously, they produced an image of modernity and technology about Germans and Cameroonians – as long as they were working on German-run plantations and production sites. This perception of modernity and progress was reinforced through the newness of the medium, the film itself.

Although the former German colony Cameroon had been entrusted to France and Great Britain as a mandated territory of the League of Nations after World War I, in 1924 German colonial entreprises could repurchase most of the plantations in the British mandated territory of Cameroon. Colonial revisionist propaganda in Germany often used the German planters’ presence in Cameroon to claim that Germany’s colonies were not definitively lost and might be regained soon.

Using the example of the film “Deutsche Pflanzer am Kamerunberg” (1936) I will examine how the film visually claims a Germanisation of the plantations zone for Cameroon’s sake and presents Germans as legitimate and able colonizers. Finally the film’s narration of technological progress and development will be situated within the broader context of European concepts of “colonial development” of the interwar period.

Press photo archives as the origin of the three periods of photojournalism in Cameroon

Che Tita, Julius & Pechu, Ali Ngwe

University of Buea, Cameroon

With the creation of the Cameroon Press Photo Archives (CPPA) in 1955, and its development thereafter, Press Photography in Anglophone Cameroon especially, certainly took a new turn, as press photographers and journalists, had now, an institution that facilitated the capturing, storing, and retrieving of photographs. The archives played this role until 2006 when it stopped functioning. It is against this backdrop that this paper seeks to investigate the practices of press photography and archiving by Anglophone Cameroon journalists. This investigation will address the following issues: the processes of obtaining, storing, retrieving and sharing pictures by journalists and press photographers, the technical capacity of photographers and the equipment available to them. As result of continuous technological developments, the photographer is not only seen as the creator, but also as a major contributor to the preservation aspect in regard to how he utilizes camera and editing criteria and settings. Now that the archive is not functional, how different is the practice of press photography and archiving from when it was functional?

It is a qualitative study that will explore interviews with press photographers and journalists, with background from a two week research course in February 2014, on the topic the CPPA as an Image Provider for Mass Communication, by students of the University of Buea and University of Basel. This research is significant as it will, through the comparative analysis of the data gotten, provide a point of inference for the validity and importance of visual heritage and the archives, or its obsoleteness.

The bridge: memorial continuum Kumba-Cameroon

Ekongwe, Dan

Head of Government Relations, PAID-WA

Press photography and archival philosophy are powerful instruments to tell a story and should bridge memories and connect people to their history. Press photography and archival services put into perspective people’s chances of progress, retrogression or extinction. Often, their collection depicts a past either filled with excitement, hope, and ambition or one demonstrating pain, surprise, fear, degradation, stagnation and destruction. A comparative display of images of the past alongside the present can help to explain the changes over time and the impact on lives and development. A collection of pictures taken in the past placed side-by-side with current pictures taken at the same location are presented, and attempts are made to explain the current of change between them. This collection is meant to evoke deep emotional waves and enthusiasm about the past in the minds of men and women of Kumba, Cameroon and the world.

The role of archives in the production of historical documentaries for mass media

Fombe, Margaret

Cameroon Radio and Television -CRTV-, Cameroon

This paper will underscore the valuable contribution that public and private archives in Cameroon have made in the production of historical documentaries - The documentary series BEACONS OF TIME. Through photographic footage, archival recordings and interviews, we were able to recapture the lives of late great Cameroonian statesmen who played significant roles in the process of Cameroon's reunification. These documentaries were broadcast on national television (CRTV) in February 2014, during the celebration of the golden jubilee of the reunification of French Cameroon and Southern Cameroons. The paper will also highlight the difficulties faced in using archives in Cameroon and attempt suggestions on how Cameroon's archives can be improved on to better serve the public.

130 Years of German Photography in Cameroon: Holdings of the Bundesarchiv

Herrmann, Sabine, presented by Jung, Uwe

German Federal Archives, Germany and Goethe Institut Kamerun

The Bundesarchiv is responsible for the safeguarding of records created by central authorities of the Federal Republic of Germany, the German Democratic Republic and the German Reich.

