Black History Re-imagined

An iconic take on capturing the history of Africa in a sartorial way.

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Don Miguel de Castro, Emissary of Congo, 1720

Don Miguel de Castro, Emissary of Congo, 1720

Senegalese photographer Omar Victor Diop reinterprets key moments in the history of black struggle, from Nigerian anti-colonial protest to the 2012 Million Hoodie March in New York City. Liberty/Diaspora, a solo exhibition by Omar Victor Diop, is at Autograph, London, until 3 November . All photographs © Omar Victor Diop / Courtesy of MAGNIN-A, Paris

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Ikhlas Khan

Ikhlas Khan
In Project Diaspora, a series of self-portraits based on historical paintings, Diop plays the roles of African railway workers, Jamaican maroons, American Black Panthers … and this 17th-century Abyssinian slave, Ikhlas Khan, who went on to become prime minister of the Bijapur sultanate in modern-day Karnataka, India

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Malik Ambar, 1556–1626

Malik Ambar, 1556–1626
‘Malik Ambar, born in Harar (in modern-day Ethiopia) was sold into military slavery as a child by his parents and went on to become a Siddi military leader and statesman in the Deccan region of India. A proponent of guerrilla warfare, he built an independent mercenary force numbering up to 1,500 men. He has become one of the most celebrated Afro-Indians in history, known as a great administrator, city planner and military tactician’

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Albert Badin 1747?–1822

Albert Badin 1747?–1822
‘Adolf Ludvig Gustav Fredrik Albert Badin, born Couchi, was born in Saint Croix in the Danish West Indies and brought to Sweden in 1757 at the age of seven, where he was presented as a gift to Louisa Ulrika of Prussia, queen of Sweden. Well-educated and fluent in Swedish, French, German and Latin, Badin served as the Queen’s emissary to France and is one of the first recorded book collectors of African origin’

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A Moroccan man, 1913

A Moroccan man, 1913

‘When you look at the way that the African football royalty is perceived in Europe,’ says Diop, ‘there is an interesting blend of glory, hero-worship and exclusion.’

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Pedro Camejo, 1790–1821

Pedro Camejo, 1790–1821
‘Every so often, you get racist chants or banana skins thrown on the pitch and the whole illusion of integration is shattered in the most brutal way.’

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The Women’s War, 1929

The Women’s War, 1929
Meanwhile, Diop’s project Liberty: A Universal Chronology of Black Protest revisits key moments in black struggle worldwide, such as the 1929 Aba women’s riots. This insurgency in south-eastern Nigerian women against the authorities is considered the first major challenge to British colonial rule in West Africa, and a historic example of feminist and anti-colonial protest

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The Railway Workers of Dakar, Niger, 1938 and 1947

The Railway Workers of Dakar, Niger, 1938 and 1947
‘In 1881, France began a 1,289km railway project designed to transport resources from its West African colonial territories to the coast. Working conditions for the African railway day labourers were particularly difficult and precarious. The railway would eventually become a means of resistance, most notably through two strikes that are still commemorated today as key moments in the history of the African trade union movement and the anti-colonial activist struggle’

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The Soweto Uprising, 1976

The Soweto Uprising, 1976

‘This series of student-led demonstrations in South Africa began on the morning of 16 June 1976, when around 20,000 students from Soweto’s higher education institutions came together to protest against the introduction of Afrikaans as the primary language of instruction. Violent police repression followed, resulting in hundreds of casualties. The Soweto uprising served as both an inspiration and a template for the 1980s unrest, which eventually led to apartheid’s demise’

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Aline Sitoe Diatta, 1944
 

Aline Sitoe Diatta, 1944
‘Born around 1920 in Kabrousse, southern Senegal, Diatta is celebrated as an emblematic figure of identity-based resistance. At just 20 years old, she allegedly became one of the leaders of a tax resistance movement during the second world war. She was arrested by the colonial authorities for insurrection and deported to Timbuktu, Mali, where she is said to have died in jail aged 24’

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Omar Victor Diop, Selma, 1965

Omar Victor Diop, Selma, 1965
‘Between 7 and 21 March 1965, three pivotal protests to demand the right to vote for African American citizens were held along the 80km highway linking Selma to the state capital of Montgomery in Alabama, USA. The marches led to the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965’

Via Mail & Guardian

Bongani TauComment