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Peter Engblom (*~1950-s, South Africa), Male , Contemporary Photographer
Peter Engblom studied photography at the Bavarian State Institute in Munich. His ancestors established a Norwegian mission outpost in Zulu Land at the turn of the last century. A sugar farmer and yacht broker, he has spent over a decade photographing traditional rituals and ceremonies in Zululand. Peter has produced audiovisual experiences for clients such as Itala Bank, Lever Brothers, CI Caravans, Ilanga Newspaper, KwaZulu Monuments Council and the Local History Museums in Durban. He designed the Bensusan Museum of Photography in Johannesburg and the Portnet Visitor Centre in Durban. Peter Engblom prefers pasta, is single, straight, available and thought to be certifiable by his fine art students at the Natal Technikon's Fine Art Department, where he lectures photography.
He describes himself as an individual who easily becomes uninterested and has therefore "done everything" from cooking on treasure hunting expeditions to catching poisonous snakes for a living. He has had various group and one-man shows and his work is in most important South African collections, often being attributed to "Unknown Zulu Artist".
Seven years ago he created a CD-ROM about Zulu Land and the Zulu people entitled "A Land called Heaven" which is available from www.cdromshop.com. This led him to his present project entitled "ZuluSushi" that is inspired by the first Zulu Guru.
He has created the concept and history of Mpunzi Shezi, the first Zulu missionary to the Japanese - he took Ubuntu to the Buddhists and brought Zen back to the Zulus. Shezi is believed to have trained his dog to meditate so that he did not have to bother with this difficult subject and is largely unknown due to the dreadful education system that permeated South Africa during Apartheid. He describes his work as 'the Celestine Prophecy meets Mad Magazine". He also designed the suitcases for Big Brother. He is a trained sangoma.
Peter Engblom has been seen with a strange contraption that he believes has the ability to photograph ghosts in 3D.
Curriculum Vitae based on different trustful sources checked and combined by Rolf Goellnitz, OMC Gallery
by Peter Engblom
ZuluSushi is a brash and bizarre photo novel, which is full of fantasy, erotic and surreal situations and compositions. Style elements and subjects of the beginning of the 20th century and contemporary ideas are melting together with visuals of a multicultural origin. The viewer can’t decide anymore what is real and what is fiction in the end. Engblom is creating new images by using visual finds, generated from different sources, which he alters, revises and then mixes with own photos.
Their documentary appearance seems to be authentic, but turns out to be an own, artistically arranged, reality of Engblom. This reality is full of details, which often include graphic elements and a color spectrum, which reaches from monochrome to expressive color chords.
Engblom’s story about the content and origin of the photos reads like this: “Having grown up in Zululand and after a traumatic robbery of all my possessions by a group of Zulu thieves, while I was lying in bed with a slipped disc, I vowed to steal their culture. I created a character called Mpunzi Shezi, who traveled to Japan in 1910 to learn about the country, the people and the art of Sushi and Japanese bondage…”
Peter Engblom combines in his work old and new techniques. His photos are printed with archival pigmented inks on archival paper and come in a limited edition of 15 + 4AP (signed and numbered).
Rolf Goellnitz, OMC Gallery
Peter Engblom plays with history and mythology to create a South African past unbounded by the constraints of racism - a plausible fantasy land where his main character Mpunzi Shezi takes South Africa's philosophy of the people, Ubuntu, to the Japanese and introduces Buddhism to Zululand.
E-Mail Interview with PHOTOGRAPHIE Magazine - Germany 2003 due to an Editorial in the magazine.
Q: How would you characterize your photographic style?
A: At the moment I find myself creating photographic lies. The “Zulusushi” work is based on the fact that ethnic identities are basically constructions that we are swindled into believing. My pictures are constructions of events that never took place.
Q: What inspired you to mix elements of the Zulu-culture with elements of the Japanese Culture?
A: I fell down a staircase and the story was inspired by a series of voltaren injections in the backside.
Q: What role does your character Mpunzi Shezi play?
A: Mpunzi Shezi discovered mount Japan in 1911. He took Ubuntu to the Buddhists, taught Zen to the Zulus, studied tantric sex with the geishas and taught his dog to meditate so that he didn’t have to bother with the difficult task himself.
Q: How important are sexual topics, like bondage, for your work?
A: Mpunzi Shezi appeared to be equally interested in Buddhism, bondage and bonsai.
Q: How did the European visitors of your exhibitions (Paris Photo) like your work.
A: I have no idea, you will have to ask RoxAnn or Rolf at the OMC gallery. People bought lots of the pictures if that is anything to go by. Here in South Africa, the response has been fantastic. About a quarter of the visitors actually believe my lies but then they are probably the same people that believe that politicians will make their lives easier and Father Christmas lives in Lapland. All sorts of important people buy the pictures and hang them in their houses. I am continually amazed and amused.
Q: Are there any photographers who influenced your work?
A: My Grandfathers Album was my first inspiration. While a student I was inspired by the work of Edward Western, today I am inspired by old family albums and my students work and the work of Stalin's airbrush artists who airbrushed his enemies out of history.
Q: How do you create your pictures? Are there any special techniques?
A: The pictures are basically collages with the edges blurred to make them more realistic. Each picture is planned and the different pieces shot separately. The Japanese models are a real problem as there are very few oriental people in Zululand. I sometimes photograph Oriental hookers while Im traveling. I have never been to Japan. There are lots of Zulus in Zululand so that’s not a problem.
Q: How important is Digital-Photography for you?
A: The Zulus continually steal all my equipment so I now just use an old twin lens Yashika to take my snaps. I have the negs scanned to get them into my computer.
Q: What are your "photographic-plans" plans for the future?
A: I recently discovered the diaries of Captain James Ivory who was her majesties inspector of paranormal activities. There appear to be 3d pictures of ghosts and UFO’s taken in Jamaica, St Helena and Kenya. I intend to tear up the album copy the pages and sell them to collectors. My research shows that Mr. Ivory may in fact have been a woman who dressed as a man and used the seven seas purely for pleasure. The cross dressing appears to explain the admiralty’s suspicions about him. Very little verified information exists pertaining to the elusive character. It appears that he was at one time "Her Majesties observer of Paranormal activities" as well as being a rum smuggler, amateur ethnologist, entomologist, absinthe distiller, photographer and vibrational healer. The home office denies that they ever employed such an individual and all records were destroyed in the hurricane that devastated Port Royal in Jamaica half a century ago.
He is credited with various discoveries including the elapsed Zanzibar hallucinogenic mushroom and twenty-eight types of holotropic plants in different parts of the world. His records, photographs and notes pertaining to extra terrestrial activities are written in some sort of cipher or code making them almost impossible to understand.
Based in Port Royal, Jamaica, in the early twenties Captain Ivory is rumored to have been something of a philanderer. There are even reports that he may of been a women who cross dressed in order to join the Jamestown club were female patrons still have to avail themselves of the side entrance. Recent research has revealed that he may in fact have been a used various ingenious methods in order to get away with a largely transexual lifestyle.