Records of central German colonial authorities of the period 1884-1919 are kept by the Bundesarchiv in Berlin. The most important record group, Reichskolonialamt – Reich Colonial Office – consists of more than 9.900 volumes, 1.400 of which deal with Cameroon and Togo (both territories were administered together at that time). But, administrative records in the Bundesarchiv also cover later periods of German Cameroon relations.

In the Bundesarchiv picture archives there are photographs taken in Cameroon during almost 130 years, thus comprising very different epochs.

There are also some online resources, which make Cameroon related archival records accessible without the necessity of a trip to Europe. Most of them refer to picture archives but some also include textual records and film material.

A Personal take, or stuck in the middle/side and going nowhere: An attempt at imagining a methodology for engaging colonial photographic archives, histories and subjectivities.

Mahashe, Tebogo George

Visual Communication - Photography professional, Curator, Researcher, Cape Town Area, South Africa

Over the last eight years, I have encountered the historic photograph in a variety of forms as I tried to locate myself, and my “culture” within the post-colonial impulse of self-representation. While the uses of the historical photograph are vast, I am particularly interested in their use by the artist, whose approach maintains a productive, but seemingly unethical/unorthodox attitude towards the historic photograph, initiating a less nervous approach to the supposedly disavowed documents/object.

I propose to present a paper exploring the challenges and solutions I have faced in my dealings with the claims the wider humanities scholar has laid on what the historic photograph’s work is. This paper would present my research and interventions into the visualization of Rain-Queen Modjadji’s Balobedu (a pre-colonial polity in southern Africa).

The research tracks late 19th century German missionaries’ use of photography for mission publicity, as well as early 20th century anthropologists’ monograph illustrations, as they try to show that “Bantu” culture is not static, but has a long history of culture change/contact. My interventions on the other hand are interested in the physical document/object, not as a source of information or evidence, but as a disruption in time and personal proximity. In response, I engage the photographic through art installations that bring the viewer into close proximity with the photographic document/object, which in most cases has some degree of disavowal associated with colonialism and its gaze. The installations play with the boundary of observer (photographer and audience) and observed (subject and photographer), questioning the very impulse to police how the photographic residue of a past moments is to be perceived today.

This paper would not only question the nature of disavowal in historic photographs, but also the lens with which we are deciding on this disavowal, particularly the lens employed by the artist.

Photography and historical research in Cameroon historiography, 1972 – 1990

Mbain, Doreen Binain

Catholic University of Cameroon (CATUC), Bamend, Cameroon

The status of photographs as major instruments of historical research and explanation has become a topic of urgent intellectual and cultural interest around the world at large and Cameroon in particular. At the same time the methods of shaping historical narratives are also changing in ways that compel attention to the employment of photographs in historiography. This essay offers a critical synthesis of the impact on future scholarship about photography in historical analysis in Cameroon. Based on the information collected through oral interviews, archival material, published and unpublished works, the study asserts the presence of a large collection of historical photographs in Cameroon which deserves proper utilization. The essay reveals the importance of photographs which contain very rich information which could be relevant for a better understanding of history. Photographic images such as films and pictures are used as evidence, for illustration, comparison and contrast, and for analytical purposes. This study therefore examines the minimal use of photographs as a primary source of historical inquiry.

The potential use of photographs as primary sources of research are not limited to professional historians, but may be taught to and used by students as well. Scientists on their part use photography to record and study movement. Military, police and security forces on the other hand use photography for surveillance, recognition and data storage.

Colonial dilemmas: The Barnett collection of photographs

Mohale, Gabriele

University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesbur, South Africa

