Africa – Reflections in Posters

German Poster Museum

August 25 – October 21, 2012

The “Arab Spring”, the catastrophic droughts in Central Africa and not least of all the new interest directed at Africa’s natural resources make us take a fresh look at a continent that we often consider in terms of clichés and see as a uniform whole. But with its various languages and cultures, it is actually much more diverse than Europe. This prompted the German Poster Museum to cast a glance at the way in which Africa is portrayed in public posters. The exhibition concentrates on three elements, namely the colonial, anti-colonial and African perspective. These show in an exemplary manner how the portrayal of Africa in posters has developed, the changes that have taken place, and just how much our own view has altered.

The colonial perspective
The focus here is the remote exotic, the difference of the people, their customs and traditions. The images that were created around 1900 onwards were always produced from the view of the ruler, always from the perspective of the seemingly civilized man – and were also communicated in this manner. This applies not only to the product and travel advertising, but also to “ethnological shows” or political posters.

The anti-colonial perspective
Starting in the late 1960s, the Movement for Colonial Freedom and the decolonization of Africa reshuffled the pack. Posters were designed that expressed the view of the European and his respective interests in Africa.

The African perspective
Of course, there is no such thing as an African poster; each country has its own traditions. We have assembled posters from various African countries in order to show an almost entirely unknown visual language.