Essay on Role of Images During the Colonization Period

Published: 2021/11/18
Number of words: 2381

Images and any form of photography plays a key role in contemporary society for decades now. It represents a type of art that is unique, communicative, and representative of the human heritage that has been existent for long. Moreover, images present visual-mind on a particular memory in history. As such, images are seen as important tools that can be used to preserve a situation in contemporary society.[1]During the imperialist era, images were widely applicable by both the colonizers and the countries that were colonized. For instance, the competition between the spread of the conquest applied the use of images and photography to relay important messages to society. Images are part of ancient art that began several years ago.[2] At this time, most countries were against it and the competition between the European colonizers and colonies led to a conflict. In the spread of their western culture, many European countries applied the use of images to communicate as many of their colonies could neitherspeak nor understand English. It is essential to understand the contribution that images made to the competition between European states and colonies.

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First, images have epistemic value in society and play a key part in providing information. As such, many people in the past found it easy to relate images to particular instances. Photos portray information on what values the artist wants the society to view in general. For instance, colonizers used photos to depict their culture as superior to African morals and values. An example of a region that Europeans applied photography to influence culture is sub-Saharan Africa. In these countries, photography was their strongest weapon in an attempt to assimilate them. Legitimately, the colonial powers applied photos to showcase their apparent supremacy over Africans. To the whites, Africans were uncivilized, and the introduction of photography helps mark a time in history that Africans were opposingspread of important knowledge. Furthermore, images provided information that reinforced what the white man was spreading on civilization and Europe as a continent. This information portrayed Africa as a place of slavery and suffering, which was the case at that particular time. Such information could only be relayed then through photography, highlighting the role of images during the colonial era. The following image is an example of an art that portrayed the ability that the whites had as compared to their colonies. The white women standing behind are depicted to be providing essential teachings on how to use a sewing machine. From the picture, one can easily understand that Europeans were superior to their colonies. The dress codes of the women seated also speak volumes as compared to what the Europeans are wearing. It shows decency in western culture as opposed to what the blacks are wearing. As such, images served to depict how westernized the Europeans were while portraying Africa as a poverty-stricken continent full of slaves. Through such images, most of those colonized were easily convinced and assimilated by the new western culture.This is evident of the role that images played during the colonial period.

Source: Mabry, Hannah. 2014. Photography, Colonialism And Racism. Ebook.

Images were used to glorify various victories of their empires, leaders, and culture during the colonial era. There are many monuments of various leaders, who have won battles against the conquest. For instance, the Romans havetriumphal paintings that are indicative of the previous history on victories won, the cult of their emperors and importantly, conquests. Furthermore, the Romans later emulated, accepted, expropriate, and copied cultures of the regions that they conquered. Additionally, Romans were influenced by architecture and sculpture from the Greeks. Images played an important in spreading the will of the white man throughout the conquest. In repulsion, colonies developed paintings that were against the colonization, moves that called for action against many Europeans. Many statues have been erected to depict strong and determined people who fought fearlessly to win battles in their territories. Such images energized others who were in the quest to attain liberation from the colonizers’ hands. Photography provided the memory of what had happened earlier before the colonization inspiring a particular culture. As such, the fact that many used paintings to depict various victories in their history is indicative of the key role that images played during the colonial era. The figure below represents an image of the colonial period that indicates that Europeans considered as heathens and people who should be racially be discriminated. To some extent, the photos led to the spread of the conquest and demeaned Africans as third-party human beings. This increased racism and assumed blacks to be sinful and savage of all the races. Therefore it is certain to say that images at some point promoted racism when it should not have.

Source: Mabry, Hannah. 2014. Photography, Colonialism And Racism. Ebook.

Third, images during the colonialism period helped spread Christianity to African countries and other territories. Africans love to worship, and the whites took advantage using it as an appealing tool to lure Africans into their school of thought. In the process, images were used citing the role photography played in the spread of Christianity. Most images that the westerners used at that particular time depicted the European mission on African countries and other territories conquered. The main aim that the European missionaries had was to enlighten the society through education, protection, and civilization. The lack a universal language that both could usenecessitated for application of photos to explain a specific phenomenon in relation to Christianity. On the other hand, the whites would use paintings existing to understand how society in foreign territories works. This promoted the use of images to the extent of many people applying them in church and other areas. Through the spread of Christianity, most states were easily assimilated, and their culture disoriented. Christianity used images widely, including what is contained in the Bible as pictures. Photography was the only way that communication could work during the colonialism era.

Communication is a crucial factor in contemporary society. It is through communication that one can air their views to a different party. As such, images played a critical role during the colonialism period as they acted as a medium for communication. During then, there was no common language for both Europeans and their conquest. It was difficult to air grievances against the unwelcomed animosity against colonies. Some images that were applied during this time were indicative of the superiority that the Europeans had overthe colonized. Photographic pictures play a more critical role in ensuring successful communication as they are more significant and more serious than just images. Furthermore, photos appeal to the utmost feeling in oneself, which is suggestive of the role that they play in communication. Equally, photography touches the most generous aspects in man and its use during the colonial period promoted unity among specific groups.[3]Language is a critical requirement in ensuring peace and agreement within the society and lack of one during this time necessitated for the intervention of images. Images were used to communicate the various oppressive instances that had befallen colonies. As such, images are seen to be important in aiding communication during the colonial era. For instance, some photos during the colonial powers communicated a strong message to those colonized. An example of an image that expressed that Whites were superior to blacks is shown below. Images played a role in discrimination and violation of basic rights for natives.

