31 episodes

EMPIRE LINES uncovers the unexpected, often two-way, flows of Empires through art.

Interdisciplinary thinkers use individual artworks as artefacts of imperial exchange, revealing the how and why of the monolith ‘Empire’.

MUSIC: Combinación // The Dubbstyle.

COVER ART: Claudia Chan.

PRODUCER: Jelena Sofronijevic.

Follow EMPIRE LINES at: twitter.com/jelsofron/status/1306563558063271936

Support EMPIRE LINES on Patreon: patreon.com/empirelines

EMPIRE LINES EMPIRE LINES

    • Society & Culture
    • 5.0 • 4 Ratings

EMPIRE LINES uncovers the unexpected, often two-way, flows of Empires through art.

Interdisciplinary thinkers use individual artworks as artefacts of imperial exchange, revealing the how and why of the monolith ‘Empire’.

MUSIC: Combinación // The Dubbstyle.

COVER ART: Claudia Chan.

PRODUCER: Jelena Sofronijevic.

Follow EMPIRE LINES at: twitter.com/jelsofron/status/1306563558063271936

Support EMPIRE LINES on Patreon: patreon.com/empirelines

    Cashew Nuts for the Mozambican Revolution Poster, Alexandre Milhafre (c. 1979) (EMPIRE LINES x SOAS Interview)

    Cashew Nuts for the Mozambican Revolution Poster, Alexandre Milhafre (c. 1979) (EMPIRE LINES x SOAS Interview)

    For EMPIRE LINES’ 30th episode, we’re heading offline and out into the museum space - to SOAS’ Brunei Gallery, in London. Richard Gray is co-curator of their latest exhibition, Our Sophisticated Weapon: Posters of the Mozambican Revolution.

    Cashew nuts are a paradoxical symbol in Mozambique. Brought over from Brazil by 16th century Portuguese colonists, they were used to attract - and commit - Mozambican peasant farmers to compulsory cultivation. Yet they became a national icon for post-colonial Mozambique, peppering propaganda imagery from its independence in June 1975. Associated with abundance, Mozambique produced and processed over half the world’s cashew supply, which remained the state's greatest export until the 1980s.

    Kept illiterate under Portuguese rule, Mozambique's masses were mobilised using vivid visual art. The Frelimo government celebrated the industry's revival with colourful posters, symbolising the post-colonial promises of plenty, socialist internationalism, and a new humanity. But beyond propaganda, these posters reveal how artist collectives appropriated communist and capitalist graphic design, including comics, creating a movement which threatened those who sought to destabilise Mozambique from the inside out, like South Africa and Zimbabwe. Set amongst the sounds of Nampula province, co-curator Richard Gray traces the colonial history of the cashew nut to the neoimperial practices of international financial institutions today.

    Our Sophisticated Weapon: Posters of the Mozambican Revolution runs at the Brunei Gallery at SOAS, London until 11 December 2021. Find out more about the exhibition online, read the catalogue of interviews with the surviving artists, and attend SOAS School of Arts' special seminar on 11 December 2021.



    PRESENTER: Richard Gray, postgraduate research student at SOAS University of London. He is the co-curator of Our Sophisticated Weapon and formerly a 'cooperante internacionalista' (internationalist co-worker), contracted as a teacher by the Mozambican government in the late 1970s.

    ART: Let Us Harvest All The Cashew Nuts, To Harvest The Nuts Is To Develop Mozambique, Alexandre Milhafre (c. 1979).

    SOUNDS: TRKZ.

    PRODUCER: Jelena Sofronijevic.



    Follow EMPIRE LINES at: twitter.com/jelsofron/status/1306563558063271936 

    Support EMPIRE LINES on Patreon: patreon.com/empirelines 



    *CORRECTION: The war with Renamo caused around one million civilian deaths and displaced five million throughout Mozambique. Around one million were likely displaced from Nampula province, from where many went to Malawi.

    • 39 min
    Fifth Edition of Les Mille et Une Nuit (The Thousand and One Nights), Antoine Galland (1729)

    Fifth Edition of Les Mille et Une Nuit (The Thousand and One Nights), Antoine Galland (1729)

    Dr. David Damrosch intertwines imperial expectations in 18th century Europe with Middle Eastern realities, in Antoine Galland's Les Mille et Une Nuit, or The Thousand and One Nights.

