Photographer: Cipriani, Lidio.
Title: untitled (Madre Batonga)
Medium: gelatin silver print.
Size: 8,4 x 11,2 cm.
Provenance: British collection.
Extra: unmounted, photographer stamp (Fot. Cipriani) on verso. Lidio Cipriani was professor of Anthropology at the University of Florence from 1926 and director of the Museum from 1937 to 1940. He made his first trip to South Africa between March and November 1927 as part of an expedition to Zululand organized by Commander Attilio Gatti of Milan. In addition to a corpus of 2000 photographs and numerous ethnographic, geological and botanical samples, Cipriani brought back plaster facial models made from living individuals, which would constitute the tools of his anthropometric investigation to demonstrate his racial theories. Between November 1928 and May 1930, he returned to southern Africa, in present-day Zambia, to study the peoples of that area and the ruins of the prehistoric Zimbabwe civilization. He would return to Africa a third time between June and December 1930 to encounter the Bushmen groups which still live on the fringes of the Kalahari Desert and the Pygmies of the Ituri Rainforest. Thus he collected material evidence of the cultures of peoples inhabiting the interior regions of the African continent, the surviving representatives of hunter-gatherer peoples, i.e. the human species’ oldest survival economy. The chronicle of the three African journeys was reported in the book In Africa dal Capo al Cairo (‘In Africa from the Cape to Cairo’) (1932): over 600 pages of anthropological, zoological, botanical and geological information. Beyond any consideration of his political convictions and ideological choices, Lidio Cipriani deserves recognition for having provided a vast, high-quality photographic and ethnographic documentation.
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