African posters. A catalogue of the poster collection in the Basler Afrika Bibliographien

The catalogue of African posters collection is one of several special collections in the Basler Afrika Bibliographien.
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Title: African posters
Subtitel: A catalogue of the poster collection in the Basler Afrika
Authors: Giorgio Miescher; Dag Henrichsen
Publisher: Basler Afrika Bibliographien
Basel, 2004
ISBN 9783905141825 / ISBN 978-3-905141-82-5
Hardcover, 24x30 cm, 301 pages, countless colour and bw photos


The poster collection is one of several special collections in the Basler Afrika Bibliographien (BAB) Namibia Resource Centre & Southern Africa Library. The foundations of the collection were laid by posters from pre-independence Namibia collected by Carl Schlettwein (Basel) prior to 1990, together with Namibian posters from the period of transition to independence (1989/1990) collected by Resi Henrichsen (Swakopmund). In the middle of the 1990s, these were joined by posters associated with the historic 1994 elections in South Africa, and posters from the collections of disbanding Swiss and German solidarity and anti-apartheid committees.

Systematic enlargement and consolidation of the poster collection at the BAB began in 1995, with Namibia as the focal country and southern Africa as the focal region. Since then, the original holding of 250 posters has increased tenfold. In addition to those from southern Africa, numerous posters from and relating to other African regions, especially West Africa, have found their way into the collection. Because there has never been a thematically selective acquisitions policy, the collection covers a broad spectrum of subjects from politics through economy to leisure activities.

In terms of timespan, posters from the last three decades are the most strongly represented. With its approximately 900 illustrations, this catalogue provides a representative cross-section through the BAB collection. In publishing the catalogue, we hope to encourage further engagement with posters as a part of African visual history. Parallel to building up the poster collection at the BAB, we have debated and written about the, to us as historians, new medium of the poster and its potential as a historical source.

Collaborations in recent years with various colleagues in Basel and Windhoek have resulted in several workshops, as well as lectures and publications. The introduction to this book will reassess and summarise some aspects of previous work done on posters. For those readers still unfamiliar with this medium, we hope that this discussion will provide some indication of the potential of posters for research and analysis of both the past and the present. The second part of the introduction describes the collection and our curatorial policy, and explains the layout and structure of the catalogue.