In this medium-format volume of photographs with a black half-linen cover portraying the German-Cameroonian Zenker family over five generations, the design adeptly brings out the exoticisms and conflicts of German colonial history. While the front cover, with its embossed leather pattern and family name as well as a dark jungle photo, appears as clichéd as it is enigmatic, the family founder – the botanist and colonialist Georg August Zenker – is revealed on the back cover, in a passage from a letter dated 1896, to be a poacher and ivory trader who treated the local population with disdain. Without making an explicit judgement, this establishes the basis and tone for the entire volume, which combines a dozen letters by Zenker (on black-and-white pages of text) with historical photographic material and full-page colour photos of his still-living, entirely dark-skinned descendants. The new photos may appear like conventional documentary images at times, but they are matched with the old letters to create highly charged combinations that ask far-ranging questions about postcolonial conditions. The heterogeneous material is integrated by means of a grid that is both well thought-out and unforced, while the typography of the letters renders them easily accessible without sacrificing charismatic features such as emphasis and deletions.

Yana Wernicke, Jonas Feige, Berlin (DE)
Yana Wernicke, Jonas Feige, Berlin (DE)
Studio Krispin Heé – Krispin Heé, Zürich (CH) /Berlin (DE); Tim Wetter, Berlin (DE)
Eberl & Kœsel GmbH, Altusried-Krugzell (DE)
Edition Patrick Frey, Zürich (CH)