In Memoriam: Chief Maqoma, 1798 - 1873
This video piece was created as part of a presentation at the Africa Fashion conference, V&A , 2022. Inspired, in part by African political
cloth, notably designs of King Mswati III and King Goodwill Zwelithini as well as by fieldwork in South Africa for the book Photography in South Africa. After studying portrait photographs from the late nineteenth century. It dawned upon me historical iconic South African tribal leaders and freedom fighters were overlooked, but were sometimes documented in studio portrait ambrotype, carte-de-visite and cabinet card formats. In the Bleek and Lloyd archive, University of Cape Town I came upon a carte-de-visite portrait of Chief Maqoba by William Moore. I became interested in his stoicism in adversity during the Anglo-Xhosa conflict; intelligent, brave and opposed, unlike his father, King Ngqika to ceding their land between the Fish and Keiskamma Rivers to the British Colonial powers, He committed himself to regaining his ancestral home, the persistence of traditional social structures and Xhosa aristocracy despite colonial depredation and dispossession. While noted for his political tenacity, like other indigenous African leaders he became a victim of colonialisms relentless ambitions. In Maqoba's case this resulted in imprisonment on Robben Island for twelve years. In 1869, when released on parole he tried to resettle on his stolen land and was consequently sent back to Robben Island where he died under mysterious circumstances in 1873. In the photograph, taken in-between the two periods of incarceration, Maqoba wears a suit jacket, shirt and bowtie.
The artwork was assembled digitally in collaboration with Adam Allen-Foord. The virtual political cloth was animated on an avatar and situated in a virtual African landscape. The avatar moves through the wilderness accompanied by traditional Xhosa song.
Note: William Moore, Portrait of Chief Maqoma, c.1869, carte-de-visite, Special Collections, University of Cape Town.