Currently, Western culture visually portrays the African continent through two diametrically opposing themes. The first is through poverty, suffering and war; the other through fascinating shots of local nature presented through the popular television genre of wildlife documentaries. The myth created by the media about the African wilderness intentionally aim to evoke the impression of a lost paradise. This simplified perception of the African continent is in some ways reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch’s famous triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, painted in the Middle Ages, in which he also used two opposites – Eden and Hell. Like a memento of times long gone, there are many African animals portrayed in Bosch’s Eden.
The exhibition The Origin of Cinematic Africa presents the works of the husband and wife team Martin and Osa Johnson, as well as the time when the meaning of the word ‘safari’ changed from a hunt and slaughter to a photography excursion. Nowadays, a digital camera is an essential piece of equipment for all travellers to exotic locations. However, at the start of the last century, setting out to the depths of Africa with a camera was much more than just pressing the shutter release. It was a great risk – in the better cases, merely unsuccessful; in the worst, losing your life.