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Liberation Aesthetics and Photography’s Dilemmas

Gastvortrag von Drew Thompson

From 1962 to 1975, the exiled liberation front Frelimo engaged Portugal in a war over Mozambique. One aspect of Frelimo’s political strategies involved training a group of soldiers as photographers. These photographers travelled Mozambique with the aim of producing an image of Frelimo’s leadership and of a Mozambique free from Portugal’s rule. In the process, their photographs served as a platform from which Frelimo conducted its diplomatic and internal affairs. For those involved in Frelimo’s use of photography, the “documentary” (i.e, the instantaneous ability to label the “real”) was more important than the “aesthetic” (i.e., the look and composition of the photographs). This paper reconstructs the professional lives of photographers and the debates that engulfed and ensured their practice of photography in order to highlight the modes for interpreting and appropriating printed photographs. In the process, this paper unpacks the technological, ideological, and aesthetic struggles imposed by photography on the liberation movement and its war, and addresses the visual archiving capacities of what I refer to as “the liberation aesthetic.”

Drew Thompson

Drew Thompson is Assistant Professor of Historical and Africana Studies at Bard College. At present, he is a fellow at Humboldt University’s IGK Arbeit un Lenbenslauf in globalgeschichtlicher Perspektive, where he is completing a book manuscript provisionally titled Photography’s Bureaucracy, Filtering Histories. For his PhD thesis, completed in African history at the University of Minnesota, he studied the racial politics of photographic representation in colonial and post-independent Mozambique. He co-edited a special issue of the peer-reviewed journal Kronos on Mozambican historiography and Critical Interventions on the arts of the DRC, Angola, and Mozambique.   


Am 5. Mai 2017, um 18 Uhr im Designtransfer 
Universität der Künste Berlin
Einsteinufer 43
10587 Berlin

Veranstaltet von der AG „Dekoloniale Ästhetiken“ des DFG-Graduiertenkollegs „Das Wissen der Künste“
Konzeption: Maja Figge, Barbara Gronau, Kathrin Peters