Sailors and Daughters: Early Photography and the Indian Ocean


>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington DC.>>Good afternoon. Good afternoon everyone and
thank you all for coming here. I’m Mary-Jane Deeb, Chief of the
African and Middle East Division and I would like to welcome you
to this very special program. I always begin with a few
statements about our division and our division is made
up of three sections. The African section, the [inaudible]
section and the Neri section. And between the three
section we cover 78 countries. Most – well all of Africa, North
African, sub-Saharan Africa, the whole Middle East and that
expands to Afghanistan, central Asia and the Caucasus and the
Hebraic world worldwide. So we collect from and
about this large region. We collect via our offices in
Cairo, in Nairobi, in Islamabad, and the materials come
directly from those officers. They catalog there, they come to
us and then we put them in our – on our decks and we serve them to
patrons here in our reading room. But we don’t only do that. We don’t only serve those books,
we don’t only acquire them. We always do programs around
them and we do programs about the region, about
our 78 countries. We feel that these materials
are alive and need to connect with people and we do so directly. Some of our experts come up here
and talk about their collections and in other cases we invite
people to come and talk about the work they had done,
the books they have used, the research that they’re interested
in doing, and the materials that they using in
different formats. We also have conferences
and we have exhibits and we have smaller
displays around the library and all our programs
are public and are free. And so we are always delighted
to bring people to the library. We also webcast our programs so that
they can be seen around the world and a lot of people watch them. And they click on our websites
and watch the programs. So I want to speak about
the African section today, because the African section
is hosting this program and in particular Ed Ferguson,
who has invited our guests today. And the African section
has a wonderful collection in many languages spread around
the library, so the materials that we hold on Africa are
extensive and they’re multilingual. And they’re also beautifully
illustrated in there. We have them not only
in this division, but in the rare book
division, in the low library, in the general collection,
Hispanic division. These materials are there
for people to consult. Also our own African specialists
are scholars in their own fields. They give lectures, they
publish, they do research, and they are very active
participants in various professional
organizations. And today Eve has invited –
oh, and I also want to point out a very special series that we
have, which is the conversations with African poets and writers. And this is something that
we started four years ago. We get award-winning
poets and writers to come and discuss the work here. And recently we had [inaudible]. She’s the 2015 game prizewinner
for African fiction in English. We’ve had Chino Achebe, Eddie
Matsui, the poet laureate of South Africa, Carrio
Petsi, Keiko Sutso [phonic]. We’ve had Amu Daconi [inaudible]
from the Côte d’Ivoire. We had Egone Barret
[phonic] from Nigeria. We had Omi Congo Dbanga [phonic] from the Democratic
Republic of Congo. We had DeJean Cella
[phonic] a Gandhian poet. So we being also to this series
writers who are up-and-coming as well as established writers and
we do that with the Africa Society for the National Summit on Africa and with the poetry
center here at the library. So I invite you all to
attend our programs. And now our special program is going
to be introduced by Eve Ferguson, the reference librarian
here in the African section. So Eve.>>Good afternoon and
I want to thank you all for coming to this program today. I just wanted to mention first of all how Erin and
I became acquainted. Many, many years ago we had planned
to do a collaborative exhibit on African independence
with materials from the Library of Congress. That was so long ago I don’t
even remember what year it was. Maybe 2010 and since then
Erin and I have kept in touch, may be sporadically, but I have kept up with the wonderful
work that she’s done. Erin is a fantastic photographer. Obviously a great curator of this
exhibit that we’ll hear about and she is also in a published
author of photography in Africa, which covers the whole continent of
Africa in the history of photography on the continent, which is a valiant
effort, to say the very least. And she is currently working on a
book on Priya Rom Rocka [phonic], the Kenyan photojournalist
who met a very early demise and last year I saw
a great film on it and I’m looking forward to her book. So Erin Haney is a graduate
of SOAS, University of London. She’s a curator, writer, and
a scholar and she partners with a number of international
research collaborations, including the pioneering workshop, three PA in Porto Novo
Benin as part of resolution. And if anybody got the flyer
it has the website on there as well as on the screen. She’s written extensively
on the photography, art, and politics of Africa and maybe
beyond, because I heard something about writing about burkas, so I’ll
let her explain that to you more. Erin is research associate in
the faculty of art, design, and architecture at the University
of Johannesburg in South Africa and at the Smithsonian
Institution in right down the hill. She’s presently working on
that book on Priya Rom Rocka and I hope she’ll tell us more. And I am looking forward to this
talk on sailors and daughters, early photography in the Indian
Ocean, because one of my goals here as reference librarian for
East Africa is to shed light on the little-known
region of the Indian Ocean. And so I’ve tried to
do a number of programs that address the Indian Ocean. A lot of people don’t know
what the countries are. Places like [inaudible]
Reunion, Seychelles, [inaudible], and of course the Swahili
coast of Tanzania. So on May 19th kind of biting
off of a Erin’s program here, I decided that I would also like
to showcase some of the photographs that we have at the Library of
Congress from the same region. And so she called her Sailors
and Daughters and I decided to call mine sultans and farmers,
because that is where we have a lot of photographs of from that region. So please look out for