Source: Mabry, Hannah. 2014. Photography, Colonialism And Racism. Ebook.

Photography during the colonial period represented the culture of various groups that existed at that time. For instance, the Europeans could emerge with images depicting their western culture. The images influenced the culture of the territories that they conquered in one way or the other. Heritage is one aspect that many people in the world value and pictures were part of the heritage for colonized nations. Images hold unique information regarding a particular cultural instance, which helped much during the colonial period. For instance, in Dutch Brazil, two exceedingly talented painters were brought from the Netherlands to carry out various artistic roles.[4] As a result, Brazilian landscapes were painted capturing American tropical nature, plantations, and native villages.[5]The painters did further work to the extent of inspiring the art in Dutch Brazil. As such, images contributed significantly during the colonial period as many could apply them to showcase their heritage. Artwork facilitates easy storage of crucial information about the culture of a particular people explaining why many communities used painting even before colonization.[6]As such, it is certain to assert that photography played a vital role in the assimilation and acceptance of one’s culture during and after the colonial period.

Photographs are a part of art that many believe and are truthful of whatever the information that is portrayed by them. In reality, many of the photos that were developed anciently help many understand the circumstances that people lived in at that time. Photos form the most real piece of art that can give correct information to incidences that happened during the colonial period. Most images are suggestive of the suffering that Europeans were subjecting their colonies to, which remains to be a key historical part for both parties. Battles that were won at that time remind many of the struggle and the role that photography played in ensuring that colonialism comes to an end. Most colonies became repulsive to the European rule with the aid of paintings and drawings that indicated displeasure. Pre-modern empires had a goal to assimilate the more advantaged cultures within the society of those that they colonized. The easiest way that they could understand the foreign culture was through photography as there lacked a common language for communication. As such, images during the colonial era played a crucial role in making the Europeans understand the culture, which they intended to assimilate.

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Images also played a vital role in the expansion of the conquest as depicted in the practices of the Europeans. For instance, it is evident from history that paintings and monarchs representing imperial powers, sculpture, and architecture were applied to spread imperialism and western culture. It is through images that most African countries became assimilated to the ways of their colonizers. The photos presented by Europeans acted as a great aid in convincing many to embrace civilization as introduced during the colonial era. One way that images intervened in the overseas spread of civilization is evident when the Portuguese began its architectural activities abroad. Patriots to the countries in charge created paintings for their art to glorify expansionist, imperialist, and realistic dreams. Portuguese influence led to the emergence of Manueline art design that is widely applicable in the current world. An example of a monument that was built in regards to the expansion of western culture is Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, which was created to echo the role of Vasco da Gama in India. In essence, ancient photography helped significantly in the spread of Christianity and westernization across the world. As such, images played a role to ensure that westernization spreads in a bid to adopt civilization.

In conclusion, images are an essential piece of art, which help keep memories of historical happenings. During the colonial period, photography played a vital role in the administering of territories and expansion of the conquest. Images were applied as a tool for communication since there was no common language by then. Equally, images relayedimportant information to the public and marked victorious incidences. Many at times, it is evidenced by the spread of Christianity as it is a product of photography. The goals of the Europeans to spread and assimilate cultures in territories that they conquered were made possible by the help of images. Through them, the Europeans could argue legitimately to convince colonies. As such, it is evident that the use of photography and images played a vital role in the spread of the conquest.


Bahrani, Zainab, Jas Elsner, Wu Hung, Rosemary Joyce, and Jeremy Tanner. “Questions on “world art history”.” Perspective. Actualité en histoire de l’art 2 (2014): 181-194.

Braider, Christopher. Baroque self-invention and historical truth: Hercules at the crossroads. Routledge, 2017.

Edwards, Elizabeth. “The colonial archival imaginaire at home.” Social Anthropology 24, no. 1 (2016): 52-66.

Kahr, M. M. (2018). Dutch painting in the seventeenth century. Routledge.

Martin, Meredith, and Daniela Bleichmar. “Introduction: Objects in Motion in the Early Modern World.” Art History 38, no. 4 (2015): 604-619.

Mochizuki, MiaM. The Netherlandish Image After Iconoclasm, 1566-1672: Material Religion in the Dutch Golden Age. Routledge, 2017.

[1]Bahrani, Zainab, Jas Elsner, Wu Hung, Rosemary Joyce, and Jeremy Tanner. “Questions on “world art history”.” Perspective. Actualité en histoire de l’art 2 (2014): 181-194.

[2]Edwards, Elizabeth. “The colonial archival imaginaire at home.” Social Anthropology 24, no. 1 (2016): 52-66.

[3]Martin, Meredith, and Daniela Bleichmar. “Introduction: Objects in Motion in the Early Modern World.” Art History 38, no. 4 (2015): 604-619.

[4]Kahr, M. M. (2018). Dutch painting in the seventeenth century. Routledge.

[5]Braider, Christopher. Baroque self-invention and historical truth: Hercules at the crossroads. Routledge, 2017.

[6]Mochizuki, MiaM. The Netherlandish Image After Iconoclasm, 1566-1672: Material Religion in the Dutch Golden Age. Routledge, 2017.

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