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Pigapicha! 100 Years of Studio Photography in Nairobi
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2012 - 2015 (Creation)
- Nuno Porto
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2.5 cm of textual records
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Nuno Porto is originally from Portugal. He was trained has a social anthropologist. He did long term fieldwork in Central Portugal in the early 1990s, studying the relationships between literacy skills acquisition and gendered cultural knowledges. The coexistence of literate and oral rationalities in rural Portugal fuelled interests in visual culture and on how religious experience is mediated by visual and material culture. The universe of visual theory and material culture studies was to become the center of his subsequent work related to museums. His PhD dissertation explored the articulation of colonialism, science, and museum culture, and how these merged in the co-development of the Dundo Museum in Northeast of Angola and of its proprietor, the Diamonds Company of Angola. This dissertation received the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation award for the Social and Human Sciences Thesis and was published by the same foundation in 2009.
Between 2006 and 2012 he integrated the Commission for the Re-opening of the Dundo Museum, led by the Ministry of Culture of Angola that successfully concluded its works in 2012. During this period he also led a team that developed and implemented the website on the archival materials of the Diamonds Company of Angola held at the University of Coimbra, www.diamangdigital.net. He was also a member of the research team for the project ‘Bearing Waters’ led by Lisbon sculptor Virginia Fróis, on the renewal of traditional Cape Verdean women ceramics.
Between 1991 and 2011 he taught at the University of Coimbra, Portugal, on subjects related to theory in social anthropology, material culture, critical museology, visual culture, photography and African studies. His work has been published in four different languages in eight different countries. He coordinated the Graduate Program in Social and Cultural Anthropology between 2006 and 2011, and also taught in the Graduate Program on Design and Multimedia. He acted as director of the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Coimbra between 2002 and 2006, where his team developed a series of temporary exhibitions based on the notion of ethnographic installation.
In 2013 he was Invited Professor at the Post Graduate Program in Social Memory at the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro - UNIRIO, in Brazil.
Porto currently serves as curator for Africa and Latin America at the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology.
Scope and content
Sub-series consists of records related to the exhibition 'Pigapicha! 100 Years of Studio Photography in Nairobi,' which was on display at the Museum of Anthropology from November 25, 2014 - April 5, 2015. Porto was the Curatorial Liaison for this exhibition, which was curated by Katharine Greven and first displayed at the Nairobi National Museum in 2009.
The exhibition was described on the Museum of Anthropology's website as follows:
"MOA takes a profound look at Kenya’s popular culture through an illuminating collection of studio photography, from the 1910s to the present day, in the North American premiere of Pigapicha!, November 25, 2014 through April 5, 2015. Including more than180 photographs spanning a century, this deeply moving exhibition showcases portraits that are carefully staged in the studio as well as those quickly taken on the streets of Nairobi. The exhibition documents the customs of modern Kenyan urban culture while supporting an East African history of photography.
“MOA has always served as a forum for cultivating an understanding and appreciation of the diversity of world arts and cultures traditions,” explains Nuno Porto, Curatorial Liaison for Pigapicha! at MOA. “This Canadian premiere exhibition aligns with MOA’s mission through a comprehensive examination of studio photography in East Africa, incorporating works from all backgrounds – as opposed to similar projects which have focused on Kenya’s booming middle-class.”
Curator and professional photographer Katharina Greven, formerly of the Goethe-Institut in Kenya, partnered with more than 30 photography studios in Nairobi and consulted with photographers, studio operators, artists, bloggers, journalists, and cultural scientists to curate this diverse collection of portraits – a subtle balance between the fine arts and the rich, distinct flavors of East African popular culture.
'A highly-regarded art form in Nairobi, portrait photography is used to tell stories, share social status, and transform everyday life,' says Curator Katharina Greven. 'More than a direct reflection of the individual, these self portraits highlight and amplify desirable features to create an illusion of the idyllic self. In the past 15 years, studio photography has experienced an unfortunate decline in popularity – likely a direct result of cameras, now commonplace on mobile phones. For this reason, Pigapicha! serves to recognize and preserve portrait photography as a significant art form and thus connect us to the significant history of urban Kenya before it is lost.'
Pigapicha! – which literally translates as “take my picture!” – will include more than 180 images ranging from carefully staged artistic prints, to passport photos, to pictures snapped hastily on the streets of Nairobi. Judiciously arranged into six thematic groups –Uzee na Busara (Age and Wisdom), I and Me, Open Air, Imaginary ‘Safari’, Speaking from Yesterday and Intimacy – each image will offer a unique stance on the attitudes, beliefs, and customs of generations of Nairobi citizens.
Born from the cooperative efforts of Iwalewa Haus and the DEVA-Archive, both with the University of Bayreuth, and the Goethe-Institut in Nairobi, this exhibition opening at MOA will mark the first time this powerful collection has been displayed for a North American audience. First presented in 2009 at the Nairobi National Museum, Pigapicha! has since been exhibited in 2011 at Iwalewa Haus in Bayreuth, Germany and in 2013 at the Forum des Arts et de la Culture in Bordeaux, France."
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The arrangement that the records had when they arrived at the archives has been maintained. Supplied file titles were created to make the material more accessible.
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Created April 2016
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Information about the Pigapicha! exhibition taken from the Museum of Anthropology's website: http://moa.ubc.ca/portfolio_page/pigapicha/.