that program on May 19th, and as not to take any more time
away from what we all came to hear, I want to introduce my friend and the fantastic photographer
and author, Erin Haney. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Thank you so much
Eve and Mary Jane. Thank you all for coming. I prepared a bit of an informal
talk and I can sort of circle back to some of the earlier projects
as questions come up about it. But I was really happy
with the launch of Sailors and Daughters last year. I need to start by
thanking a few people and organizations that
made that possible. Nicole Schivers at The
National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian commissioned
the online exhibition, which was the first one
done with African art. And so it has of course a massive
outreach in a way that we can sort of see and see feedback from and
really see the comments and sort of approaches and things that
really interest people in a way that is very difficult to quantify
and sort of discuss and feel when you’re in a gallery setting. So I quite liked being part of that. I worked on it with my research
associate and assistant, Savieh Cohubla [phonic], who is from
the DRC and he did a lot of research on this exhibition and brought
his own sort of knowledge to bear in really important
ways I think on this. We worked with Jean Wilcox of
Wilcox Designing in Cambridge, Mass. and Doug Green of Green Interactive. We had a lot of help
from Janet Stanley at the Warrens Warner
Robins Library. Amy Staples at the Elliot
Elisofen Photographic Archive, which in both of those
collections were really central to this exhibition. Lots of people, including David
Hoag at the Sackler Freer Archives and David Easterbrook who has
just left or recently left and is the fantastic curator at
the Northwestern Africana library and whose images as you’ll see are
really instrumental and fundamental to this, even though they are really
undocumented and it’s sort of, you know, we put this forward really
to sort of launch further interest in scholarship because it’s
really quite an unresearched and a new area. The field of early 20th
century photography and this is a great opportunity
to sort of move into that – into that realm a little bit. So what I want to do
I’ll just briefly go to the website so that you can see. It’s hard to navigate, so I’m
going to sort of go back and – it’s not hard to navigate, but
it’s hard to navigate for a talk. So what I’d like to do is just sort
of briefly show you the main page of it, the front page and then what
I’ll be doing is going through bits and sections just a few images
from each of these sections here. And I’m also going to
really fold into it a bit of responses that I’ve received. I teach at Maryland and I teach at
GW and really to have the feedback from younger generations and
younger audiences and trying to see, you know, what was really
interesting to them about it and what dialogues that sparked
was really important to me. So I’ll try and bring that in. Sailors and Daughters first
began with the concern to feature this early
photography from East Africa coming from the archive and from the
library collections at the museum. And from there it grew
very, very quickly. We realized, you know, the
possibilities were much bigger than what was there
at the Smithsonian, even with Sackler Freer, and
on the other hand, you know, while we have very little
documentation of this area so far, there was so much material that
signaled a really colonial point of view and we really
wanted to disturb and upset those kinds
of image fictions. And so the challenge became how to
do this for photographic collections that predominantly featured
commercial and touristic kinds of imagery, so this map
really kind of, you know, gives us a large perspective of
when we are starting to think about things not in
terms of territoriality, but in terms of connections and
the Indian Ocean as connecting all of these different points of view. And probably viewed by the cultural
exchange, the artistic exchange, and the exchange of people,
ideas, and technologies through the Indian Ocean. Not over the two centuries, you
know, in which this work comes from that really over the
millennia answered of trying to draw attention to
that sort of thing. When we were learning about
their early photographers who were working in this region. You know, we wanted to find out – what we found out resonates
very much with what happens in other parts of the world. And that is that early
photography in East Africa and a larger Indian Ocean
are resolutely the products and imperatives of
movement and migration. And it was the mobility of
photographers and the wider realm of their audiences that situates
these photographic modernities, really from the 1870’s on. So these photographs are the
creative collaborations I would argue between photographers, between
their subjects, their patrons and us and, you know, future viewers
to come to sort of global audiences that we see happening now. And as such they really fold in across a vast photographic
and cultural space. Sailors and Daughters evoke that
fundamental premise of movement of ideas and people and so
we will see a lot of that. These, you know, this area
in particular of West India through Muscotc[phonic] the
Gulf Coast and through the horn of Africa, East Africa up
through to Cairo and down as far as the Indian Ocean Islands
Mozambique and really centering. We’ll start with Zanzibar. Zanzibar doesn’t look
like this today. I don’t know how many
of you know that, but we have this big golf there. It was kind of a lagoon. What we wanted to do
by starting with a map of Zanzibar town before
it started to really shift and become very different with
British colonization and the sort of changing of the urban
landscape is to think about photographers exploring that
land and the very different divides that sort of characterized
Zanzibar city at the time. So on the left here in this sort of
triangle part we can see Stone Town. You know, the part that when you
Google [laughs] Zanzibar you get this sort of, you know, nostalgic
images for the UNESCO site. You know, the beautiful stone
buildings and we see bits of them here in this exhibition. And then on the other side of the lagoon called the Quami
Jogo [phonic] is what was known as Ingambo [phonic], which
is called the other side. And the other side was the
