Tales of Africa

Karen Blixen’s life in Kenya

Photographs by Thomas Dinesen (dating from 1921)

12 May – 11 June

Exhibition goes live 10am 12 May
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Messums London is pleased to present Tales of Africa, an exhibition of 15 photographs of renowned author Karen Blixen’s life in Kenya and a commentary on the objects as markers of colonial history. Captured a hundred years ago, the majority of the pictures were taken by Thomas Dinesen, the younger brother of Karen Blixen. The images serve as a visual insight into Blixen’s world-famous memoir of her years in Kenya, Out of Africa (1937), which provided for a mystical vision of Kenya with continuing effects today.

This ambiguous photographic collection offers intimate depictions of Karen Blixen’s daily life in Kenya through her brother’s eyes; at times bucolic, romantic and free-spirited, yet undoubtedly shaped by colonial power structures. Viewers are encouraged to confront the photographs in this collection as time and place-specific artefacts in order to appreciate their sociological pertinence, pictorial tropes and orchestration.

‘I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of Ngong Hills. (…) The geographical position and the height of the land combined to create a landscape that had not its like in all the world. (…) The views were immensely wide. Everything that you saw made for greatness and freedom, and unequalled mobility. (…) In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be.’
Karen Blixen, Out of Africa

Contemporary response

Ingrid Pollard and Michelle K. Angwenyi

 

On the occasion of the exhibition Tales of Africa, Messums London has commissioned visual artist Ingrid Pollard and writer Michelle K. Angwenyi to respond to the Karen Blixen collection, inviting us to think about photography and literature as evolving forms of knowledge.

In writing about photography, I have been considering photographs as not just representations of a time, place, or memory, but of aspirations that extend outside of those moments captured – aspirations that themselves are a kind of dreamscape.
Michelle K. Angwenyi

Ingrid Pollard (Dr) is a photographer, media artist and researcher. She is a graduate of the London College of Printing and Derby University. Ingrid has developed a social practice concerned with representation, history and landscape with reference to race, difference and the materiality of lens-based media. Her work is included in numerous collections including the UK Arts Council and the Victoria & Albert Museum. She lives and works in London UK.

Michelle K. Angwenyi is a writer from Nairobi, Kenya, whose writing attempts to explore time and memory. She was shortlisted for the 2018 Brunel Africa International Poetry Prize, and for the 2017 Short Story Day Africa Prize. She is the author of Gray Latitudes, selected for the New Generation African Poets Chapbook series (Akashic Books, 2020). Michelle is a Centre for Arts, Design and Social Research Fellow.