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Kronos

On-line version ISSN 2309-9585

Abstract

DAVISON, Patricia  and  MAHASHE, George. Visualizing The Realm of a Rain-Queen: The production and circulation of Eileen and Jack Krige's Lobedu fieldwork photographs from the 1930s. Kronos [online]. 2012, vol.38, n.1, pp. 47-81. ISSN 2309-9585.

In the 1930s social anthropologists Eileen Jensen Krige and Jacob Daniell (Jack) Krige undertook intensive fieldwork among the Lobedu people of the north-eastern Transvaal of South Africa (now in the province of Limpopo), whose ruler, Modjadji, was widely known as a rain-maker. In 1943 their ethnographic monograph, 'The Realm of a Rain-Queen. A Study of the Pattern of Lovedu Society', was published and has remained in circulation ever since. The photographs in this work comprise a small fraction of some 700 photographs taken in the field by the Kriges and kept for private use until 1990 when Eileen Krige donated them to the South African Museum. This article considers the photographs produced during two phases of field-work, the first comprising short visits in 1930 and 1932, followed by an extended period of research between 1936 and 1938, and the circulation of the photographs thereafter. We argue that the early photographs are less formally structured than the later images which reveal a change in fieldwork practice and the influence of functionalism. Once in the curatorial domain, the photographs accrued new meanings. We present two projects, one undertaken in 1996 by Davison and the other in 2011-12 by Mahashe, both of which sought to extend the circulation of the photographs in public spheres, invite new readings and show their generative potential. As a visual archive, the Krige photographs provide insight into the practice of social anthropology in the 1930s in South Africa but their significance is not limited to that context.

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