– Turkana Album 7 –

Visual repatriation and photo-elicitation

This album documents the visual repatriation of a collection of historical photographs from the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, taken by a sequence of photographers and explorers who journeyed to Turkana at various different times over the last century.

During discussion sessions and interviews in 2014 and 2015, the Pitt Rivers photographic collection served to evoke a series of historical narratives that contrast with and disrupt still-prevalent notions of the region’s contemporary population as static and passive in the face of broad economic, political and environmental change. The prevalent image of Turkana as the realm of the marginalised, the subaltern and the fragile was actively reconfigured and reconditioned through accounts that emphasised productivity, dynamism, ingenuity and, most significantly, socio-economic change as a process primarily driven by local individuals and communities.

Those who spent time with the images used them to tell stories that not only related to many different times, but also many different rates and scales of change. Whilst some used them to explore specific memories of objects and locations, or events in which these had been implicated, others opted to narrate much broader changes to society, exchange relations and the environment that have unfolded over several generations. To some, the photographs presented an opportunity to recount their life-story, and yet to others they were a means of outlining the ways in which an entire community had transformed for better or for worse.