Programmed by Jürgen Ellinghaus
German, Swiss German, French
Over several decades, the writer and traveller René Gardi (1909 - 2000) offered the Swiss people a discovery of the African continent and its inhabitants. His many books, famous television programmes and films propose an enchanted vision of premodern times during which magnificent African men and women seemed to live, most often, pure and naked. This so-called intact world became Gardi’s paradise and the real Africa became and land of fantasy. Thanks to René Gardi’s archives, ‘African Mirror’ retraces the story of our colonial image of Africa. A mirror image of a time of which we struggle to disburden ourselves…
The naivety (real? feigned?) with which René Gardi believes he can have ‘Cameroon mountain dwellers’ and “Swiss mountain dwellers” enter into dialogue may appear rather touching. If only it did not conceal immense ignorance associated with a profoundly racist – and what’s more moralising – discourse, and explicit connivance with violent European colonial methods (of which the arresting sequence on a dashing travelling French tax collector offers an idyllic representation). Such is the worth of Mischa Hedinger’s editing, only commented through quotations extracted from Gardi’s own writings, which unveils to us all the ambiguity of the posture of this man who, through his personal activities and constructions that are amplified by a whole media-staged system, becomes accomplice to the very facts and ideas for which he feigns crocodile tears towards the end of his career.