Michael Godby’s recent catalogue entry sums up many of the concerns with the work of Charles Bell. Below is the “warning” for the catalogue which highlights the issues researchers might also encounter in this showcase [Michael Godby, Battleground. Michaelis Galleries. Cape Town 2015]
Bell’s [work] contain language and imagery that many will find offensive. Since 1994, curators and others have usually replaced or concealed offending terminology [ ] but, in the belief that it is an integral part of the artist’s expression, this catalogue leaves it exposed. Moreover, it is obviously not possible to conceal the caricatural elements of Bell’s treatment of different racial groups that he, like others, derived at some remove from contemporary scientific, or pseudo-scientific racial theories. In fact, to better understand Bell’s project, this catalogue has taken the decision to draw attention to these prejudices –[ ]in order to show that he shared the widely-held view at the time of the innate inferiority of African people to Europeans that was used to justify the appropriation of Xhosa lands.