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04 April 2022

Recontextualizing the South African Epicentre of Anticolonial Resistance Movements

04 April 2022 - Written by PhMuseum

Carla Liesching's work reflects on the dual history of Cape of Good Hope. By combining found imagery and original texts, she exposes visual references related to White supremacism in the present, as proof of violent histories and harsh contemporary realities.

Good Hope is a fragmented visual and textual assemblage that orbits around the gardens and grounds at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa — a historic location at the height of Empire, now an epicentre for anti-colonial resistance movements, and also the place of my birth. Named by the Portuguese in their ‘Age of Discovery’, the Cape’s position at the mid-point along the ‘Spice Route’ was viewed with great optimism for its potential to open up a valuable maritime passageway. The ‘refreshment station’, later established there, set into motion flows of capital from ‘east’ to ‘west’. Good Hope brings together cumulative layers of documentary prose, personal essay, and found photographic material, with sources ranging from apartheid-era trade journals, tourist pamphlets, and magazines, to contemporary newspapers and family albums. It offers both an intimate and critical examination of White supremacist settler-colonialism in the present, and a questioning of the ethics and politics involved in the very acts of looking, discovering, collecting, codifying, preserving, naming, knowing, and putting to language.

Currently, Good Hope comprises a full-length book of found imagery and original text, and an ongoing series of photo-sculptural installations that reference the contentious ‘falling’ architecture of the site. Through visual, sculptural, and text-based gestures, Good Hope addresses the ways visual culture is implicated in the production and perpetuation of violent histories and painful contemporary realities. 

Words and Pictures by Carla Liesching

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Carla Liesching is an interdisciplinary artist working across photography, writing, collage, sculpture, and design. Grounded in experiences growing up in apartheid South Africa, her work addresses the loaded relations of representation and power, knowledge and documentation—with a focus on colonial histories and constructions of race and geography. A central concern in her practice is photography’s role in building social, political, and ideological systems, and she uses archives as sites of investigation and intervention. Carla is based in New York, where she works as faculty for the International Center of Photography and coordinates the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University. Follow her on Instagram and PhMuseum 

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This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PhMuseum curators.

Selected by

PhMuseum

Reading time

4 minutes

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