Usakos - Photographs Beyond Ruins

The Old Location Albums 1920s - 1960s

Permanent Exhibition in Usakos

[Translate to English:] Flyer

'Usakos – Photographs Beyond Ruins' is an international project, which was developed by students and university lecturers of the Universities of Basel and Namibia, in collaboration with a curator and a photographer from Cape Town, South Africa. It consists of three exhibitions, one of which is permanently displayed in Usakos, Namibia. Two additional mobile versions have been travelling through Southern Africa, Europe, and North America.

Through photographs, the exhibition provides insight into the time between 1920 and 1960, when Usakos, being one of the main railway centres of the country, experienced a steady economic boom. With the beginning of apartheid in the early 1960s, Namibia had to face segregation politics and forced removals. This was also the case in the former district of the “coloured” and “black” residents, which is now called the ‘old location’ and which is at the centre of the exhibition.

The displayed photographic collections of four elderly women of Usakos provide a unique and alternative view on the history of Namibia. These private photographs of Cecilie //Geises, Willhelmine Katjimune, Olga //Garoës and Gisela Pieters document a time, which is often portrayed in a biased way in collections kept in official archives. The Usakos photographs contain studio shots, school class portrays, posing people, buildings and landscapes. They are witnesses of a visible vibrant cosmopolitan culture, which worked against the restrictions of racist politics. The historic photographs are supplemented by up-to-date pictures taken by the South African photographer Paul Grendon and mirror the visible marks of colonial times both in the physical and social landscape of Usakos: ruins of buildings in the ‘old location’, old railway factories, but also living environments that were created under precarious circumstances.

The exhibition is on permanent display in the old municipality building in Usakos, which is currently in the process of being transformed into a local museum.


Project Initiators and Curators:

Paul Grendon (Photographer, South Africa)

Giorgio Miescher (Historian, Switzerland)

Lorena Rizzo (Historian, Switzerland)

Tina Smith (Exhibition curator, District Six Museum, South Africa)


Dr. Giorgio Miescher
Centre for African Studies
Rheinsprung 21
4051 Basel

Tel: +41 61 207 28 82