We are proud to announce that Harvard Museums have acquired two works from Ian van Coller's Mali Monuments series. Djenne Market and Mosque and Tomboctou Home were taken in 1998. These works grow Harvard Museums' collection of the Artist's early work; the Museum also has photogravures from the Colonized Trees series.
Mali Monuments is a series of photographs made in Mali, West Africa. Having grown up in South Africa during the apartheid era, Ian van Coller is particularly interested in issues related to African identity.
"During my childhood I was influenced by both European and African traditions, but the bulk of my formal education was centered on European and South African history from a strictly European perspective. As a result, I am fascinated with the deep legacies of colonialism still apparent today throughout modern Africa, and in the persistent perception of Africa as the “dark continent. This fascination with colonialism has structured my approach to photography. My view of the subjects is both distanced and scientific—yet the forms I choose become monumental, and unique in their ‘Africanness.’ In essence, I have created my own unique portraits of ‘African Monuments’ that are separate from the imposed and constructed European monuments that I grew up learning about in school." Many of these same themes are reflected in the earlier Colonized Trees series; photogravures of native plants are named and described traditionally and using western terminology.