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Imperial Perceptions Between Southern Africa and Central Asia

Representation and Reception of the Image of the Zulu. From Travel Accounts to the Public Sphere in Mid-Victorian and Edwardian Great Britain (1850–1914)

Représentation et réception de la figure du Zoulou : des récits de voyage à la sphère publique dans l’Angleterre du milieu de l’époque victorienne à la première guerre mondiale (1850-1914)
Patricia Crouan-Véron

Résumés

À la différence des récits des premiers voyageurs européens (les Boers) qui accostèrent sur les côtes de l’Afrique Australe en 1652, la plupart des récits de la deuxième moitié du xixe et du début du xxe siècle sont destinés au grand public et de larges extraits sont relayés par la presse de l’époque. Ces traces écrites sont considérées aujourd’hui comme des témoignages précieux car elles nous renseignent non seulement sur une partie du globe à une époque donnée mais elles nous informent aussi sur les « rapporteurs » eux-mêmes et nous obligent à nous interroger sur l’objectivité de ces productions. En d’autres termes, s’intéresser à la représentation de l’Afrique du Sud par des Britanniques à cette période revient à procéder à une véritable archéologie d’un genre souvent dénommé « travel writing ». Il s’agira de proposer un regard croisé sur les pratiques de représentations écrites et visuelles (Il va de soi que l’iconographie qui accompagne les récits de voyageurs marque également l’imaginaire du lecteur de manière significative) des populations africaines — et plus particulièrement des Zoulous — par les voyageurs. Nous tenterons de répondre à un certain nombre de questions : existe-t-il une spécificité du récit de voyage en fonction de son auteur ? Le regard porté sur les Zoulous est-il le même lorsqu’il s’agit du regard d’un missionnaire, d’un artiste-voyageur ou d’un scientifique ? Dans quelle mesure l’expérience individuelle du voyage rejoint l’expérience collective ? Quel a été l’impact de cette production sur le public victorien et édouardien ?

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Texte intégral

  • 1 R. Thornton is Professor of anthropology at the University of Witwatersrand. He is quoted here by V (...)

1For the South African anthropologist Robert Thornton ‘. . . the discovery of Africa was also a discovery for paper. Had the great Victorian travellers not written anything it would not be said today that they had ‘discovered’ anything’1 (Thornton 509). However provocative it may sound, this statement makes it clear that the encounter between Westerners and the ethnic groups who were considered as ‘native people’ was a key moment in the production of written accounts. They took many forms: some of them were short notes and sketches, diaries, letters, others were official reports written by missionaries or representatives of the British government, works of ethnologists and works of fiction.

  • 2 The Boys’ Friend was ‘a magazine of literature, science, instruction and amusement’.
  • 3 Quoted by Leila Koivunen, Visualizing Africa in Nineteenth-Century British Travel Accounts, p. 9.

2In South Africa—as in any other colonies of the British Empire—the testimonies produced by European travellers in the mid-seventeenth century were aimed at other travellers (Fauvelle 107). As most of them were merchants, they gave precious indications concerning places, peoples, fauna and flora to the people who would come after them. But this gradually changed with the ‘Scrambling for Africa’ and newspapers (The Illustrated London News, The Times, The Graphic, The Daily Express, for example) and family and juvenile magazines (The Strand Magazine, The Contemporary Review, Cornhill Magazine, The Boys’ Magazine, The Boys’ Friend,2 Children’s Magazine etc.) delivered large descriptions written by famous travellers, adventurers, artist-travellers as well as scientists. They obviously inspired writers who sometimes also experienced great adventures in distant places. These accounts are now considered as precious sources for many reasons. They not only give us numerous elements about local people whose customs have mostly disappeared, but they also inform us on their observers and encourage us to challenge their representations of this ‘lost world’. How truthful were their representations? How did they represent people they had never encountered before? What was the ‘real’ agenda of these Victorian observers? According to the art historian Ernst H. Gombrich ‘[any] faithful representation of a previously unseen phenomenon is impossible’.3 We can thus imagine that anyone interested in the representation of South Africa by British people at that time should take into account this very particular genre which is called ‘travel writing’.