    Filled with flying carpets and trapped genies, the tales of Aladdin, Ali Baba, and Scheherazade might seem little more than bedtime stories. But the tales of The Thousand and One Nights iwere born out of the real experiences of 8th century Middle Eastern empires, evolving at the crossroads of Sassanid Persia, Abbasid Baghdad, and Ottoman Cairo and Damascus. Published in 18th century Paris, Galland's epochal French edition brought the tales beyond the Arabian peninsula, adding Aladdin and Ali Baba to his Syrian source manuscript, and transforming the tales into a work of world literature. A thousand years on, it too was informed by the imperial dynamics of the aging Ottoman Empire, the young French empire of Louis XIV and Napoleon, and their mutual rival, the Holy Roman Empire of the Austrian Habsburgs. Galland's edition is embedded with the turquoiserie and territorial ambitions of 18th century Europe. But retelling the tale of the tales reveals their subversive potential, seized upon by souk storytellers, European orientalists, and contemporary Arabic novelists alike.

    PRESENTER: Dr. David Damrosch, Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, and founder of the Institute for World Literature. He is the author of Around the World in 80 Books, published by Pelican Books in November 2021.

    ART: Fifth Edition of Les Mille et Une Nuit (The Thousand and One Nights), Antoine Galland (1729).

    IMAGE: 'Frontispiece and Title Page of Les Mille et Une Nuit'.

    SOUNDS: Lobo Loco.

    PRODUCER: Jelena Sofronijevic.



    Follow EMPIRE LINES at: twitter.com/jelsofron/status/1306563558063271936 

    Support EMPIRE LINES on Patreon: patreon.com/empirelines 

    • 16 min
    Knotted Pile Carpet, Lahore Central Jail (c. 1880)

    Knotted Pile Carpet, Lahore Central Jail (c. 1880)

    Dr. Dorothy Armstrong untangles British efforts to redefine colonial Indian culture, through a 19th century knotted pile carpet woven in Lahore Central Jail.

    Produced with the low-cost labour of Indian prisoners, jail carpets were big business in the British Empire. Beyond physical coercion, imperial authorities also trapped India in their vision of 'authentic' oriental aesthetics, privileging Persian patterns and Parisian market demands over traditional Mughal methods. This particular carpet was one of a pair, purchased at the 1881 Punjab Exhibition for what would become the V&A Museum. Riding the history of both carpets - one surviving, and missing - into mass manufacture reveals how South Kensington intervened in the crafts of the colonised, centralising control and defining expectations both in India and at home, then and now.

    PRESENTER: Dr. Dorothy Armstrong, May Beattie Visiting Fellow in Carpet Studies at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford. She was previously a lecturer and tutor in Material Histories of Asia for the V&A/Royal College of Art History of Design Programme.

    ART: Knotted Pile Carpet, Lahore Central Jail (c. 1880).

    IMAGE: 'Carpet with woollen pile, palmette and leaf designs on a black ground with a red ground border, woven in Lahore Jail, c.1880'.

    SOUNDS: V&A.

    PRODUCER: Jelena Sofronijevic.



    Follow EMPIRE LINES at: twitter.com/jelsofron/status/1306563558063271936 

    Support EMPIRE LINES on Patreon: patreon.com/empirelines 

    • 18 min
    'White Buddhist' Statue of Theosophist Henry Steel Olcott, Colombo (c. 1970s)

    'White Buddhist' Statue of Theosophist Henry Steel Olcott, Colombo (c. 1970s)

    Jessica Albrecht busts the founding myths of 19th century Buddhist revivalism, through a Statue of Colonel Henry Steel Olcott at Fort Railway Station in Sri Lanka, the former British colony of Ceylon.

    Known as the 'White Buddhist', US Colonel Henry Steel Olcott is celebrated for sparking Sri Lanka's Buddhist revival movement in 1880s. Golden statues scatter across the island in tribute to the co-founder of the Theosophical Society, the source of religious and educational reform and resistance to British colonial rule in Ceylon.

    But these statues also pose complex post-colonial questions, like whether Olcott's book, The Buddhist Catechism, was anything but 'Protestant Buddhism', or his schools simply new institutions of external control. Instead of pulling Olcott down, his statues invite us to figure out those silenced in the archives, whether the non-white Buddhists of the Panadura Debate, or the women behind Ceylon's girls schools - without whom Olcott would not have the same standing today.

    PRESENTER: Jessica Albrecht, PhD student at the University of Heidelberg and editor at EnGender Journal. She focusses on the colonial entanglements of feminism and religion.