place where slaves lived where people lived who were the
laborers who made the labor possible and made, you know, and
basically were the source of labor and the source of revenue for
the people who lived in those – in that very dense city, in the
very wealthy city of Stone Town. So just trying to sort of alert
us to this sort of neighborhoods as they were mapped and tracked
there before everything changed. So we see – hold on. So we see here Bitell Hakoom
[phonic] part of the palace complex of the Sultan of Zanzibar. So the sultans, especially in
1870’s, he was a massive modernizer. He commissioned lots and
lots of architecture, a huge new palace complex. And, you know, was really known
for trying to bring Zanzibar into, you know, the very, very modern
era and he was really proud of all of the commissions that he had. Here’s one of the early – these
are a couple of different guys, HH, his highness Sultan Sayed
Survagosh Dinsyed [phonic]. This is around 1880 and we can see,
you know, again people traveling. This is a great portrait
I’m taken in London and then a bit later closer to 1902. The Sultan Sayed [inaudible]
Mohammed Bin Sayed and this is around 1902. So we see lots of images
like this throughout. And I’m trying to give a sense
of the urban infrastructure that may be really surprising for
people who haven’t seen, you know, that East Coast urban build up
and the extraordinary wealth of that mercantile
economy that existed there. And then the people who were, you
know, who made it all possible. And the people who were the laborers
and, you know after the abolition of slavery in the 1890’s
were the people who manage the clove plantations
and had been brought not only from the East African mainland,
but also from, you know, as far north as Ethiopia. People had come from India, of
course, with the great migrations that had come from Western India. People were really coming
from all over the place. Tippu Tip, how many
people know who he is? The great slave trader, Tippu Tip
and, you know, his house is there and we can see that
mapped in Zanzibar. He was, you know, responsible for
so much of the migration of people as commodities really across to the
Indian Ocean and through the Gulf. And then on the other side of
Umgumbo [phonic] we see people who, you know, the infrastructure
and the layout of the land and how people are living
is of course quite different and it’s very, very rare to actually
see images like this of, you know, people living and sort of
going about their daily lives when they weren’t working in,
you know, out on the plantations. So we see, you know,
people like AC Gomez. A lot of the photographers
who started in Zanzibar and founded the first photo studios
were not only exploring Stone Town, but they were going to
Umgumbo, going to the other side and really exploring the
whole countryside and it’s through their photographs that
we have a sense of what Zanzibar in the area look like,
really from the 1870’s. You know, we have that happen in
Zanzibar, in Mombasa, in Aiden, you know, all over the place
and there remains much more work to be done on those photographers. So we’re trying to piece
together really there and it’s very, very tricky. And again with the problem that
we see with a lot of histories, creative histories in Africa
is where are the archives? Where are the repositories
of these photographs? And so this is the trick, right. We’ll move on to [inaudible] who
was an explorer who is moving through the North African coast
and down the Swahili coast in the, you know to sort of
map out strategic ports in French holdings along the
Indian Ocean in the 1840’s. So right at the start
of the, you know, the sort of birth of photography. And as he moved, you know, he had
his ships and he had a daguerreotype and a camera and so what he
managed to do was not only working with an artist who
is sketching things, he had a photographer
who was taking pictures. And we’ll go into that
a little bit more, but what we see here are really some
of the very first daguerreotypes that were made in East Africa
and they were bound in this book that he made this Voyage
[foreign language]. The book is actually about this big. It’s huge. It’s down there at the
Library of Congress or sorry, down at the Warner Robins
Library down at the Smithsonian. It’s about this tall, sort
of this wide and this long, so the technological difficulty
of trying to make the scans and then trying to figure out
a way to make that accessible and disseminated on a website that
people could look at on their phone in Nairobi was really,
really a trick. And so we tried to manage it. There’s a huge amount
of information there. I mean I really strongly
encourage everybody to sort of flip through these. We have a selection
of those images there. You know it was really a priority
for us to be able to disseminate that and these images
are very compelling to me because they reveal the diversity
of people who were coming from central Africa and
East Africa and then living on those coastal cities, such as [inaudible]
Mogadishu, Zanzibar and Mombasa. So we see them in the cities
that they were living in and some of the prominent traders,
which of course were the people that Geelem [phonic]
was coming in contact with because that was his mission. You know, along the coast of
East Africa and further afield. What we see with this
one is Swahili family and of course we can see
these are lithographs based on the daguerreotypes
that are there. These are not of course the
original daguerreotypes. We haven’t found those yet. I’m not sure that they exist. It’s often the case that they don’t. The rules of – you know,
the other thing that I like about these portraits, their
complexity they really force us to look hard, especially when
we deal with Geelem’s text, which is which is also
there in these huge volumes and which has been written about
my colleague a little bit Zavia Korvubla [phonic], which
is available on our site. I can show that to you. As portraits they initially appear
to be intimate and respectful. I suspect actually that the moment of photographic encounter was
far more ambiguous and fraught. Geelem convinced Swahili
translators, negotiators, traders, and their families to sit for
the camera, which they had to sit for a long time, we’ll remember. And he wrote about those
moments and how they were so widely observed by
