Channelling Out of Africa: colonial chic and imperial nostalgia in postcolonial worlds

Presented by Annemi Conradie

Monday, 13 May, 2019 - 15:00

The interior décor trends ‘colonial chic’ and ‘safari chic’ started gaining popularity in the United States and Great Britain during the 1980s. Promotions and décor features of the trends (re-)produce nostalgic, romanticised versions of colonial adventure and settler pastoral idyll, inspired in particular by the Hollywood film Out of Africa, released in 1985. Nearly four decades later, the two related trends, their off-shoots and key signifiers continue to enjoy international popularity. I read these trends from a decolonial perspective and lead my interrogation with the questions ‘whose colonial?’ and ‘whose safaris?’ The questions are addressed by focussing on two objects that have become quintessential props of colonial and safari chic: the vintage travel trunk and the safari helmet. Looking at the stylistic and narrative deployment of these accessories I examine, on the one hand, the colonial trope of (self-)discovery and adventure, and on the other, the iconographies of excess and black servitude

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