Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The Seen, the Unseen, the Invented Misrepresentations in the Making of a Colony. Eritrea

The Seen, the Unseen, the Invented Misrepresentations of African “Otherness” in the Making of a Colony. Eritrea, 1885-1896 by Silvana Palma

This essay analyses the photos of Eritreans taken by professional photographers at the beginning of Italian presence in Africa—particularly from the first Italian landing in Africa in 1885 up to the “reconquest” of Saati in 1881, after the Italian military defeat at Dogali—in order to identify their language and the extent to which they were functional to colonial rule. The photographic image is considered here as a primary element of a specific historical and cultural moment in view of the fact that it had a growing diffusion as a means of communication at the time of the “first Italian African war”, when it was already becoming a “mass” medium. The growth of the photographic market in the last twenty years of the 19th century coincided with Italy’s participation in the scramble for Africa and with the growth of the information industry, in which a very prominent role was played by the illustrated press2 which made use of photographs, particularly those taken by commercial photographers, as the preferential means of spreading Italian “knowledge” concerning Africa and its peoples.

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