Panel Discussion - Developing Characters: Contending Cultures & Creative Commerce in a South African Photography Studio

To University of Johannesburg’s Research Centre, Visual Identities in Art and Design, will host a panel discussion as accompany to The exhibition ‘Developing Characters: Contending Cultures & Creative Commerce in a South African Photography Studio’, curated by Dr Steven Dubin.

Thursday 8 August, 18:00 for 18:30
NIROXprojects, Arts on Main, Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg

The exhibition ‘Developing Characters: Contending Cultures & Creative Commerce in a South African Photography Studio’, curated by Dr Steven Dubin, presents a selection of 80 portraits from an archive of 1, 409 original negatives produced by Kitty’s Studio in Pietermaritzburg between 1972 and 1984. Poor and working-class patrons — African, Indian and coloured — came there to be photographed by Singarum Jeevaruthnam Moodley (1922-1987), a.k.a. Kitty, and members of his family. Subjects range
from traditionally attired individuals to hip characters. Significantly, several of the sitters imaginatively combine traditional with contemporary styles, creating an unexpected and captivating hybridity.

To accompany the exhibition, the University of Johannesburg’s Research Centre, Visual Identities in Art and Design, will host a panel discussion at the exhibition venue on Thursday 8 August, 18:00 for 18:30. A panel of scholars, including Dr Siona O’Connell (Centre for Curating the Archive, University of Cape Town), Prof Raimi Gbadamosi (Wits School of the Arts), Molemo Moiloa (Market Photo Workshop) and Vulindlela Nyoni (Visual Art Department, University of Stellenbosch), will consider questions raised by, and are related to, the exhibition, such as:

  • What are the challenges and opportunities of examining South African vernacular photography?
  • Why has there been a relative paucity of attention directed to South African vernacular photography, as opposed to that from West, East and North Africa?
  • Why is there currently a keen interest in African vernacular photography?
  • How do these images compare to and what is their relation to oral and written texts from the same era and social circumstances?
  • What insights can Kitty’s archive provide into the lived and imagined lives experienced by those classified as ‘non-whites’ and ‘whites’ under apartheid?
  • How do individual sitters choose to represent themselves and what do their choices reveal?
  • What are the respective roles of aesthetic and sociological/historical/political perspectives in examining and presenting this material?
  • Does the exhibition of these photos raise ethical issues that are different from those generated by the display of other photographic genres that depict human subjects, and in particular, the black body?
  • How do these self-representations differ from images intentionally produced for public consumption and how does this difference affect the viewer’s reception of the image?

Ennquiries: neil.nieuwoudt@gmail.com

www.niroxarts.com

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