About

With the generous support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council of Great Britain, documentary photographer and teacher Peter Metelerkamp made visits to the Eastern Cape of South Africa in 2007 and 2008 to make photographs.

The project is centred on an enquiry into how “Britishness” looks after nearly 200 years in Africa, but uses this both as specific record and as a vehicle for more general enquiry into settler culture in Southern Africa.

So the images explore the subjective dimensions of the settler experience and influence, from encountering a strange land, to the way the settler presence remains inscribed on the landscape, in architecture, and in the preservation of heritage. The project is also concerned with the ways settler culture in Southern Africa has been changed, effaced, or re-appropriated under current “post-colonial” conditions. A significant element is new portraits of direct descendents of settlers living in South Africa.

The larger purpose of the enquiry concerns the nature of the colonial presence in Africa. Peter has written on coloniality on South African photography, and being the descendant of generations of white South Africans, is intimately concerned with the ambiguities of the settler presence and settler culture.

The images produced are as much about the invisible and subjective dimensions of settler experience as its outward forms, and should be explored at leisure and in relation to one another. The “Settler Country” that is the subject of the project is as much a country of the mind as a physical space.

A selection of photographs from the first phase of the project was exhibited in the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol in November 2007, and a further selection in Knysna South AFrica.

The second phase of the project concentrating on buildings and townscapes of small rural towns was undertaken in 2008 and exhbitied in Bristol in 2009.

Peter Metelerkamp is Reader in Teaching and Learning and Graduate Education Director in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Bristol.