SOAS University of London

Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London

Retracing Heinrich Barth

17th of April to 21st June 2008

19th century German explorer Heinrich Barth was one of the first Europeans to recognise the significance and richness of African history and culture. Travelling under the Arabic name Abd el Kerim, he crossed the Sahara desert and over the Aïr mountains into Central Africa, recording his journey in the five volume Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa 1849-1855.

Inspired by this account and fired by tales of a mysterious room containing a trove of ancient artefacts connected to Barth’s expedition, Julia Winckler, artist and senior lecturer in photography at the University of Brighton, journeyed to Niger. Retracing Barth’s footsteps and drawing on her combined interests in African studies, Anthropology, and Photography, she has interwoven a narrative based around her encounters and impressions. Her artistic response features shifting viewpoints and addresses questions of identity and memory.

In addition she facilitated the participatory project Stories from Agadez: Life as it is now. This captures the experiences and images of eight African non-professional photographers, most of whom recorded their own lives for the first time through photography. The resulting images document the hardships and achievements of a local community. One of the photographers, Sarhid Hamadalher explains: “I have taken pictures of the life that people live here. I hope that these photos will make you discover the beauty of this country and the fantastic potential it holds. I like photography because it allows us to relive the past and it is also a great passion of life”.

The exhibition features an interactive digital space, contemporary photographs and historical artefacts on loan from the Royal Geographical Society, SOAS special collections and the State Archives, Hamburg.

Publication Information

A publication to complement the exhibition is available from the SOAS bookshop priced £6. PROfile 002 _ Julia Winckler Retracing Heinrich Barth / Stories from Agadez: Life as it is Now has been produced by Foldedsheet, in conjunction with the University of Brighton and SOAS, and features exhibition commentaries by Adrienne Chambon and Dea Birkett.

Education Materials

Explorer’s Drawing Sheet and Explorer’s Writing Sheet are two new designs from the range of bespoke education materials available from Foldedsheet – ‘map your experiences in pictures and words!’

An outreach and education programme, workshops and exhibition-related talks in association with the Centre for African Studies at SOAS create opportunities for gallery visitors, community groups and primary and secondary pupils to respond to work in the exhibition.

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