African Photography: The Ethics of Looking and Collecting in the Age of Restitution

African Photography: The Ethics of Looking and Collecting in the Age of Restitution

Columbia University / University of Virginia

Macky Kane and Fatou Thioune, 1941. Self-portrait, scan from gelatin negative, 9 x 13 cm. Courtesy of Linguere Fatou Fall and Revue Noire.

September 14, 2022
African Photography: The Ethics of Looking and Collecting in the Age of Restitution
November 11, 2022, 9am

Event time: 9am–4pm ET (New York time). Visit here to register for the webinar.

Presented by: Department of Art, University of Virginia; The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies, Columbia University; Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University

Since the 1990s, exhibitions of African photographers such as Seydou Keïta have raised questions about the relationship of ownership to authorship, visibility to privacy. Concerns about the ethics of looking and collecting have grown more urgent with recent debates about the restitution of African cultural heritage.

This online symposium draws together scholars, artists, and curators who explore the ethics of working with photographs and methods to decolonize the medium, and its histories.

What rights do photographers have? In today’s age of hypervisibility, can sitters claim their “right to opacity,” to use Édouard Glissant’s term? What is the future of collecting and curating photographs that originate in family and colonial archives on the continent? Can viewers embody “the active struggle of looking with,” in Tina Campt’s words—rather than observe passively—and can this engender new ways of seeing? 

Speakers: Sandrine Colard (Rutgers University–Newark), Osaisonor Godfrey Ekhator-Obogie (Institute for Benin Studies), Patricia Hayes (University of the Western Cape), Candace Keller (Michigan State University), Lebohang Kganye (Visual artist and photographer), Ingrid Masondo (Iziko South African National Gallery), Steven Nelson (National Gallery of Art), Giulia Paoletti (University of Virginia), John Peffer (Ramapo College of New Jersey), Z.S. Strother (Columbia University).
Keynote: Temi Odumosu (University of Washington).
Welcome: David Freedberg (Columbia University) and Douglas Fordham (University of Virginia).
Concluding remarks: Steven Nelson (National Gallery of Art).

See here for more information: full program, abstracts, bios, and bibliography.

Organized by Z.S. Strother (Columbia University) and Giulia Paoletti (University of Virginia).

With the generous support of: Buckner W. Clay Endowment for the Humanities, University of Virginia; Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures, University of Virginia; UVA Arts & the Office of the Provost & the Vice Provost for the Arts; The Carter G. Woodson Institute, University of Virginia; The Institute of African Studies, Columbia University; The Department of African American & African Diaspora Studies, Columbia University; Photography Network.  

And with a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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Columbia University  / University of Virginia
September 14, 2022

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