curious bystanders. And, you know, as probably
many of you are aware the rules of Muslim modesty restricted
Geelem’s access and his conversations with women. And so it was their husbands
and in some cases their masters, the people who owned them who
compels some of the depicted women and servants to sit for Geelem. So we see all the complexities of
status and the senses of looking at that are sort of going on here. So in this case we have these
portraits of the small girl on the left – sorry, on the
bottom center is actually niece of the governor. Her name is or was Aziza
and she’s completely ducked out for her portrait to,
you know, all of the jewels, everything has been
sort of laid upon her. She’s been completely adorned
for this photographic moment and it was watching that process
of the creation of her portrait that convinced the governor
eventually to sit for Geelem. So we have these little moments
of, you know, really interesting and provocative interaction that this is really only
the tip of the iceberg for. I’ll just briefly note
Zavia Korvubla’s research, because the text is in French
and we really have, you know, as we know a lot of them
difficulty addressing those text, especially as Americans and really
getting them to be accessible in a variety of languages. So he put them up the
bit that he studied and they’re really
intriguing accounts and I highly recommend you go
to them on the unbound Web site, the library and Smithsonian
website there. And we see the variety
of people that are there. There are people who are slaves,
people who have been, you know, compelled to sit, and then we have
people of course who, you know, look modern and we imagine
there’s a big difference and a big cultural
divide between them. But of course these interactions
were happening all of the time and exchanges were happening all
of the time and he was just sort of there to make it happen in some
ways, but also witnessing, you know, what was in front of him. I had a student recently, a Somalian
American student who’s really concerned about these images
and she had a lot of questions about the anionic mandate and the
questions of modesty and propriety. And it generated a lot of
conversation about the role of photography and who
were taking these pictures. And I pointed her, you know,
eventually – let me look – we can look at this
one really quickly. We see a really a sort
of probably a noblewoman or somebody who was very wealthy. She’s wearing this sort of partial
mask called a [inaudible] related linguistically to the word for
burka, you know, the cover. And we see this come
up in photographs. It’s something that was in favor
for a time in fashion and they kind of fell out of favor and a lot
of people have commented too on we don’t see anything
like this anymore. But it is a very elaborate
sort of mask. But circling back,
I pointed my student to the great photography story of
Siddique Bay of Egypt, the guy who, you know, was an Egyptian
military officer and who helped escort the huge
tapestry that was created every year in Cairo and then with a big
military possession every year took it over at the covering
for the kava in Mecca and there was an extraordinary
sort of pilgrimage that happened. He was the one to take, from what
we know, the first photographs of the kava and he didn’t only do
that, but of course he took pictures of the pilgrimage sites, of
the people who were responsible for the [inaudible] and
different places there. So the question of how Muslim
photographers were negotiating all of that is really, you know, kind of
fraught in an individualistic sort of question with lots of
different grains to that history. He published and released
seven volumes. He won prizes in Venice for his
photography, so there’s a lot of stuff that I feel like should
be household names we should know about this and we don’t. So it’s just kind of peeling
back the history that, you know, or just seem inaccessible to us. This is shifting to
sort of another page. The page about Oman [phonic]
the cultural center of caboose who is [inaudible] funded at this
project on a lot of terrific work at the National Museum
of African Art. Very early imagery from Oman in
this case was taken by a German sort of traveler itinerant photographer
named Herman Burchart [phonic] and his work is in Berlin. They kindly loaned us some images so that we can see a
little bit of the sense. And his approach has
been explored and written about sort of in great detail. He just won a [inaudible], but, you
know, I highly recommend you look at them the few images
that are there. In Muscat and also
another city called Matra, which was actually bigger than
Muscat, another port city. You know, we have the fish market
here and the harbor in the city. This was taken around
what do we think? 1904, right. And when you’re looking at
this and then you go back to the Zanzibar images you see
the huge similarities, right, in between the fish market
and how it looked in Zanzibar and how it’s looking there. Swahili, all of these different
languages were being spoken in very different places again
reminding us of the migration of people and the very cosmopolitan
sense of a lot of these, you know, very small cities where people were
going back and forth all the time. And it wasn’t just a sort of a
one-way direction, so we get a sense of the difficulties in his
photographing out on the streets, but also the fact that
he managed to do it and that they were kept is amazing. Another great series of work,
which I only could gesture to here on the Web site, are the works
that are coming from Persia of the famous photographer Antoine
Sevregene [phonic] who terrific and wonderful collections are
there at Sackler Freer of his work. He went around and took
a lot of photographs, including royal commissions
photographs of big royal events and sorry, holidays and things like
that by royal and noble families who of course had people
from East Africa working within their families. In this instance there
really was no word for slave. People will not say, “Oh,
those people were our slaves.” They will say, “They were servants. They became part of our family.” And indeed I also recommend
the New Your Public Library who did a larger exhibition, which
was sort of more encompassing than this and didn’t focus
on photography solely, but really explores the different
aspects of East African migration and North African migration to
