Virtual Cabinet of Curiosities
16. Visual images of Africa, Professor Morag Bell
Visual images shape the identity of people and places. In geographical analyses of globalization they can be viewed as objects of cultural communication and power.
These images are representative of my research on these topics. They were authoritative records of ‘scientific’ investigations in southern Africa and objects of display through which people came to interpret the region. Thomas Baines’ painting of Victoria Falls was produced during an expedition to the Zambezi in the second half of the nineteenth century. It was displayed in museums and galleries and became a potent educational tool through which British audiences came to ‘know’ Africa. A century later, a collection of over 1000 photographs formed part of the official record of a Commission of Enquiry into poverty in South Africa. The photographs – including this print of women in Lesotho – were a powerful medium through which antiapartheid activists reached an international audience.