Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hottentots Holland

When the Dutch arrived in Cape Town in 1652, there was already an indigenous people who called the Cape home: the "Hottentots", who called themselves Khoekhoe. A hundred years later, much of their culture had been eradicated by the arrival of Europeans.

In much the same way, the rich and diverse plant life that once existed in the Cape has waned thanks to preferences for exotic species from Europe. There are more kinds of plant in the Cape Floral Kingdom than the whole northern hemisphere, but many are rare or extinct now.

The Flora Capensis project pays homage to the Khoekhoe using the style of the 17th century Dutch floral paintings in photographs. Using only flowers associated with the Khoekhoe (gathered by many hands and with careful planning) six photographs were created, using lighting and photoshop to create the correct shadowing and effects as seen in the original Dutch paintings.

At narrative level, these photographs raise various imaginative possibilities. If the camera had been invented 1 000 years earlier, it might have recorded these scenes in a Khoekhoe home, 500 years before any Europeans set foot in the Cape. Might the Dutch have learnt to make these kinds of compositions from the Khoekhoe? On this level, these photographs are a kind of utopian make-believe, an if-only-things-had-been-different fantasia. This speculative mode is a reminder that buried within history are forgotten counter-tales, utopian narratives running at tangents to the 'official' views that hide the surprising web of mixtures, connections and mutations that colour reality. (from the website)

To see the rest of the photos and to read more about how the various collaborators went about the project, go here. The details of the project, the details of the photos themselves, just astound me. How clever to use photoshop this way... Beautiful work. I love what art can do.

1 comment:

The Neo-Traditionalist said...

This is truly spectacular. I got goosebumps reading the background story of the images. To think what was there before we ever arrived... What a fascinating project --- recreating what could have been.
XX Kate