Showgrounds - the bookproject

The book consists of photographs from the Agricultural and Commercial Showgrounds in central Lusaka, Zambia. The former British colony established the fair in this location in 1951, as a blueprint of the European Expos which were extremely popular in the early 20th century. The show was a spectacular demonstration of technology and construction work, in an imperialistic spirit that most Zambians felt excluded by.

After independence in 1964, the Zambian people continued the practice of arranging an annual show on the premises. Rather than to bring the colonial custom to a close, the Showgrounds was adapted as their own. The idea of commercial progress and economic growth overshadowed the political significance of maintaining the tradition.

The Showgrounds still get filled with people, animals, machinery, steam, smoke and music for one weekend every year. During the remaining days, the architecture makes the exposition; a silent account of its eclectic reality.

I was based in Lusaka, Zambia in 2006 as part of the Oslo Lusaka Fine Art Fellowship. The social and political implications of living in Africa, in a British ex-colony, led me on an intricate route of research. The texts that accompany the photographs are fragments of historical and contemporary writings deriving from this. They involve trying to come to terms with the role of the artist in the age of globalization, and more generally, how the colonial legacy has shaped our notion of the non-Western.

1st edition in 30 handmade copies
15 colour photographs and 26 excerpts

Launched at Sound of Mu, Oslo, 31st of August 2007

All text and image © Marte Johnslien
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