    ART: 'White Buddhist' Statue of Theosophist Henry Steel Olcott, Colombo (c. 1970s).

    IMAGE: 'Statue of HSO in front of Main Railroad Station in Colombo, Sri Lanka'. 

    SOUNDS: Kala Ketha.

    PRODUCER: Jelena Sofronijevic.



    Follow EMPIRE LINES at: twitter.com/jelsofron/status/1306563558063271936 

    Support EMPIRE LINES on Patreon: patreon.com/empirelines 

    • 14 min
    Sun City, Artists United Against Apartheid (1985)

    Sun City, Artists United Against Apartheid (1985)

    Dr. Robert Larson replays the sounds of activism against apartheid and American neo-imperial hegemony, through Artists United Against Apartheid's 1985 song, Sun City.

    Field recordings from South Africa's anti-segregation protests open Sun City, a single, album, and music video released in October 1985. Miles Davies, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Run DMC joined fifty Artists United Against Apartheid, a multicultural collective who boycotted performing in the racialised regime. Striking its Sun City casino complex, where capitalistic excess comingled alongside extreme poverty, these artists targeted the homeland seizures at apartheid's core. Their lyrics shine light on how apartheid accelerated British and Dutch colonial methods, and relied upon the United States' neo-imperial international hegemony. Yet Sun City's uniquely anti-West critique also speaks to American understandings of racial solidarity, questioning the role of Western musicians as political activists, fundraisers, and historians of Africa.

    PRESENTER: Dr. Robert Larson, independent historian and knowledge producer. He received his PhD in history from the Ohio State University in 2019, specialising in the anti-apartheid movement.

    ART: Sun City, Artists United Against Apartheid (1985),

    IMAGE: 'Coretta Scott King, Little Steven, Julian Bond, and Vernell Johnson (Manhattan Records) at a press conference hosted by Mayor Andrew Young in Atlanta'. 

    SOUNDS: Artists United Against Apartheid.

    PRODUCER: Jelena Sofronijevic.



    Follow EMPIRE LINES at: twitter.com/jelsofron/status/1306563558063271936 

    Support EMPIRE LINES on Patreon: patreon.com/empirelines 

    • 15 min
    View of the Plaza Mayor of Mexico City, Cristóbal de Villalpando (c. 1695)

    View of the Plaza Mayor of Mexico City, Cristóbal de Villalpando (c. 1695)

    Dr. Juan Luis Burke reorders urban spaces in colonial Mesoamerica, through Cristóbal de Villalpando's 1695 painting, View of the Plaza Mayor of Mexico City.

    The Plaza Mayor sits at the historical heart of the sprawling megalopolis of Mexico City. Previously the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, it became the Mesoamerican capital of the Spanish Empire in the 16th century. With his expansive, bird’s eye view, Cristóbal de Villalpando depicts everyday encounters between classes and clashes against the colonial urban order for the viceroyalty's eye. Now housed in England, this colonial commission shows the Plaza as a marketplace of imperial ideas, revealing co-option and cooperation between indigenous Mexicans, Asian merchants, and European and Spanish colonisers. Five hundred years after the fall of the ancient Aztec imperial capital, Tenochtitlán, the Plaza Mayor in Mexico City remains a site of protest today.

    PRESENTER: Dr. Juan Luis Burke, Assistant Professor of Architectural and Urban History at the University of Maryland.

    ART: View of the Plaza Mayor of Mexico City, Cristóbal de Villalpando, (c.1695).

    IMAGE: ‘View of the Plaza Mayor of Mexico City'.

    SOUNDS: Victrola.

    PRODUCER: Jelena Sofronijevic.



    Follow EMPIRE LINES at: twitter.com/jelsofron/status/1306563558063271936 

    Support EMPIRE LINES on Patreon: patreon.com/empirelines 

    • 18 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
4 Ratings

4 Ratings

ProfReader2021 ,

Excellent resource

As an art history professor, this is a high-quality resource for engaging with the broader histories that surround the objects of art history. 10/10 recommend to all my students and colleagues!

Keggdog ,

Excellent podcast

Consistently fascinating. Empire is both a complicated and far-reaching concept, and approaching it through art and material culture is one of the better ways to understand it. I also appreciate the shorter length: it’s just enough to draw you in and leave you curious, but not so much that you’re overwhelmed if you’re unfamiliar with the subject matter.

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