Sunday, 28 January 2018

Alfred Weidinger | The Last African Kings

Photo © Alfred Weidinger | All Rights Reserved
"The most important thing is to find one king -- when I have one, he will guide me to the others."Alfred Weidinger
With a couple of exceptions, African kings are traditional rulers who often derive their titles from the rulers of independent states or communities that existed before the formation of modern African states. Although they do not have formal political power, in many cases they continue to command respect from their people and have considerable influence.  There are only three African countries with constitutional monarchies – Morocco, Swaziland and Lesotho -- but there are several hundred traditional monarchs dispersed across Africa in urban, semi-urban and rural communities in independent countries.

It is estimated that there are about 70 such African monarchs as well as some 500 tribal leaders, whose dynasties and fiefdoms marked the history of Africa until the middle of the twentieth century. 

Austria-based art historian and photographer Alfred Weidinger spent over 5 years searching for the surviving monarchs of Africa's grandest kingdoms and for tribal leaders and important clan chiefs. Traveling from Nigeria to Ghana, Zambia to Cameroon, and from the Ivory Coast to the Democratic Republic of Congo, he photographed these rulers and leaders who are still committed to their old traditions, and are revered and respected by their people.

The biggest threat to Africa's last remaining monarchs isn't local governments, but modernity. The threat of globalization has disturbed the influence and social standing of many of his subjects.

The Last African Kings is a voluminous gallery of -mostly- monochromatic portraits of these rulers which were made over repeated trips to Ghana, Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, Mali, Sierra Leone, Niger, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.

Alfred Weidinger is an Austrian art historian, museum manager and photographer. He currently is the director of the Museum of Fine Arts Leipzig. Since 1980, he has been touring Africa as a freelance documentary photographer and recording portraits. He photographs both digitally and with film, preferring black and white. From 1985 to 1998 Weidinger studied art history and classical archeology at the University of Salzburg. He wrote his diploma thesis in 1992 on the landscape paintings of Gustav Klimt, his dissertation in 1998 on the early work of the Austrian painter Oskar Kokoschka.