‘Unveiling the Shadows of the Past: The Hidden Icon of Photography in Africa’ by J. K. Bruce-Vanderpuije at Efie Gallery Dubai

Efie Gallery announces its representation of the estate of the late Ghanaian photographer J. K. Bruce-Vanderpuije, a pivotal yet under-recognised figure in 20th-century African photography. Ahead of the solo exhibition which is taking place at Efie Gallery Dubai from 12 January 2024 – 24 February 2024, Bruce-Vanderpuije’s works were showcased at London’s 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair (12 – 15 October 2023).

JKBV, Baby, Baby sitting on Ghana’s Independence Cloth, 1957

Curated by Aïda Muluneh, the exhibition titled “Unveiling the Shadows of the Past: The Hidden Icon of Photography in Africa” explores Bruce-Vanderpuije’s unseen works from the 1920s and 1930s, capturing Ghana’s transformation from colonial Gold Coast to independent nationhood. The display emphasises the intricate kente textiles and traditional wear as acts of rebellion under British colonial rule, providing unique insights into Ghanaian identity. The exhibition contrasts traditional customs against colonial influences, portraying subjects ranging from boxing culture to women’s marriage rituals, offering a rich view of the nation’s culture during the 1930s. J. K. Bruce-Vanderpuije, a key figure in African photography, played a vital role in shaping an authentic narrative and aesthetic of Africa, covering government commissions, corporate campaigns, and everyday life.

JKBV, Second Miss Ghana, Miss Janet Boateng, Ashanti Region, 1958

His estate, consisting of around 50,000 works, is managed by his granddaughter Kate Tamakloe, who has meticulously restored the artist’s works over the past three years. As an early pioneer of modern photography in Africa, Bruce-Vanderpuije paved the way for celebrated practitioners like James Barnor and Malick Sidibé. Kwame Mintah, director of Efie Gallery, highlights Bruce-Vanderpuije’s role in capturing the evolution of Ghanaian culture, establishing him as a forefather of modern African photography. Aïda Muluneh, the exhibition curator, underscores the importance of showcasing Africa’s visual archives to illuminate history and acknowledge contemporary photographers documenting the present for future generations. Kate Tamakloe, custodian of Bruce-Vanderpuije’s estate, expresses the significance of preserving her grandfather’s legacy and sharing it with the public.

JKBV, Children, Acting as a lawyer and judge, 1950’s

About J. K. Bruce-Vanderpuije

Born on March 7, 1899, to Mr. Emmanuel Vanderpuije and Madam Eleanor Afua Bruce, James Kobla Bruce-Vanderpuije hailed from the Otublohum Royal family in James Town, British Accra. His father, an influential agent of Messrs. J. J. Fisher & Co. Limited, was known as one of the “Merchant Princes of the Gold Coast.” Educated at the Accra Royal School, he developed a passion for photography, honing his skills under J.A.C Holmes after school. A standout photographer in the pre-independence era, Bruce-Vanderpuije documented significant events, including Major Imray’s shooting of Sgt. Adjetey Sowah, a pivotal moment in Ghana’s path to independence.

Location: Efie Gallery, Unit 2 Al Khayat Art Avenue, 19th Street – Al Quoz 1 Dubai

Dates: 12 January 2024 – 24 February 2024

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