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Lectures d'images

Samedi 20 Mai

Images of Power : Royal Portraiture and the Invention of Bamum Dynastic History in the twentieth Century

Christraud Geary, docteur, professeur, Museum of fine arts, Boston

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This contribution explores the role and impact of the creation and deployment of royal portraiture in the form of sculpture, photography and painting by the Bamum palace in the historical constructions and inventions of a Bamum dynastic history.

It focuses on the visual presentations and self-representations of King Ibrahim Njoya (ruled c. 1887-1924, died in 1933) in different media and through various “intermediaries,” among them European painters and photographers and Bamum artists. In collaboration with several of his courtiers (such as Nji Mama and Ibrahim Njoya) and through the intervention of colonials (such as the resident missionaries in Foumban) King Njoya, who was well aware of his audiences, constructed and enacted his role in the colonial state, inscribed Bamum dynastic history, seeking to legitimate the Bamum sub-imperialism within the colonial framework.

His son Sultan Seidou Njimoluh Njoya (ruled 1933-1992) continued these visual inscriptions – mainly through photography, now mostly the domain of Bamum photographers, and later on through video and film. Initially mapping out the Bamum’s role under French colonial rule, the palace later exploited the visual in the framework of the independent Cameroonian state.

At first glance, early images of royalty seem to have been directed at foreign, i.e. non-Bamum, viewers, who consumed them in different ways and circulated them in various material forms. However, they found an equally enthusiastic reception in the palace and among the Bamum elite, and many have been preserved to this day. Image objects are constantly recycled both as photographic reproductions and in the form of contemporary historical paintings. An examination of these processes, which seem to deepen these inscriptions and solidify historical inventions, will conclude this presentation.



In and out of focus: Images from Central Africa, 1885-1960, Londres-New York, Philip Wilson/National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002.

GEARY, C. M., WEBB, V.-L. (dir.), Delivering Views. Distant Cultures in Early Postcards. Washington, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998.

"Photographic Practice in Africa ans its Implications for the Use of Historical Photographs as Contextual Evidence", dans Alessandro TRIULZI, (dir.) Fotografia e Storia dell'Africa, Naples, Instituto Universitario Orientale, 1995, pp. 102-130.

Images from Bamun. German Colonial photography at the court of King Njoya. Cameroon, West Africa, 1902-1915, Washington-Londres, published for the National Museum of African Art by the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988.

"Photographs as Materials for African History : some Methodological Considerations", History in Africa, n° 13, 1986, pp. 89-116.

Le colloque le pouvoir en images, représenter la puissance politique en Afrique s'est tenu les 19 et 20 mai 2006 au centre Malher à Paris. Il a été organisé par : spacer.gif Camille Lefebvre, M'hamed Oualdi et Estelle Sohier, spacer.gif avec le soutien : menu-droite_09.jpg du CEMAf menu-droite_11.jpg de l'AUF menu-droite_13.jpg de l'école doctorale d'Histoire de Paris1 et du Bonus Qualité Recherche de Paris 1

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