Karoo Cowboys

Basel, 22.01 - 26.01. A solo exhibition by South African photographer Yasser Booley

We all have our origin in Africa. A continent that has at once been the standing reserve of modernity and its most shameful orphan, exposing the hypocrisy of European enlightenment.

The man-made speciation of the people of the continent spurred on by the pursuit of rational scientific enquiry (including the robbing of indigenous graves for skeletal specimens) is part of the framework upon which modern society is built. The inherent inequalities in this structure has long legs and a far reach.

Through the exhibition, we take a contemporary look at the closest relative we have to our ancient ancestors and the effect that modernity has had as a metaphor for the change that has taken place to our core nature.

In this particular instance, modernity takes the multi-level form of colonialism, apartheid and then democracy. The corollary patterns of power in these systems together with its inherent hierarchy of values and culture need to be seen before they can be addressed. The act of exhibiting in Europe is an independent act of being seen in the ground zero of ‘modernity’ if you will.

In my experience, one of the greatest symptoms of the disease of colonisation in the

colonised populations is the subconscious need for external validation, permission as it were to confirm the importance of one’s ideas, the validity of one’s experience. I did not ask.

Karoo Cowboys looks at the everyday lives of the descendants of the ‘boer mense’ (primal people) who cling instinctively to basic elements of their ancient culture, despite having their language and traditions brutally destroyed over the past centuries.

They, like their cousins in Namibia still believe in what we would call Karma, but they call it ‘luck‘.

The way they speak about animals, using the name of the animal as pronoun, for example, ‘Snake, Porcupine and Kudu walks here’, is another striking example of the culture they have retained. They also believe that we carry our ’luck’, good or bad in

the heart, to the extent that we wrong others, or break promises.

The implication is that they somehow resisted being exiled from the natural world.

The work plays with the notions of ‘cowboy’ as the ‘good guy’, the main protagonist and aspirant hero traditionally white, versus the ‘bad guy’, enemy usually brown skinned as a way to change the lens through which we look, merging the initial sense of exotic with the profound.

There will be a limited edition photo-zine (mierkat) of the work available for sale. This zine will be produced every 2 months, to establish an alternative way of sharing narratives.


St. Johanns-Vorstadt 78, 4056 Basel.

for further details please contact

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