The ‘Barnett collection of photographs’ is one of the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in South Africa, spanning the years from the 1890s to the early 1900s. The photographs of the brothers Joseph and David Barnett, who came to South Africa from England in around 1988/9, provide a glimpse into a time in South Africa’s history, which was characterized by the gold rush on the Witwatersrand. Hence the images taken by the Barnett brothers are witness to an era which gave rise to massive industrialization and urban areas like Johannesburg with its gold mining operations, but also violent conflicts and war throughout the Southern African region. Having obtained contracts with periodical publications such as the illustrated London journal ‘Black & White’, their photographs covered the early years of Johannesburg and its gold mines, but also events like the Jameson Raid, the Matabele Rebellion in Rhodesia, the Queen Victoria Jubilee in 1897 and the Anglo-Boer War in 1899-1902 amongst others. When David Barnett eventually sold the collection to ‘The Star’ newspaper in 1920 it comprised more than 2100 glass negatives and prints. The collection was subsequently deposited at the Historical Papers Research Archive for archival safekeeping and research. Reflecting on these photographs and their recurring themes of colonial imagery of architecture, social life, hunting, ethnographic stills of ‘black tribes’, as well as the general portrayal of a supreme status of the white man in Africa as it were, the collection begs for a critical engagement. This paper will discuss some of the archival challenges associated with a collection of this nature in a post-colonial and post-Apartheid heritage institution.

Gardiennes d’images: An intimate vision of the Algerian revolution

Nimis, Érika

Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada

Dealing with the idea of exposing a broad public to an unknown or forgotten archive, the London-based visual artist Zineb Sedira (b. 1963) created in 2009 a three-screens video installation, Gardiennes d'images/ Images’ Keepers, devoted to the father of Algerian photography, Mohamed Kouaci, who passed away in 1996.

Member of the FLN (National Liberation Front), Mohamed Kouaci, originally a worker in a steel mill, joined the provisional government of the Republic of Algeria (GPRA) in Tunis, in 1958. He was the sole photographer for the journal El Moudjahid who played an important role in the international recognition of the Algerian cause.

For the first time, this installation shows photographs of the Algerian revolution, as seen by an Algerian, whereas up until now, images from the French army and of Western photographers were prioritized by the media (Chominot).

Zineb Sedira in this installation engages in real historical research by combining oral sources and archival photographs. This work also takes on an intimate dimension when Safia, Mohamed Kouaci’s widow, beyond the grand historical narrative, discloses her solitude and the love story between her and her husband.

Reflections on early missionary and colonial photos in Bakossiland: A critical analysis of photos about personalities, infrastructures and architecture before and after colonial rule

Nkome Ngome, Elvis and Frii-Anjoh, Rose

University of Buea, Cameroon

This paper principally seeks to critically evaluate ancient photos taken by the colonial and missionary authorities in Bakossiland. We intend to specifically use photos of personalities, institutions and architecture (Bakossi Traditional House) before, during and after colonial rule in Cameroon. We argue that these photos some of which are found in books in various archives in Cameroon and abroad could be used in different ways to reconstruct the history of various ethnic principalities of Cameroons. Apart from colonial photos, maps, and reports done by the colonial authorities little has been done by national government after independence to encourage the archiving of audiovisual works since independence. The study adopts a historical methodology using both secondary and primary sources of knowledge. The Buea National Archives, the University of Buea Library, the Presbyterian Archives and Library will also be consulted in the course of study. The findings of this study will help valorize the importance photos, intelligence reports, maps, traditional architecture and infrastructure in Bakossi land and beyond in the reconstruction of Cameroon historiography and more importantly the evolution of photography in Cameroon since the colonial period. The work will benefit different stakeholders like academia, researchers, policy makers and institutions like the archives and museums.

“Look at me when I was a worker”: returned labour migrants viewed through visual representations in Cameroon western Grassfields c. 1930s-1960s

Nkwi, Walter

University of Buea, Cameroon

This article explores photographs as a source in understanding the ways which returned labour migrants remembered their days as labour force taking the Western Grassfields of Cameroon as a case study. It questions how men and women who had travelled out of this sub-region remembered themselves in terms of what they used to do. The article uses visuals like photographs and houses constructed by these returned migrants as strategies in framing and documenting their life histories. The Cameroon Western Grassfields became an important labour exporting reservoir at the onset of colonial rule in 1884. The colonial enterprise was accompanied with several services which attracted labour. These included inter alia: plantations, public civil services like the police, office clerks, builders of colonial offices just to name but a few. The paper interrogates what types of identity, class and place these returned labour migrants formed through the houses they built, ways of dresses and photographs displayed in their family albums and walls? Photographs have occupied an important place in the lives of people in the Western Grassfields. They are displayed on walls, under the tables, living rooms. Yet this has not been exploited as a particular source of history. This paper wishes to fill that lacuna in the historiography of the Western Grassfields in particular and Cameroon in general.

