Commonplace: online expo
Following the performance Dear Winnie, we present the photo exhibition COMMONPLACE. This online exhibition is an imagined conversation between two very different South African family photographic archives. Discover it here.
The first, dating back to the 1850s, is the album of a white rural family (the Fyvie-Drummond collection), built up over several generations. The second is the work of two black African photographers, Ronald and Thorence Ngilima — father and son — who offered their services to the urban black, coloured and Indian residents of a small town near Johannesburg in the 1950s and 1960s.
Presented side by side, the people shown in these images are unlikely to have met each other. Yet in bringing the images from both collections together, a creative dialogue is established. Unexpected visual connections begin to emerge, suggesting the varied ways in which lives lived in different times and places might resonate with each other. This exercise in juxtaposition does not claim to transcend the political, but brings to the fore the unremarkable, commonplace details that make the political deeply personal.
Sophie Feyder was born in Brussels and grew up in New York and Luxembourg. After a degree in political science in Paris, she eventually brought together her interests in photography and African history in an MPhil dissertation on black popular photography in Johannesburg. She met Farrell Ngilima during her first fieldwork trip to Johannesburg in 2008. Their close collaboration on his grandfather’s photographic collection has been an important part of her PhD research at Leiden University. Her dissertation, entitled “Portraits of resilience: writing a socio-cultural history of a black South African location with the Ngilima photographic collection. Benoni, 1950s-1960s”, looks at how private photographic archives can be mobilized as a serious historical source. Feyder argues that working with the Ngilima collection enabled her to write a different kind of history of black communities, one that is focused on small everyday gestures of resilience in the context of apartheid. Her dissertation deals with themes such as leisure and consumption, the making of an urban black youth culture, and the role of house interiors in asserting a respectable and modern identity. She received her PhD degree cum laude from Leiden University in may 2016. She currently lives in Brussels and is co-founder of Critical Narratives, a creative agency that explores how to combine academia with visual modes of dissemination.
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