India to Persia to the Middle East and sort of social
mobility that was allowed. You know, people became
Generals, they became, you know, associated with royalty
and all the rest of it. So it wasn’t – it’s an interesting
series of stories that emerge. What’s happening and this image is from what we can tell it’s
possibly a celebration of Rosa Karney [phonic] which
is a private performance of reciting from the Koran. Antoine Sevregene probably
took this picture in the 1890’s and we see the terrific
thing about this that we had designed on the website. It allows you to really, really
zoom in and you can see just in the middle of the photograph
really towards the center in between the men, is one guy who is almost certainly
from East Africa there. Really center in the middle of the
photograph and just really brings up all sorts of questions for me. More questions than answers
that we have at this point, but it’s a really interesting
and growing field of scholarship of Afro Persian, Afro Iranians
and the presence of, you know, as being described in terms of performance songs
and all sorts of things. With this image it’s an
incredible story and I did write about it a little bit
on the website. This is Nasser Al Dean
Shah and his Unix and what we have are several men. If you look closely
you can see them. I don’t have a pointer,
but if you look closely at their faces you can see people
who clearly come from East Africa and were part of the cohort on
sort of interior kind of, you know, group of advisers that
advised this particular Shah who was raised far away from
the court and was surrounded by this group of gentlemen. And then when he rose to power
these were his closest advisers were people who had come
from East Africa. They became wealthy
landowners and they, you know, ascended to power in
their own right. So, again,, a lot of biography that
is just, you know, touched upon sort of just or two in photographs
like this, but for, you know, a lot more work sort of needs to
be done for these kinds of things. One thing that is really surprised
me the reception the interest dhows. I mean dhows of course are the huge
anything from a small fishing boat to huge, huge trans ocean going
vessels often comprised of wood that has been sewn together. So these are boats
that have been sewn on and that’s how they’re
sort of constructed. They go across the ocean and
of course they have, you know, they’re the sort of mode of mobility
connecting Asia, the Middle East and the east coast of Africa. These are from North
Western’s collection. We don’t have a lot of
documentation about why photographs of these dhows were even created. Abdul Sharif there in well,
he’s sort of all over the place, but he’s beautifully put together
number of books that make the case for the complexity of these images. You know, and then even the
construction of the dhows, the science this science,
technology, astronomy position of where people are, sailors
are in relation to the heavens. All of this was really sort
of developed and investigated by Sharif in his book on dhows. The monsoon seasons, if we
remember the map, you know, there’s a seasonality to the
monsoon, so people were forced to migrate on one of these boats. So say you landed from West
India and then you landed there in Zanzibar, because of the
prevailing winds you would be forced to stay there for three
or four months. And this has been a factor that, you
know, has been attributed to a lot of the intercultural sort of
questions about or, you know, sort of premises of cultural mixing
and the cosmopolitanism that we see in East Africa and a lot of these
cities that people were there, they took wives, they
learned the language. You know, they stayed there for a
long time and then they migrated, you know, onto the next port. And so that sort of geography that
determined and created and sort of fostered those cultural exchanges
has really, you know, been something that is interested and
surprises a lot of people. I just briefly wanted to
show you a couple of images. This went completely
viral in a lot of ways. It was picked up these photographs
were taken and, you know, sort of republished on
so many different sites and it was really fascinating
to see this interest for people. I’m going to kind of
speed it up a little bit. Indian Ocean portraits
was another section that I tried to put together. This centers around the ethical
stakes of photography on one hand and also for what is for most
Americans a really unknown situation of the so-called liberated
slaves in the Seychelles and other Indian Ocean islands. So these portraits
are extraordinary. They’re coming from the British
records of the Seychelles, so there were times when it
was under British control. Times when it was under French
control and these are photographs of the so-called liberated Africans. And so what we need to know is from the 1860’s the British Navy
was pursuing these slave ships that were going off the keys
coast of East Africa and running around over to Brazil going
to India to try and keep carry on the slave trade, right. So the British Navy was
pursuing these ships, would recapture the people
that they found on their ships and then they would
put them somewhere. They would put them somewhere else and in this case it
was the Seychelles. These guys had been headed either
to Asia or to the middle east and they took these people
who ended up in Port Victoria, the Seychelles and they were freed. But what freedom meant in
this case was installing them as indentured servants on the
plantations that were owned by British people, by French
people, by Creole people, the plantation owners
on the islands. So when those people are passed over
that, you know, money was exchanged that was funding the
activities of the British Navy and so really putting people from
frying pan really into the fire and calling it liberation. The interesting thing to me is
1860’s these photographs are taken of these people and what they
took down as part of this sort of documentation of them
is the name of the person, sometimes it’s Anglicized
or put into a kind of comprehensible French name,
including the age of them and the person who, you
know, some translation of who their father might’ve been. So Galloway, nine years
old, the son of [inaudible]. You know, and the fact that that
was sort of recorded momentarily. There’s not a lot of
