“Protohistory” – A Photographic Essay


A Photographic Essay

by Ines Alheli Wapenaar

Hierdie naweek het ons a draai gemaak by die Museo Arquelogico Nacional. I write those words in Afrikaans, because, when one is talking about things which happened before 19-voetsek, this is the most appropriate language for demonstrating the weight of the history which intervenes. Also, I find myself thinking more in Afrikaans, probably because all this Spanish has stimulated the Continental part of my brain. And the part of me that loves to argue with autocorrect. Ja, wel, whatever. Those of you who followed our trip to the Prado will be aware that we take photos while doing these things. Only now, Ines is the one calling the shots. Halfway through this trip, she started asking for a photo in front of this statue, and that, or this cabinet or that pile of rocks. What started out as an educational outing very quickly turned into carefully crafted series of photographs, directed by the lady in front of the camera, and using the relics of Iberian protohistory as a backdrop. Geniet dit.

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Long time before Moses, or even Abraham, Jews wondered the Iberian peninsula. We know this because they left so much of their schtuff here. In the background, you can see some Jews wearing traditional, pre-Abrahamic Jewish clothing, and in front of that is some Jewellery, from a Jewish treasure hoard with an unpronounceable name with lots of X’s, ca. 19-voetsek BC. Note the golden yarmulkas.

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A couple of proto-Golden Calves. Centuries before Moses, Jews used to make Bronze Bulls instead of Golden Calves. Then they managed to score enough Egyptian gold to upgrade. Nowadays, however, things have regressed, and the Chosen People have turned away from the Lions of Judah and replaced them with Blue Bulls. Here you can see Ines scraping the floor with her left foot. Notice the taurine determination in the eyes. No, really, she was actually pawing and scraping at the floor like a bull in the bull ring. I think they do this with them at school in some kind of bull game. No, I’m not having you on.

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A rich Spanish Jew was buried underneath this early Iberian skyscraper, which towered above the surrounding countryside. To hasten the arrival of winter, old virgins were thrown from the top, often resulting in bruises and sometimes even scrapes and foul language.

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The director had great difficulty in getting the sphinx to stay still for this shot, which is often a problem when one works with mythological beasts. I had suggested we do this in front of the griffin, but the director was adamant, and so sphinx it was.

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Iberian Jewish toy soldiers. Ca. Lank, lank gelede. Behind them is the actual urinary urn which gave rise to the celebrated phrase. It’s fascinating what one learns while trailing along behind an expert when she’s surrounded by so much schtuff to talk about.

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Treasure hoard, from Pirates of the Caribbean III, on loan from Johnny Depp. The director took a great deal of care in staging, and then posing for, this shot. Johnny Depp was not harmed in the taking of this photograph.

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Muso playing bar mitzvah. Date unknown, but definitely pre-Madonna. At the very least a good few years before Kenny G (archeologists call this period in Spanish history “Ante-Kenny G”. All dates measured before the advent of Kenny G are denoted ‘a good few years’, want alles wat na sy aankoms gebeur het was noodwendig meer kak gewees. Het. Thus the period after Kenny-G is called “Anti-Kenny G”.) Please note the golden yarmulka on the dude’s head. Kenny G was unfortunately not harmed in the taking of this photograph.

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Horses can like to be fun.

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Another painstakingly staged shot, produced under exacting and very precise direction. The director has very carefully juxtaposed a tartan ribbon with a Celtic torque once worn by Audrey Hepburn. The result creates a cultural tension at once exciting and unsettling, cross-pollinating politics, culture, and fashion, and forcing the viewer into asking uncomfortable questions about why the Sinclairs killed Princess Di. A fitting tour-de-force to end a remarkable series of photographs by an intellectually relentless director.


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