Post-Card Africa

The history of postcards in Africa is as rich and complex as the history of photography on our continent. With a vast range of forms and high mobility around the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, photographic postcards provide a telling record of the intensive period of colonialism in Africa. With a large percentage of our continent’s historical photographic representation existing in postcard format, these postcards present a range of views, themes and colonial agendas designed to support the imperialist and racist ideologies which continue to persist as a singular and normalised view of a diverse continent and its people. Despite no longer being in physical circulation, these postcards continue to be commercially traded as collector’s item and cultural commodity on the internet.

The misrepresentation and commodification of African land, bodies and identities persists as a thriving commercial industry, though in many instances the exact physical format of the postcard has changed to a digital post on social media. Despite technology’s role in nullifying public interest in the postcard as a means of communication, it’s historic, and therefore monetary value has increased over the years. These images in many ways outlive both its authors intentions and it’s receivers interpretations. The longevity of these printed images persist as historical fact, evidenced by their widespread existence in museum archives, personal collections and online trading platforms. 

Through The Lens Collective will respond to this history and our contemporary context in an ongoing project entitled Post-Card Africa, which acknowledging our complex relationship with the postcard as a subtext, will engage in visual discussion around photographic representation of the African continent. This long term project seeks to co-research and collaborate in a deliberate sequence of interactions that will invite collective participation in the production of new representations, and contributions to a future archive, as the postcard, though no longer in frequent use, still maintains its function as a physical index of the past with an ability to travel through time and space. 

Through The Lens Collective hereby invites public participating in our first Post-Card Africa project, designed to create new and insightful responses to the history of African representation through photography. With these images we’d like to evoke a new local archive, by approaching creative agency and shared opportunity for local representation as an important framework for actively engaging our very complex history and representation. 

Please submit your digital image responses to under the heading ‘Postcard Africa’.

All images should include a caption which provides:  

  • The full name of the subject (if your image is a portrait)
  • The exact geographical location in which the image was made (city and country, or more specific if necessary)  

The selected images will be printed in postcard format, and later exhibited. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. 



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