South African Cultural Observatory

Iziko Gallery Women's Day Premier: The African Choir 1891 Re-Imagined

BY 05.08.17

THE African Choir 1891 Re-Imagined is a contemporary multimedia installation based on The African Choir’s first tour to Victorian England in 1891. The African Choir 1891 Re-Imagined was first shown at Autograph ABP, London in 2016 and is a collaboration between Autograph ABP and Tshisa Boys Productions. It premieres in South Africa at the Iziko South African National Gallery on National Women’s Day and will feature guest presentations by the creators of the exhibition.

 The installation features five re-created songs by the composers Philip Miller and Thuthuka Sibisi, drawn from an original nineteenth-century concert programme. They are presented together with twenty photographic portraits of the choir members.

Drawn from various mission stations and church choirs in the Eastern Cape, including graduates from Lovedale College, the original sixteen-member ensemble included seven men and seven women, plus two children. They toured Britain and the USA between 1891- 93, ostensibly raising funds to build a technical college. They performed to great acclaim to large audiences, and before Queen Victoria in the summer of 1891.

Although the original performances were never recorded, composers Miller and Sibisi, working with fifteen young singers in Cape Town over a period of two years, recreated the repertoire and crafted a powerful and intimate sonic experience. In partnership with Autograph ABP, this has recently been developed into a CD.

The portraits of the choir members, made in July 1891 by the London Stereoscopic Company, are modern silver gelatin prints printed from vintage glass plates. The latter were rediscovered by Autograph ABP at the Hulton Archive (a division of Getty Images), after laying dormant for 125 years. The portraits were first exhibited to critical acclaim in 2014. Based on research to date, they represent the most comprehensive body of portraits depicting Africans in Victorian London.

This exhibition is a culmination of projects which connect the composers with the curatorial research led by Renée Mussai as part of Autograph ABP’s on-going Black Chronicles/The Missing Chapter archive research programme. Together, they form an artistic representation that humanises and gives voice to an important episode in both British and South African history long unknown by contemporary audiences, intimately linked to wider politics of empire, expansion and imperial narratives.

As part of its National Women’s Day programme and this exhibition opening, Iziko will facilitate a public discussion at the Iziko South African National Gallery on the 9th of August at 1pm. Curator Renée Mussai (Autograph ABP) and composers Philip Miller and Thuthuka Sibisi (Tshisa Boys Productions) will present on their collaboration and other on-going research projects.

A site-specific, multimedia installation will overlap with the exhibition premiere at ISANG, as part of the Centre for Humanities Research’s conference (of the University of the Western Cape) taking place at the Castle of Good Hope. This digital installation will be presented at the Cape Town Civic Centre Main Concourse daily between 8am and 5pm. The Centre for Humanities Research will also host a composers’ introductory session at the Civic Centre Concourse between 5pm and 6pm on the 10th August 2017.  

  • Autograph ABP is a London-based arts charity that works internationally in photography and film, race, representation, cultural identity and human rights. www.autograph-abp.co.uk
  • Presented at the South African National Gallery (ISANG) by Autograph ABP and Tshisa Boys Productions, in partnership with Iziko Museums of South Africa.
  • The South African tour of this exhibition is supported by the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC).
  • On exhibition at the IZIKO South African National Gallery until 13 November 2017.
  • Following on the installations in Cape Town, the exhibition will travel to Johannesburg to the Apartheid Museum and the FADA Gallery, where it will be hosted by the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD) at the University of Johannesburg. 

Songs composed and arranged by Philip Miller & Thuthuka Sibisi

Curated by Renée Mussai

 Iziko South African National Gallery

09 August – 13 November 2017

CAPTION: Eleanor Xiniwe, The African Choir. London, 1891. By London Stereoscopic Company ©Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Tzaneen is final stop of SA Cultural Observatory national tour Tzaneen is final stop of SA Cultural Observatory national tour

THE South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) closes its eight-stop countrywide domain workshop tour in Tzaneen on October 26.

READ MORE
ACT announces 12 Scholarship finalists ACT announces 12 Scholarship finalists

THE Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) announces its new-look Scholarships format, a decision taken this year when ACT announced many changes to its funding strategy.

READ MORE

ACT announces 20-year Awards celebration event ACT announces 20-year Awards celebration event

ACT is pleased to announce that the 20th edition of the ACT Awards will take place on Friday 17 November 2017 at the Maslow Hotel in Johannesburg.

READ MORE
SACO releases Event Impact Calculator training video SACO releases Event Impact Calculator training video

THE South African Cultural Observatory (SACO), a project of the Department of Arts & Culture hosted by Nelson Mandela University, today announced the official release of its new training video on the South African Festival Economic Impact Calculator (SAFEIC).

READ MORE

More News
Tzaneen is final stop of SA Cultural Observatory national tour Tzaneen is final stop of SA Cultural Observatory national tour

THE South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) closes its eight-stop countrywide domain workshop tour in Tzaneen on October 26.

ACT announces 12 Scholarship finalists ACT announces 12 Scholarship finalists

THE Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) announces its new-look Scholarships format, a decision taken this year when ACT announced many changes to its funding strategy.

ACT announces 20-year Awards celebration event ACT announces 20-year Awards celebration event

ACT is pleased to announce that the 20th edition of the ACT Awards will take place on Friday 17 November 2017 at the Maslow Hotel in Johannesburg.

World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate

THIS UNESCO report provides an overview of the increasing vulnerability of World Heritage sites to climate change impacts and the potential implications for and of global tourism. It also examines the close relationship between World Heritage and tourism, and how climate change is likely to exacerbate problems caused by unplanned tourism development and uncontrolled or poorly managed visitor access, as well as other threats and stresses.

Heritage, connection and collaboration Heritage, connection and collaboration

GREETINGS from Toulouse. I am in France building stronger international relations with French institutions. It was also Heritage Month in September and we have been considering the importance of heritage in the arts, culture and heritage matrix. At the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) heritage is a critical consideration for us and in general for the country, and specifically for the Department of Arts & Culture.

Connect with us