Art Histories
2018/ 2019

Afonso Dias Ramos

The Visual South: Decolonising Visual Culture in and out of the Museum

holds an MA and received his PhD in the History of Art from University College London with a thesis focusing on the relationship between political violence and photography in contemporary art, exploring and confronting the recent artistic legacy of the liberation and civil wars in Angola (1961-2002) in countries such as Angola, Cuba, Portugal, South Africa, and the US. He previously studied History of Art at Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV). Recent publications include the articles “Rarely penetrated by camera or film” – NBC’s Angola: Journey to War (1961) (2017), Photography and Propaganda in the Late Portuguese Empire: Volkmar Wentzel’s Assignments for National Geographic Magazine (2017), Kongo Reframed (2017), and How to Disappear Completely – The Struggle for Angola (2017).

The Visual South: Decolonising Visual Culture In and Out of the Museum

Over the last decade, the demands to decolonise the practice, writing, and display of art have accrued unprecedented urgency over the world. Yet, there are scarcely any comprehensive and comparative analyses of what such calls actually mean or entail. This project therefore critically scrutinizes and provides historical grounding, from a transnational viewpoint, to the two most mediatized and incendiary of those protests globally, in making the case for them to be considered in tandem for the first time. On the one hand, the divisive dispute between political leaders, activist groups, and civil society over the removal of monuments that celebrate imperialists, supremacists, and slavers on the streets outside the museum. On the other hand, the debate splitting the cultural world over the right to exhibit imagery that graphically exposes the bodily violence of racial terror and white supremacy in the museum. This study maps out the genealogy of these movements to reveal that, despite their momentous resurgence, they are neither novel nor isolated occurrences, but part of ongoing ideological wars over the control, meaning, and writing of modern imperial history in the postcolonial era. It further claims that, contrary to their cartoon depictions by the media, these debates have, in many ways, proved to be more philosophically nuanced, transnationally entangled and politically pressing than ever before. Thus, the pleas to decolonise public space in and out of the museum have brought on lasting pressures and intellectual challenges as to how the historiographies, disciplines, and institutions of art might navigate, address, and redress the violence of modern colonial history.