Newly commissioned work by the internationally acclaimed French-Algerian artist Kader Attia (b. 1970). The installation is informed by his research in the collections of Northwestern University’s Herskovits Library of Africana Studies. A predominant strain of Attia’s practice has been engaged with research in and reconsideration of various archives to explore what the artist sees as the inextricably linked enterprises of colonialism, particularly in Africa, and the development of modernism in the late 19th and 20th century.
In works ranging from collage and photography, to video, and multi-media installation, Attia has more broadly considered the global ramifications of the legacy of colonialism and interactions between western and non-western cultures in historical and contemporary moments through his practice.
The artist’s research into the Herskovits Library’s holdings, conducted during onsite residencies in 2015 and 2016, will focus primarily on the Humphrey Winterton Collection of East African Photographs and the E.H. Duckworth Photographic Archive. The Winterton Collection includes over 7,610 photographs, many organized in separate albums or scrapbooks, that depict life in East Africa between 1860 and 1960 through the lens of colonialism. The collection includes photographs showing the building of East Africa’s railways, the growth of its urban centers, and the development of the machine of the European colonial administration. The Duckworth Archive consists of over 5,000 images, including several hundred glass lantern slides, that record Nigerian life in the decades just prior to independence. Duckworth was a British Civil Servant in Nigeria, where he was editor of and frequently a photographer for Nigeria Magazine. The Herskovits Library is committed to making these significant collections available for scholarly research and consideration. Attia’s artistic intervention into the photographic albums will foreground the complexity of perspectives reflected through this historical archive and its contemporary reading.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website. See the website for information about the artist.