Andrew Putter

African Hospitality

On Summer 2009/10: Projects (26 November 2009 - 16 January 2010)

Following on from Hottentots Holland: Flora Capensis, Andrew Putter again makes use of the past to construct images of how we might live together in the future.

Putter focuses on the 'Wild Coast' of South Africa in his new series of portraits. Many Europeans were shipwrecked along this coast in the 1600s and 1700s. Most fled or perished, but a handful were taken in by local Xhosa-speaking communities. Some of these European castaways formed deep ties with their African hosts, learning the language, marrying into the tribe, and dying as Africans. 'Bessie', for example, was a six-year-old British girl who washed up on the Mpondoland coast in the early 1700s, married a chief and became a great Xhosa queen.

Putter’s portrayal of these real characters is clearly fictional yet he is careful to work within the space of the historically possible. Many of the adornments (both African and European) that appear on the models were sourced from important collections, and the choices of hairstyles, fabrics, flowers and plants were the result of research, collaboration and consultation with experts.

The series takes its name from a painting titled African Hospitality. Painted in 1790 by George Morland, the work shows castaways from the Grosvenor (an English ship wrecked on the Wild Coast in 1782) being rescued by the native Mpondo. The survivors in Putter's works are drawn from three historical wrecks – the earliest being the Portuguese Nossa Senhora de Belem in the mid-1600s, the latest the Grosvenor.

Putter draws equally on the cultural histories of Europe and Africa in these works. Although the adornments and landscape are largely south-east African, the poses, compositions and lighting are heavily indebted to 18th-century English painting. Putter proposes that it is not inevitable for one culture to thrive at the expense of another, but that it is possible for new forms to emerge through the interplay of dissimilar cultures. Indeed, he shows that this interplay is already present in colonial history, gently reminding purists that everything is always already a mixture.

Putter again draws on his long experience as a collaborator and as a producer working across various disciplines. These portraits would have been impossible without the generous, often central input of a number of contributors, listed below.


Photography and compositing: Tony Meintjes
Loans from private collections: Michael Stevenson, Julie Atkinson (Atkinson’s Antiques), Thomas van Glyswyk and Anelle Zaloumis (Zulu Azania), Stephen Long, Rayna Odes, Carol Kaufmann, John Caviggia
Hair: Tony Martin (Yazo 4 Hair), assisted by Hendrik Marais
Stylist: John Caviggia
Make-up: Tess Berlein
Catering: Flora Barrow
Models: Claire Berlein, Claire Watling, Tamara Quarmby, Dene Botha, Jesse Wentzel, Paul Underwood
Special thanks: Carol Kaufmann and Winnie Herbstein (Iziko South African National Gallery), Steven Long, Tanya Barben
Research assistance: Mohamed Adhikari, Federica Angelucci, Veit Arlt, Farzanah Badsha, Bridget Baker, Jaco Boshoff, Jaco Bouwer, Sue Clark, Hazel Crampton, Cheryl Farquharson (St Leger and Viney), Dr Sean Field, Dr Lesley Green, Patricia Hayes, Lindsay Hooper, Pieter Hugo, Daniel Isherwood, Franziska Jenni, Mungai Kinyanjui, Dr Gerald Klinghardt, Dr Susan Levine, Dr Tim Maggs, Judy Maguire, Andiswa Majwete, Vanessa Mandel (Woodheads), Deborah Mangold (World of Birds), Dr John Manning, Ralph Mayer (Mayers Fabrics), Brent Meersman, Lalou Meltzer, Zayd Minty, Nophumzile Mjo, Heath Nash, Peet Pienaar, Hayden Proud, Julia Raynham, Chris Ntombemhlophe Reid, Anna Richerby, Anette Roup, Christoph Schoen, Kay Shade, Jonathan Sharfman, Sandi Sinjake, Robert Shell, Sandy Shell, Doreen Southwood, Rod Suskin, Stephen Valentine, Carl Vernon, Gill Vernon, Ronel Wagener, James Webb, Leslie Witz, Ulrich Wolf, Prof Nigel Worden
Support and advice: Tido Bam, Mary van Blommestein, Lindy Chong, Jenny Ferrini and Mike Ormrod (Orms), Geoff Hyland, Rob Keith, Byron Keulemans, Negeva Norval and Hans Stauch (Boss Models), Runette Louw, Bronwyn Moore, Binky Newman, Hans Niehaus (Hans Niehaus Collectors Specialist), Rayna Odes, Christopher Peter, Thomas Rebok, Lucy Turpin, Jenny Young, Claire Watling.