Reading Alpine narratives in Swiss missionary photography: Swiss and Tsonga encounters at the turn of the 20th century

Mission House, Lemana, Limpopo, South Africa, ca. 1901-1907. Photographer: David Paul Lenoir

This project considers the significance of cultural encounters through the interpretation of photographs taken by Swiss missionaries from the late 1800s and early 1900s in South Africa. It considers how narratives of the Alps informed the visual codes swiss missionaries used to understand the new context in which they found themselves. As such, the project aims to position the Alps as an important sociohistorical site in shaping the formation of identities across vast geographic and cultural zones. In turn, the project also asks how Africans, and in particular Tsonga people in South Africa, might look back at and relate to the Alps. Finally, the project invariably considers - through photographs - how 'Tsonga' and 'Swiss' as markers are entangled through sociohistorical encounters with the planetary at the centre.