Accepted Paper:

"Get some fresh air": colonial utopia in photographs of Mozambique (1929)  


Silvio Marcus Correa (UFSC)

Paper short abstract:

The "Álbuns Fotográficos e Descritivos da Colónia de Moçambique" suggests the reader an utopian view of Portuguese East Africa. Highlighting the Bath culture and other metropolitan practices, we demonstrate how these albums present images of a colonial Utopia in Africa.

Paper long abstract:

After the paradigms crisis of the late 20th century, new approaches or utopias in the political culture have been rare in many countries, especially in Africa. However, some utopias were born in Africa during colonial and post-colonial periods. Some utopias failed. Other resulted in dystopias. To study images of an utopia - not as a chimera of a closed past, but as a projection of an open future - we must avoid the a posteriori rationality and get a historical perspective on what was possible to predict and even produce in terms of images.

During the 1920s and '30s, Mister José Rufino dos Santos was the owner of the bookstore The Portuguese, in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo). As editor and photographer, his main work was a series of 10 volumes, published in 1929 and entitled Álbuns Fotográficos e Descritivos da Colónia de Moçambique. This is the most complete photographic collection of Portuguese East Africa before Salazar's Estado Novo. From the analysis of the clichés produced by Mr. J. R. dos Santos and his auxiliaries, amateur photographers H. Graumann and I. Piedade Pó, and texts written by Mario Costa, we can conclude that the images not only showed clippings of colonial reality, but also represented an utopian image of colonialism.

The focus on Bath culture and other metropolitan aspects, like holiday and sport, allow one to analysis the visual narrative in these albums, in which colonialism is legitimized through images of a colonial utopia.

Panel P083
Revolution 3.0: iconographies of utopia in Africa and its diaspora