these but that the aspect of that photographic moment
during the transition from capture to another kind of
capture is really, really fascinating
and troubling, right. A lot of people writing about these. You know, when they found
this website where, you know, they put it on their
blog, they put it on their Pinterest
site, whatever happened. All the people who were really
taken by the story were interested in the pain that they felt and
they read on people’s faces. You know, there is an
individual aspect to that record and there is a moment of oppression that happens at the
same time, right. So if we have a portrait, but
it’s taken against a person’s will at a moment after rescue, we
call it a portrait, right. So people continue to debate
a lot of these questions. You know, what do we
see in people’s faces? And what if that surpasses
the conditions in which the photograph was taken,
so their fragments have this, you know, central narrative that
we have about migration and I think that really speaks to a lot
of people here in the US who don’t have anything like that. For me these portraits defy
and alter our expectations of what constitutes a portrait,
I will end with some images that really kind of went
viral more than anything else and that is the beautiful portraits of Swahili [inaudible] daughters
is the section that I put it under. Its full of surprises. There are so many things
happening in these photographs. Some of them are clearly composed
portraits that were commissioned, right, either by a man in the
family or possibly by a woman. We don’t really know
in a lot of cases. A lot of times those
portraits were taken as part of a touristic enterprise or a commercial enterprise
and we don’t know. And then they end up
circulating on a postcard. They end up circulating on a
souvenir image, in an album. And we have to remember that there
was a lot of trade with the US and with Europe and with India
and there was a big trade and photographs as part of
that circulation that was going on in the 1890 – really
rising from the 1890’s. We also know that Zanzibar royalty and the elite were really
proponents of photography. They had lots and lots of
photographs in [inaudible], including many of the
European royalty and visitors. Pardon. In 1883 the Sultan Vergosh
[phonic] Sayed, the great modernizer that I mentioned earlier created
a camera obscura room in the tower of one of his new palaces,
The House of Wonders. So he was really, really interested in that technology
that was happening. And turn-of-the-century Zanzibar
studios created photographs of royals and elites and they
also did the screening business and portraits of, you
know, that were sold to temporary residents
and to visitors. So we don’t know –
we know very little about a lot of these portraits. You know, lots of people ask
questions about the clothes and what you see here
with the adornment of these young women in this case. And, you know, honestly it’s
just one of those things where we have so little information. We know that this was
taken by AC Gomez and Son, one of the big Zanzibar studios. We have people like this, you
know, a little bit further away from the camera also
clearly taken as a portrait. We don’t know if she
commissioned it. The Sultan established the Amani
Sultanate [phonic] on Zanzibar in the 1830’s and they
kind of, you know, mixed with the local
hereditary rulers. When women started coming to
join the harem of the Sultan, they were coming from Central
Africa and East Africa. They were also coming from the horn
of Africa, the Indian Ocean islands, Oman, Persia, Circassia [phonic],
which is now Georgia, right. And India and they
were brought from all of these places to marry the Sultan. Some of them as freeborn wives
and some of them as concubines. So upon their arrival
they were renamed and they were given three
days to adopt Amani dress. And so real wardrobes really brought
together all of these influences of the women who had sort of
shown up to be part of the harem. So we have in this case we can see
this woman’s kind of tight trousers with the flare at the
bottom, Miranda trousers and with these flared
ankles were thought to be an introduction
from Circassia. Then we see these long
chemises that they’re worn with. We see congas, a lot of
dress who know, you know, will recognize them
from East Africa now. We also see this intricately wrapped
calumba [phonic], the headscarf, which was the prerogative of Muslim
women who were free at the time and then that really all
changed in the 1890’s. We also see a lot of silver jewelry
and that was imported from India. There is some debate about this
and I put forward the possibility that these photographs are this is
a photograph of two [inaudible], which are women who may have – sorry
– may have represented their Armani, the women who owned them
and they were people that could dance can
be seen in public and sort of represent the family. So they were dressed, as you
can see here in lots of jewelry and were known for their
extraordinary beauty, but they could be seen
whereas the women who they were representing needed
to be behind the walls and needed to be sort of out of the public eye. So the whole purpose of this
paragraph may have been part of that display, the sense of
display of family at prestige and money and the ability to have
women that sort of represent or sort of stand in for the freeborn
women that cannot be seen. People love images like this too. We see the congas here. We have this really authoritative
looking stance in some cases and we see this with a lot
of portraits studios here. It may have been something
that people picked up. It may have been directed
by the photographer. Unfortunately we don’t know. This is another photograph
by AC Gomez. You know we have photographs
of Zanzibar and Mombasa, lots of different places
and again here from the Cateno [phonic]
brothers different engagements with the photographer that are
really, really visible here. We see, you know, on the left this
woman who’s really not certain if she wants to be there
and then women, you know, who are taken in groups and then be
get labeled sort of retroactively as may be from the [inaudible]
because of the style of dress or their features or
their skin tone. Again the [inaudible] on the women
here on the left and then, you know, women that are posing with books. And we can’t tell if
