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Artist Statement

Katherine Arbuckle with Julia Arbuckle

I chose to work with Slide 63 “Pondoland native – smokingpipe” and untitled Slides 74, and 76. 74 shows three people in a field carrying loads on their heads. 76 shows homesteads and people in a rural landscape.


I grew up in the Eastern Cape, and was drawn to the Magic Lantern project slides with images referring to Pondoland. My British settler ancestry does not sit easily, and thus the idea of the absent referent ‘in’ these images resonated strongly. The pastoral scenes in the slides were preceded by the Wars of Dispossession and Resistance, and many atrocities. I could not help but think of what preceded these slide images, and how horrific suffering must have been relatively fresh in the community histories of the people in these picturesque photographs. And how oblivious the intended audience, perhaps.


Amongst the extensive literature, I discovered information I would rather not know, along with images which I decided to superimpose with the slide images, to reinsert the past. I sought technical help from my daughter Julia, whose research has centred around related issues about the colonial archive, heritage, family histories. Slide 63 is combined with a map from Webb (2015), while slide 74is combined with an illustration from F.N Streatfield (London, 1879. In Webb 2015.) 

The resulting images are thus a collaboration on a topic close to both our hearts.


Webb, D. A. (2015). War, racism and the taking of heads: Revisiting military conflict in the Cape Colony and Western Xhosaland in the nineteenth century.The Journal of African History, Vol. 56, No. 1, pp. 37-55. Accessed on 16 May 2022

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