Structural Divinity Project Synopsis

Proposal

I intend to conduct a photographic, topographical investigation into the religious architectural structures of Africa in relationship to pre and post-colonial history. The project will take place over a three month duration, beginning on July 18th 2010.

The first stage of this long-term project will revolve around the German, British and Portuguese colonial histories. Based on research and accessibility I have decided to begin the photographic travelogue in Namibia, progressing East on to Zambia, Malawi and then Mozambique. Due to a photographic commission in South Africa prior to the project beginning, I will now be flying into Cape Town and traveling to Namibia via the desolate West coast of SA.

Map of project destinations

Project context

The travel route will allow for a diverse exploration of contrasting cultures. The project will begin with the authoritarian Germanic religious structures of Windhoek in Namibia, which support the 90% Christian population. Then into the northern districts of the Namib desert where the Himba people have been practising indigenous religions for up to twenty five thousand years.

Zambia involves moving closer to the heart of Africa on the Zambezi River. The cradle of humanity is located here, and therefore the first architectural investigations by Homo sapiens. Obviously documenting any traces of this is visually restrictive, but the subsequent developments by the indigenous population and the British colonials are prevalent. My research has shown beauty in the subtle differences of Christian and Animistic constructions from village to village as one passes down the Zambezi River.

Malawi holds the record for ‘The first permanent Christian Church erected between the Zambezi and the Nile’. Designed and constructed by Rev. David Clement Scott with no formal architectural training in 1888. Images of this bastion of British design located in one of the most remote parts of Africa will stand testament to the dogmatic perseverance of colonialism.

Mozambique experienced a unique development during the Catholic Portuguese rule, contains a fascinating array of now dilapidated, war torn, ornate Churches standing on the coast. Ilha de Mocambique (former capital of Portuguese East Africa) having miraculously survived 20 years of civil warfare, now understandably experiences extreme financial difficulties. Insufficient funds prevent the preservation of these elegant architectural creations that are slowly disintegrating under the pounding monsoon rains and scorching summer sun. Maputo; distilling the essence of postcolonial rule delivers a sumptuous white Cathedral from 1944 acting as the seat of Mozambique’s Catholic community. This is in stark contrast to the modest structural forms used for daily worship.

Why religious architectural structures? Having produced a topographical investigation in Madagascar and the Comoros Islands exploring French colonial history, I find myself photographically drawn to religious centres. During this exploration it was always the spiritual centre of a community that delivered fascinating insights. The diverse design of structures often directly reflects the social demographic of the population and previous cultural history. Thus acting as a visual representation of past and present.

Proposed outcome

My aim is to produce a methodical and systematic photographic documentation of the aforementioned diverse structures, referencing the cultures under which they were created and their current integration with the existing vibrant populations.

The outcome for this project will be a selection of approximately 150 eloquent, inquisitive images suitable initially for magazine and subsequently book publication. With a limited edition being displayed as an exhibition.

I am currently researching appropriate locations for an accompanying exhibition in London. The Royal Institute of British Architect’s (R.I.B.A) Gallery in London / Victoria Albert Museum appear to be the best options at present.

Watch this space as the project begins to unfolds and images arrive soon!

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