Album/photo collections: A gauge of network of social relationship in Cameroon

Nyamndon, Valentine

Catholic University of Cameroon, Bamenda, Cameroon

Photo collections may play an important role as gauge of social relationship. But the management and perceptions of black and white photos by photographers and families in the Bamenda Region of Cameroon need much to be desired. This study actually begins with the collections of black and white photographer’s stamps on the back of photos that dated up to the 90’s from different families in the five of the seven divisions of the North West Region of Cameroon using purposive and quota sampling techniques to select the Photographers and families. We then used Cameras to snap the stamps and tape recorder to record interviews which were latter transcript and analysed using our lap top computers. Then because of suspicion and the sensitive nature of this study after the history of photographers through the stamp collection on the back of photos, we then proceed to the ethnographic contribution limiting ourselves to five elderly persons with albums from different families in Bali Nyonga. They were all interviewed in line with the photos in their albums just in a bid to find out the objective of how photo could be used as a measure of network of social relationship in Cameroon.

Conclusively black and white photos plays an important role as gauge of network of social relationship in families and lineages despite global impact, fear of exposure and poor means of preservation. We recommend a simple but yet available means of photo archiving acting as an interaction with researchers and to educate through conferences and seminars the importance of photo and anthropology yesterday, today and posterity. Key words: Albums, Photo collection, Network, Social Relationships, Families, Anthropology, Photographers, Bali Nyonga, Cameroon.

For a new archiving act?

Robles Ponce, Frida

University of Applied Arts Vienna, Austria

What does it mean to start an archive? The instauration of an archive is a political act. It is an administrative act of what is worth keeping and what is worth throwing away. It is the perfect and most representative machine for the act of remembering and the act of forgetting. It is the external systematization of the act of creating memory. Both acts, remembering and forgetting, establish an ontology of being. They are the exemplary representation of any historical act.

Even when there has been a vast number of critical standpoints against archives and the act of totalitarian mechanism of memory, the act of remembering is important for the construction of every society that pursues a notion of identity. An archive places many dilemmas. On the first hand, it recalls the despotic decision of what is worth and what is not. An all-inclusive archive would be an identical copy of the world, we need archive to manage the valuable. The archive also poses the question for the notions of representation and reproducibility.

How is this 'valuable' measured? Could there be an open archive? One that would allow for a non-academic, non-expert view to decide what is there to keep, to be representative? Could we think of an archive with movable categories? Could there be a non-totalitarian approach of the archive, a more vivid and less fetishist approach to the documents? Could the archive establish a different relation between its visitors and the documents? Could the constitution of a self-reflective archive help to prevent (un)representational and authoritarian methods that are common among institutions?

This essay analyses the concept of the archive taking into account the work of Jacques Derrida in “Archive Fever. A Freudian Impression” and questions the politics of (de)representation that the archive embarks upon while using categories.

The role of graphics in information usage: The example of photographs

Shafack, Rosemary

University of Buea, Cameroon

The value of any information that is communicated depends on how well the content is understood. Information exists in different forms and these include the print, electronic and graphic forms. Each form has an extent to which it impacts on its user when communicated. Thus the extent to which information is internalized depends greatly on the form it takes. Graphics constitute an important form in which information takes and its impact on users leaves a lasting image in the minds eyes to be remembered for a very long time. Graphics such as pictures or photographs help its users to visualize creating impressions that help with interpretations that provide a basis for creativity. Pictures constitute an invaluable basis for human heritage, determining ethical values, science, and sociology, to name just these and their importance cannot be underestimated. This paper therefore through a survey evaluates the place of graphics with the specific example of photos in the information usage, cutting across different facets of human activities.