this again was a portrait that would have been commissioned. You know, again more
questions than answers. We do know that after abolition and
this has been documented and sort of written about, regardless
of the class women who were Muslim could
choose to cover their heads. And that had not been
the case before. If you are a woman who is
working for somebody else, you needed to show your subservience
by not covering your head. And so that all changed in
the 1890’s and women rushed to photographic studios to
have their photographs taken with their heads covered. And so we see images like this,
you know, whether they’re staged or whether they were
privately commissioned. And then I wanted to just end with
a few ways in which, you know, we see examples of it really,
really getting picked up everywhere. The nice thing like I said about
the online is you can follow and see how people were discussing
it and how it appealed to them. This is a really terrific sort
of moment on a really kind of basic Kenya, you
know, community board. They forget for every black
diamond we had our Stardust. We had twist and bony
M, we were cool. But even I or my age
mates didn’t invent cool. Cool had been mankind
since creation. My proof, just go to this site. Discover cool and the
age when you were an atom and so he’s asking
somebody else to try and post these photographs
from this website. The images of the women appealed,
you know, to people and fashion, to people who are trying to
reclaim or sort of re-inscribe or recover images that, you know,
weren’t even accessible to them, aren’t available in Zanzibar and some cases aren’t
available in Nairobi. These old photographs and they
do have a complex history. You know, still appeal
and are so interest of such great interest to people. When it went up on the
Washington Post there were a lot of people contesting like this
woman is wearing the wrong kinds of clothing. You know, we never would’ve
seen this in Zanzibar, you know, if she wasn’t covering herself
in the way that we see happen or, you know, we have photographs
taken from the ’40s and ’50s. People before mentioning wedding
albums and the Sultan showing up at their wedding – their grandparents weddings
and things like that. So it really evoked a lot of
personal stories for people that we didn’t expect and is really
something that you can’t capture, you can’t sort of quantify
it or discuss when you’re in a gallery setting. And so I guess I would just
like to end with, you know, the sense is that when it was
transmitted virtually the images and sort of discussion about
them were transmitted virtually and then picked up by scholars
and picked up by people who care about this for lots of
different other reasons. And I hope that what this sparks
in the end is a larger conversation and more scholarship and more sort
of interest in the fact that we know that a lot of these
photographs are here and yet so much more remains to be told. And we hope that as people from
all over these places that can help to tell that tale and
bring it out to all of us. So thank you so much. [ Applause ]>>Okay. We would like to invite
questions from the audience. I know that I’m was
absolutely fascinated to see how broad this online exhibit
is and I hope you all will go and visit it on line, but at this
point if anybody has any questions. First of all, know that you
are being webcast and that by asking questions you are agreeing
to be a part of that webcast. So do you have any questions?>>Yes.>>So you talk about [inaudible]
interactions [inaudible]. I’ll give you a couple of examples. Input [inaudible] was unexpected. I was just curious if you had
any other kind of [inaudible].>>Interesting. Right. Right.>>It’s so good to
see how [inaudible] –>>Right. [ Inaudible ]>>Right. It’s an interesting
question and I think I’m probably the
wrong person to ask about this because well, for a couple reasons. I’m not within the Smithsonian,
so I don’t get to handle the sort of central knowledge base
that figures out where all of these things have
gone and the kinds of conversations that it’s led to. It was also for me a lesson in
the power of publicity and the way that you have to pay
for things in order to get them disseminated on the web. And so what you picked up in the
UK is different than what you pick up in the US and it’s
different again in Kenya and all the rest of it. We did see the way that it shot
out and was sort of disseminated and people were excited about it. At the same time I feel
like the investment – there’s a very heavy
commercial aspect to it and that tightly controls
the possibilities of how it gets disseminated. So there isn’t a lot of, you know,
it’s not something that ever made it on the front page of Reddit. If it had been paid for, if
that had been invested in, if that had been a priority
that could have been, you know, something that maybe
would’ve generated, you know, a lot more interest. I feel like there were
people who reached out to me after the Washington Post and
probably would’ve been even bigger that included scholars and included
people in East Africa who were arty in the tech world and
had their iPhone and have a really good connection. And it’s not the people that
are kind of like in, you know, rural spaces and, you know,
really don’t have time to worry about these kinds of things. I also feel like even my colleagues
that are in South Africa, you know, who I’m in conversation with
had a hard time finding this. So [laughs] again it’s a
matter like the, you know, the algorithm that determines
what allows us to see things. So I think that’s a huge point where
museums and institutions like this that are archived have a
responsibility to try and experiment and think through the conceptual
limitations of it and the way in which you can invite
conversation. The other tricky thing about it is
[inaudible] needs to be a person who is dedicated to
managing that conversation because it gets crazy very quickly. And once you’re on that other side
of the comments and they’re kind of racist comments
that I didn’t see. And, you know, but even putting up a comment page here would
have been totally forbidden, because as a, you know, a federal
institution they can’t manage, you know, like sort of
hosting the kind of speech that could be really
difficult, you know, potentially, which happens all the time,
