Wouter van Beek wins photo competition

Over the 65 years since the African Studies Centre was founded, interesting events and activities have been recorded either in print or digital form. Being an institute focusing on research and documentation, the ASC’s main focus has been primarily on words: books and journal articles. But of course the library is also home to 1500 films and the Centre’s researchers made anthropological films in the 1970s (for example, Emile van Rouveroy van Nieuwaal) and films about mobile communication in Africa over the last decade (Mirjam de Bruijn). But still the emphasis has been on the written word.

Images are evocative and photographs can symbolize a world of words. That’s why the ASC65 Jubilee Committee decided to ask current and former employees to send in their old and new photos showing the history and activities of the ASC over the years. Several hundred photographs were collected and 60 of these have been printed in a small album. The booklet was compiled by Michiel van den Bergh, Dick Foeken and Edith de Roos.

Personally I found five of the pictures particularly striking:

1. The ASC Library in 1974: six people are sitting round a table and two of them are clearly smoking during the meeting.

ASC Library in 1974






2. An ASC librarian working alongside local staff in a library bus at the Zimbabwe Book Fair in 1997.

Library bus, Zimbabwe 1997






3. Laurens van der Laan near a small airplane (owned by a diamond company) in Sierra Leone in 1962.

Laurens van der Laan in Sierra Leone (1962)






4. Marcel Rutten crossing the Tana River in 2012. This photograph seems to allude to Tintin & The Broken Ear

Marcel Rutten crossing Tana River (2012). © Roel Slootweg






5. Five visiting fellows in a gigantic red wooden shoe while on a visit to Zaanse Schans.

Five visiting fellows in one wooden shoe






The winning photograph was more than symbolic: Wouter van Beek and Deli Zra in 2003 drinking beer together from one calabash. At the book launch and as chair of the jury, Dick Foeken pointed out that even the hands are symbolic, as the hand of the older person is supposed to be on top. It also showcases the ASC as a partner working with African counterparts.

Winning photograph, Wouter van Beek & Cameroonian chief Deli Zra







Jos Damen