We've Come a Long Way to be Together
Painting, exhibition views
We’ve Come a Long Way to be Together is a series of portraits of travellers from Africa, Asia and the Middle East painted on top of the pages of a cut-out and reassembled first edition copy of Wilfred Thesiger’s Arabian Sands. Wilfred Thesiger was an English explorer and travel writer (1910 – 2003). Arabian Sands, published in 1959, recounts his travels in the Empty Quarter of Arabia, (Rub’Al Khali) between 1945 and 1950. His photographic archive, which included 38,000 negatives and 71 personal albums of photographs of his travels, was donated to the Pitt River’s Museum. The website of Pitt River’s Museum describes Thesiger as “probably the greatest traveller of the twentieth century, and one of its greatest explorers.” Arabian Sands is considered a classic of travel writing.
The portraits aim at disrupting conventional ways of seeing through visual code-switching, substituting the iconographies of travel associated with European subjectivities with non-Europeans. The portraits aim to problematize how we see travel, and highlight the highly ideological, polemical representations associated with refugees and migration contrasted with European exploration and tourism, the former being pathologized, criminalized and feared and the latter romanticised and heroic. The photographic images are derived from the Tropen Museum’s photo archive.
Rajkamal Kahlon is a Berlin-based American artist. She recuperates drawing and painting as sites of aesthetic and political resistance. The lingering spectra of colonialism and the aesthetics of ethnography are continually brought into focus through her use of strategies of interruption and collage. Drawing on history, archives and literature, Kahlon’s research submits archival resources to a process of creative transformation resulting in sensual, humorous, formally rigorous artworks that address the reclamation of humanity for racialized, gendered and indigenous communities targeted for destruction.