Southbank Image Projection & Exhibition: The African Choir

Eleanor Xiniwe, The African Choir

Eleanor Xiniwe, The African Choir, 1891-93. London Stereoscopic Company. Courtesy of © Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Presented by Autograph ABP at Africa Utopia

Encounter a newly discovered body of photographs of portraits of The African Choir, who toured Britain in 1891-93. Four exquisite portraits are shown alongside a digital slideshow projected onto the exterior of Royal Festival Hall.

The projection consists of thirty portraits of the sixteen members of the choir, who left Africa for Europe at the end of the 19th century on a mission to raise funds for education. Among many other places, they performed for Queen Victoria at Osborne House, the former royal residence in East Cowes, Isle of Wight.

Their portraits were taken in the studios of the London Stereoscopic Company, yet remained untouched for over a century. Based on research to date, the series represents the most comprehensive body of photographs depicting the black subject in Victorian Britain.

Seen here for the first time, these extraordinary photographs have been deeply buried at the Hulton Archive (a division of Getty Images) for over 120 years.

In 2014, Autograph ABP unearthed them as part of its ongoing archive research project, The Missing Chapter, to continue the critical mission of writing black photographic history – supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The full series of photographs can be seen as part of a new exhibition entitled Black Chronicles II, which explores black presences in 19th and early 20th century Britain through the prism of studio photography.

Curated by Renée Mussai and Mark Sealy.

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