U.Va. History Professor in South Africa Carnival

November 15, 2007

Nov. 9, 2007 — University of Virginia history professor John Mason uses his camera to get inside a little-known cultural phenomenon — a minstrel troupe from the mixed-race community in Cape Town, South Africa. Mason joined the troupe and chronicled the minstrels during their marching season, which begins on Jan. 2 every year. His photos will be on exhibit in the 214 Community Arts Center, the site of the old Prism Coffeehouse at 214 Rugby Rd., with an opening scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. on Nov. 15.

Mason, who teaches African history and the history of photography, marched for about six weeks with the Pennsylvania Crooning Minstrels in their New Year’s Carnival marches, as well as about six weeks of weekend competitions that followed. Photographing the troupe from inside gave him extensive access to its inner workings, he said.

The minstrel troupe celebrations are limited to the mixed-race community, he said. Mason, who is also a musician, has been visiting South Africa for more than 20 years, researching the affects of 19th century slavery on the country.