Missing from Rwandan archives

Spring, Ulmer

West Chester University of Pennsylvania, United States

Rwanda’s government has constructed memorial archives to serve political interests. Not only are some victims purposefully erased from the national imagination (such as victims of war crimes blamed on the Rwandan Patriotic Army or the Hutus and Batwa killed in the genocide), others are erased because no photograph of their persons exists. The walls of photographs commemorating the dead on display at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre are comprised of snapshots, but many of these photographs have been copied and can be found hanging in multiple spots around the room, disturbing the effect of the individuality of the victims. Lack of individualized documentation of the dead is also apparent at the Ntarama church, fifty or so miles from Kigali, where a black granite memorial wall lists names and then turns blank so as to represent the unidentified dead. The use of the photograph to protest disappearances of persons first emerged in Chile directly following the 1973 coup. Because there were literally no bodies of evidence, Ariel Dorfman has posited that photographs “became a substitute for the body that the government officials contended had never been arrested.” When no photograph of the missing exists, however, we must face Dorfman’s contention that those who “lived their twentieth-century lives without once being photographed” pose the ultimate challenge to globalization, because “we have been unable to organize a world” where billions of such persons are “included and finally seen, really seen.” If we are to see beyond this blankness, we would do well to listen to those survivors whose views are not state-sponsored. As Rwandans strive to counter government control of their memories, they have begun building their own local memorials. Writers and artists are also now producing personal remembrances of the genocide, thus complicating the dominant genocide narrative.

All the tricks. On the life and work of two east African (press) photographers and their handling and creation of truth and story

Stultiens, Andrea

HIPUganda, Netherlands/Uganda

Elly Rwakoma (born Bushenyi, Uganda 1938 – currently dividing his time between his farm in western Uganda and his family in Kampala) was a teacher, social worker and shop owner in Jinja. He operated a photo-studio, was part of the group of presidential photographers around Milton Obote and sold his photographs to newspapers. Mohamed Amin (Born Nairobi, Kenya 1943- died in 1996 during the crash of a hijacked plane) shouldn’t need an introduction. He was a star during his lifetime. His photographs and film-footage initiated the wave of international help offered to the victims of the 1984 famine in Ethiopa, including the British Band Aid and American ‘We are the world’ pop-music hits.

Mohamed and Elly got their first cameras in the same year, 1954, and knew then that photography was part of their destination. The men, according to one of them, met two decades later in Uganda and Kenya, which supposedly influenced one of their lives dramatically.

Elly and Mo (as Mohamed was called by many)’s lives will be narrated in parallels and in their respective contexts, based on material from their archives. This will open up vistas to possibilities both men used and created and the way it was or was not possible in resp. Uganda and Kenya to claim authorship as a press photographer. I will also reflect on the way truths were created and who were and are the audience(s) to the ‘facts’ presented.

Since my research is based on artistic practice, and leads to (next to writing) artistic results in the form of exhibitions and books, the mode of presenting this proposed paper will not be classic, but have performative and experimental aspects (within possibilities available at the conference that of course will have to be discussed).

In search of South African photographic archives. A question of repatriation or digging in your own back yard?

Weinberg, Paul

University of Cape Town, South Africa

South African archives share with their fellow African countries a similar historical malais. Plunder and appropriation during the colonial past meant that many of our archives are not in the countries where the images were taken but are usually sitting in institutions in the first world. In contradiction to this ‘African Photography’, in particular ‘vernacular’ photography has enjoyed a recent high concentration of interest in the last two decades. It has been ‘discovered’, or more accurately ‘rediscovered’ and is finally finding a place in world visual heritage. Its new-found home has come mainly because of the Art Gallery and the ever present curiosity for exploring the exotique and the romantic, or what Okui Enwezor calls ‘Afro-romanticism’.

The difficult path for African archives continues to provide challenges for those who work with them. Perennial issues like the important need for repatriation of heritage, lack of resources, capacity and skill bedevil those who work in this space. Against this though is the need to work with what we have and acknowledge simultaneously our own sense of agency in collecting, curating and making material accessible and available.

This paper examines two collections as case studies for potential ways forward in the process of collecting national and African visual heritage. Both are ‘endangered’, ‘vulnerable’ and potentially ‘up for sale’. The one collection is the Independent Archive of the Cape Times, Cape Argus and the Cape Herald. I will share how the archive was acquired, partially digitized and how this has become a potential model for others. The second is an assemblage of South African vernacular photographic collections curated under the rubric The Other Camera. Through curation and support from local and international partners, we were able to digitize material, preserve, make accessible and play these collections into national and global heritage spaces.