Art, animals and animism: On the trail of the precolonial

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Starting with an image, published in London in 1822, of the interior of a South African house decorated with paintings of wild animals, this paper explores how to approach evidence for precolonial artistic practices unlike those documented by later ethnographers. Working backwards from the published image, using Gell’s notion of the art nexus, to the paintings encountered at Kaditshwene in May 1820 by the missionary traveller John Campbell, this paper explores what depictions of non-human animals tell us about related ontological understandings, suggesting that these understandings were significantly transformed by the large-scale exploitation of wild animals during the colonial period.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Pasts and Presence of Art in South Africa
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherMcDonald Institute, Cambridge
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-913344-01-6
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2020

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