From Indian Ocean to African Indian: Through the refracted lens of Capital Art Studio, Zanzibar

What happens when an Indian Ocean past meets an African Indian present in a collection of photographs by Ranchhod and Rohit Oza, family proprietors of Capital Art Studio who together visually captured the worldly place (and centre of the dhow trade and culture) of Zanzibar from 1930 until the present day? My intention with this ethnographic and archival project is to interrogate how processes of cosmopolitanism and creolization link together and unfold in specific ways in Stone Town through the refracted lens of each, a father and son. I trace a series of historical ruptures that defined Zanzibar and are represented in this photo archive and studio—the last remaining one of its kind in Zanzibar—, that is, its position under British protectionism and the Omani sultanate (1930s onward) through to its revolution and the island’s integration with the mainland to become part of Tanzania (post 1964), to the present day as a popular stopover on the global tourism circuit. I view Ranchhod Oza as an Indian Ocean subject and Rohit Oza as an African Indian subject in order to reorient our perspective on Zanzibar and its visual cultures through this remarkable photographic collection.

Project leader(s):
  • Pamila Gupta (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of the Witwatersrand)

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