Research School for Economic and Social History


9 January 2024
Radboud University, Erasmus Building, Erasmusplein 1, Nijmegen

Exhibition Fugitive gives enslaved individuals a face

A new exhibition called Fugitive is on display in the hall of the Erasmus Building. The portraits in the exhibition represent enslaved individuals in the former Cape Colony. Historian Karl Bergemann and forensic artists Kathryn Smith and Pearl Mamathuba from the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa) have reconstructed multiple portraits based on eyewitness accounts from 19th-century newspapers.

Fugitive is a project in which Smith and Mamathuba created digital facial reconstructions of enslaved individuals. Alongside text panels, the portraits depict escaped enslaved persons in what is now South Africa in the period before and around emancipation on 1 December 1838. When enslaved individuals escaped, owners often placed a notice in the newspaper describing the runaway individuals’ physical features. These factual characteristics were used in the project to create reconstructions of the escaped enslaved individuals. Eight portraits from this project are on display in the Erasmus Building.

The exhibition is related to the research project Biography of an uncharted people, a joint project from Radboud University and Stellenbosch University on slavery research. Those wanting more info, may contact Dr Dries Lyna.