In this month’s issue of Elle Decoration, writer Bongani Madondo sat down with Reneé Mussai, curator of The Black Chronicles. In the piece, Mussai sheds light on the exhibition, the Black Chronicles IV feat. The African Choir 1891 Re-imagined, which formally opens at the University of Johannesburg’s FADA Gallery on 13th April.

Black Chronicles is a collection of previously unseen (and thought to be lost) photographs of important black figures in the late 18th and 19th century. From politics, to cultural and economic leaders, these people were trailblazers in their fields. What makes this particular show is The African Choir 1891 Re-Imagined, a sound and image installation in collaboration with South African composers Philip Miller and Thuthuka Sibisi. The story of what was alternatively known as ‘The Native Choir’ is part of a singular, tragic and ultimately heroic South African cultural and political narrative, one not told often enough.

While The African Choir 1891 Re-Imagined has shown at Iziko National Museum in Cape Town and the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, it slots into this curation of the Black Chronicles, as the University of Johannesburg’s FADA Gallery is hosting an extensive range of photographs this month. Now in its fourth iteration (Black Chronicles IV), the exhibition includes some startling material, including 200 images reproduced from African-American intellectual WEB Du Bois’ iconic American Negro exhibition from the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris.

The Black Chronicles is an Autograph ABP touring exhibition, presented in partnership with the Visual Identities in Art & Design Research Centre (VIAD), Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture, University of Johannesburg. Curated by Renée Mussai of Autograph ABP, London. Songs composed and arranged by Philip Miller and Thuthuka Sibisi. It opens on 13 April and ends on 4 May 2018.

For more on the fascinating insight behind these reclaimed stories, be sure to pick up the April issue of Elle Decoration to read Bongani Madondo’s feature and interview with Reneé Mussai.

Photograhpy credit
Left: Peter Jackson. London, 1889. By London Stereoscopic Company. © Hulton Archive/Getty Images. Courtesy of Hulton Archive, and Autograph ABP, London.

Centre: Charlotte Maxeke (née Manye), The African Choir.  London, 1891. By London Stereoscopic Company. © Hulton Archive/Getty Images. Courtesy of Hulton Archive, and Autograph ABP, London.

Right: Eleanor Xiniwe, The African Choir. London, 1891. By London Stereoscopic Company.    © Hulton Archive/Getty Images. Courtesy of Hulton Archive, and Autograph ABP, London.

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