right, democratically. So really good question. Yeah, it’s huge. It needs to go further, so. Yes, yes. [ Inaudible ]>>Yes. Very good question. So I was trying to focus on
gendered component of it that I felt like was people would imagine that there wouldn’t be
images of women, right. That they were kind of hidden behind
the walls that they, you know, they wouldn’t choose to
have their photograph taken. And I wanted to just kind of turn
that on its head a little bit. I also felt like even, you
know, we often heard, you know, I don’t know, they’re many writers. I’m a tough [inaudible] all sorts
of people describing the migration from India to East Africa and the
sense of unknown that were there. And also the fact that they were
people who were going who are men and women, but we don’t really
have so many stories of course of the people who did that and
who crossed or who were migrating. We do know that there
were a lot of sailors. It was primarily men who
were working and going across and it would have been a very
inhospitable place to be on a Dhow if you’re women unless you’re
kind of segregated, and, you know, and part of this, you know, sort of
section of the boat that, you know, maybe was coming from
India and, you know, you were starting your new life
as an indentured servant there. So I wanted to get the sense of
vulnerability, but also of presence and it’s something that I try
and discuss within the writing on the exhibition, but it’s really
more just like an entry point. I think everybody’s a daughter
before they’re a wife [laughs]. And maybe some people are never
wives, but, yeah, I wanted to try and get at that as flawed as it was. So.>>Any other questions?>>Well, I have a question.>>Yes.>>And that is have
you gotten an idea of how this is received among the
people who were the photographs, people from [inaudible], Seychelles. Did it invoke any kind of dialogue
directly with you or indirectly? And what did the people
feel about –>>Interesting.>>– seeing their history, because I can imagine
they would not have privy to a lot of those [inaudible].>>Yeah, right, right. I can’t speak to the
[inaudible] in particular. Sadly we did have images that are
there from the Seychelles and are from Seychelles and
[inaudible] archives. I feel like that is not – I have
very little sense of the way in which citizens are
using that archive or those photographs
in any particular way. I feel like it’s more of
a scholarly enterprise. We didn’t have that I know
of and I need to go down and at the Smithsonian
again to see, you know, if there was any conversation
that came from the Indian Ocean
islands in particular. I feel like the early
work that I did in West Africa this
happens all the time, you constantly hear
this conversation. “Oh, all of our photographic
history has been removed to France during decolonization.” It’s in Aix-en-Provence, it’s
not in Bamako for example. I think it’s a conversation
which is just starting in a lot of these places and the French
were, you know, great archivist as were the Brits and the South
African apartheid government, right. So we have a lot of records and
the question of curetting them and bringing them out, not
just in a scholarly ways, but in public ways I think is,
you know, a huge imperative. And unfortunately I don’t have
direct conversation or sense of the reception there and it’s
– do you have any friends there? You should send it. [ Laughs ]>>Anybody, just send it out. Send it. [ Inaudible ]>>Okay. Okay. Yeah, I know. I mean even the diaspora
communities, you know, it’s like it gets – what I have
noticed is the ephemerality of the web means you don’t get a
lot of deep conversation about it. It’s like look we were cool, check out how cool we were I mean
it doesn’t even need to relate to your own family
members or those senses. People do it and it’s a quick
grab and then they put it on and it beautifies their
website and you want it to go deeper and it kind of doesn’t. It’s the nerds and the scholars
like us who really want to sort of have the deeper, you know,
conversational engagement. And so that [inaudible] satirical
website is one of many who, you know, it’s like the scholars
who are trying to put the visual out there online and may be the
algorithm allows them to sort of see this and allows other people
to see it, but it’s just like, oh, isn’t this beautiful
and then it keeps going. So I don’t know, maybe there
will be different reactions. You never know. Unintended consequences I think are
the best thing about this maybe.>>Ann does this exhibition have an
expiration date or will it just –>>Yes. It’s a very good question. So the dead links,
like this is the thing that if you are a webmaster I guess
you know about and I didn’t know. We got rights for these images
for five years, so it’s short. There is no book sadly. It’s always difficult
to make a book and even to put this website together
was a huge investment and an experimental
investment for the Smithsonian. I feel like it needs to happen
and it’s also very uneven set of platforms to respond to
people that I care about, the audiences that I care about
and, you know, who are my colleagues in different parts of the continent. You know, don’t have access
to it in the same ways, right, when powers that concern
and all the rest of it. So we’re very lucky to be
here [laughs] and to be able to see these things and how do
we make that more democratic and more accessible globally
is still under construction.>>And then my last question would
be you talked a little bit working with somebody who’s in our
audience today on something on –>>Oh, yes. Manas Rizzi [phonic]. They’re in the audience. No, so Grace Ali [inaudible]
magazine and New York, a magazine about art and
activism invited artists and writers to contribute. And Manas was the digital artistic
curator of the o whole issue. She brought together the artists. Grace I think chose writer’s to
write about that and it was all about the burka and different
sort of incarnations and artists that are dealing with that. So, yeah, I don’t – I’m
really glad that she’s here. Go check out her work. She’s going to be at the
Library of Congress later. She’s a GW. You’re toiling away at GW, right? Yeah. [ Inaudible ]>>Oh, you are? Congratulations.>>Congratulations.>>Yeah, yeah, yeah. So anyway, yeah, terrific.>>Okay.>>Thank you.>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at


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