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Exhibition: Embedded Text - Embodied Narratives | Peltz Gallery

Venue: Birkbeck 43 Gordon Square

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Embedded Text—Embodied Narratives, an exhibition exploring the relationship between written signs, African literature, and image-making processes in the work of South African photographer George Hallett (1942-2020).

Exhibition: 12 January to 8 February 2023
Launch event: 18 January 2023

Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, WC1H 0PD

Curated by Christine Eyene, Embedded Text—Embodied Narratives presents photographs from Hallett’s 1960s District Six series never shown in London before.

District Six was a culturally mixed neighbourhood of Cape Town that was declared ‘White-only’ by the apartheid government in 1966. In 1968, before the forced removals and demolitions, Hallett captured some of the district’s landmarks, its community, everyday life and social events. This series, one of Hallett’s first major bodies of work, has become part of South Africa’s heritage.

The images focus on street scenes and views in which the walls become textured surfaces combining abstract patterns, graffiti, signs, words, and names of some of the gangs active in the area. Marking the first appearance of text in Hallett’s work, these photographs place his visual representations at the junction of figurative motifs and written signs. The exhibition shows how written signs shifted from the background in the District Six, to foreground elements cohabiting with pre-existing images and new photographic compositions created for the book covers of the African Writers Series (AWS) published by Heinemann in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Included in the exhibition are rare books, on loan from the Making Histories Visible project’s collection led by artist and Emeritus Professor of Contemporary Art Lubaina Himid CBE RA, and the curator’s own collection. Additionally, the exhibition showcases, for the first time ever, some of the source photographs hand-printed by Hallett used for the covers.


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