History of Art Research Seminar Series: Patricia Hayes

Thu Feb 29 2024 at 05:15 pm to 07:30 pm

Hunter Lecture Theatre O.17 | Edinburgh

Edinburgh College of Art
Publisher/HostEdinburgh College of Art
History of Art Research Seminar Series: Patricia Hayes
Gesture and silence: photographs and the transfer of sovereignty in northern Namibia, 1917
About this Event

Join History of Art for the next in the Research Seminar Series chaired by Dr George Emeka Agbo.

This lecture will be hybrid. Please book your ticket for attendance in person or online. Further details on how to access the lecture will be sent to you following booking.

The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception in the Higgitt Gallery.


The photograph I wish to discuss is Colonel de Jager’s address to Kwanyama headmen on 14 February 1917. This followed a week after a special South African military expedition under de Jager’s command resulted in the death of the Kwanyama king Mandume ya Ndemufayo on the border between Namibia and Angola. The purpose was to stabilise a new status quo on the border, with the kingship abolished and local authority to be invested in a new ‘council’ of headmen. The address was fully transcribed, with lists of colonial officials (South African and Portuguese) and named headmen. The latter’s vocal presence in the record is very minimal and almost entirely in terms of a chorus of agreement towards the end when invited to signal their consent to the new terms of colonial rule. In earlier intelligence reports, these headmen had been categorised as ‘Friendlies,’ ‘Non-Friendlies’ and ‘Fence-Sitters.’ The transcript’s single list reconciles them into one group under a unified and uncontested colonial authority. They were being merged, homogenised. A more complicated context with plural influences can be drawn if we put the de Jager transcript into conversation with photographs from the same milieu. The image selected attests to the ‘different and particular forms of apprehension and cohesion’ that photographs present in relation to other kinds of historical material. This has to do with physical gesture, which Agamben has argued disappears from notice ‘under the influence of civilisation.’ A small sign of disunity emerges in their looking around and at each other, the product of a highly contingent visibility. It also speaks to issues of deferral that such minor gestures carry in the face of authoritarian discourses and encounters.

About Patricia

Patricia Hayes is National Research Foundation SARChI Chair in Visual History & Theory at the Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape, South Africa, and currently holds a FIAS (French Institutes for Advanced Study) fellowship at IEA-Nantes (2023-24). She is co-editor of Ambivalent. Photography and Visibility in African History (2019), the special issue of the journal Kronos 46 (2020) on ‘Other Lives of the Image,’ and Love and Revolution in the Twentieth-Century Colonial and Postcolonial World: Perspectives from South Asia and Southern Africa (2021).


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Event Venue & Nearby Stays

Hunter Lecture Theatre O.17, Hunter Building (Edinburgh College of Art), Edinburgh, United Kingdom


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