Postcards from Africa

Postcards from Africa is a series of ink drawings of landscapes derived from old colonial postcards. In each drawing, there are signs of human habitation ... dwellings, boats, a pile of coconuts ... but the people who appeared on the original postcard no longer appear.

 

These postcards have been sourced by the artist from the internet. The photographs on the postcards were taken in the 1920s and 1930s by European colonists, e.g. the French in Senegal, West Africa.

 

Such postcards would be sent back to Europe as examples of the success of colonial expansion, supposedly demonstrating the civilising effect of colonisation on the colonised.

 

In other cases, probably in the case of this one, Sierra Leone - Women bathing in a pool, Africa would be portrayed as an idyllic if ignorant paradise, in need of biblical instruction and Christian conversion. Missionaries would post such images back to their European congregations, hoping to raise funds in the home country for their African project. The stiffness of the women's poses suggests they were well aware of the photographer's presence.

 

All these postcards belied the real truth of West Africa: that in the previous centuries, ending only in the late nineteenth century, 12.5 million people had been forcibly removed from their homes and shipped to the Americas to work as slaves.

 

In the series Postcards from Africa, that removal has ben acknowledged by rendering the landscape empty.

 

The existence of the original subjects is noted in the glass which is part of the frame of each landscape. Where once a person might have stood, a note is made:  Male, 36. Or Boy, 7.  This information will be engraved into the glass, and black or brown etching ink will be rubbed into the engraved line, so it stands as a small note through which the landscape must be viewed.