This exhibition, undertaken in collaboration with the Italian Institute of Culture, showcases photographs taken in 1927 by the controversial Italian anthropologist, Lidio Cipriani (1892–1962), during the shooting of the film Siliva Zulu near Eshowe in KwaZulu-Natal. This is probably the first film in South African cinematic history in which the leading actors and supporting cast were all African. The Italian director, Attilio Gatti, employed Cipriani as his advisor on Zulu culture, to produce a story that combined romantic love, betrayal and witchcraft with glimpses of indigenous rural life. Though Cipriani’s photographs depict the local Zulu actors, who in the film ‘act’ themselves, and traditional characters in Zululand, they were later captioned and presented by Cipriani as authentic ethnographic documentation.
The exhibition also looks at stories behind the making of the film and the photographs, including the forms of colonial representation, scientific racism and Fascist ideology that emerge in Cipriani’s anthropological work and his photographic records.
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