3In this article, I propose a comparative study of the production of different types of explorers and observers in order to determine if their representations of local people were different. I will try and understand how the individual experience becomes a collective one and I will consider the impact of these representations on Victorian and Edwardian people. I will mainly concentrate on the representation of Zulu people as it was the most represented ethnic group of South Africa in the nineteenth century. My approach is inspired by the works of John M. MacKenzie and J. W. T Mitchell in the sense that both scholars consider text and images not only as objects but they analyse them in relation to the impact they have on the public sphere.

From Observation to Representation

Go-Betweens, Travellers and Cultural Translators4

  • 4 I am borrowing this title from Kapil Raj. See bibliography.
  • 5 This conception inevitably stipulated the superiority of the West.

4Around the year 2000, social and cultural historians as well as anthropologists challenged the traditional conception of a bipartite relationship between ‘the West and the Rest’ at the time of European expansion.5 As a result, new historiographic perspectives have emerged insisting on the importance of ‘connected stories’, ‘intercultural contacts’ and mobility (Raj 42‒43). I will adopt this perspective to show the role played by the different observers of South African people.

Missionaries and Ethnologists

  • 6 The travellers often referred to South African people as ‘Hottentots’, ‘Khoikhoi’ or ‘Kafirs’ and u (...)
  • 7 It was founded in 1795 as The Missionary Society and was renamed The London Missionary Society (LMS (...)
  • 8 Note that John Langalibalele Dube, the first President of the African National Congress in 1917, wa (...)
  • 9 James Stewart (1831‒1905), was a Free Church Minister at New College, Edinburgh. He was also a phys (...)
  • 10 Kaffraria corresponds to the Eastern Cape of South Africa today.
  • 11 Today’s Botswana.
  • 12 It corresponds to today’s Zimbabwe in the South and Zambia in the North.

5Historically, the first missionary society in South Africa was the Moravian mission which was established in the Cape Province by Georg Schmidt (1709‒1785, German) and a small group of Khoikhoi6 in 1737. But, confronted with Boer farmers and the dominant Dutch Reformed Church, Schmidt was forced to leave the Cape five years later. Then, the London Missionary Society7 started sending missionaries to South Africa at the turn of the eighteenth century. They first set up among the Kafir tribes on the north-east of what was the Cape colony (Stewart 101). Then they settled on the north and south banks of the Orange River among the Bushmen, Namaquas, Griquas and the Koranas. Reverend Robert Moffat, Dr Livingstone, John Philip, John Mackenzie were among the most prominent missionaries of this society. Many other religious societies established themselves in South Africa at that time so it would be difficult to list all of them. The American Zulu Mission,8 for example, had developed in Hawaii thanks to its collaboration with indigenous leaders and it wanted to ‘duplicate its success’ in South Africa. After some difficulty they established a mission in Natal in 1854 with the help of Sir George Grey, Governor and High Commissioner at the Cape (Dinnerstein 235). In Dawn on the Black Continent or Africa and its Missions (1903), Reverend James Stewart, from the Free Church of Scotland9 dedicated a chapter to the history of missions in South Africa and he mentioned numerous other societies like the Church of Norway who ‘won the favour of [King] Panda by some medical service and established a station in Zululand in 1850’ (Stewart 260). Methodist societies like the Wesleyan Society also spread from ‘the whole of the Cape Colony through independent Kaffraria10 to Natal, westwards to Bechuanaland11 and northwards into the Transvaal and Rhodesia’12 (Stewart 142).

6The methods of these different religious societies were not necessarily similar but their motivation was the same: they all wanted to ‘spread the knowledge of Christ among heathen and other unenlightened nations’.13 Contrary to the first period of the development of missions which corresponded to the arrival of missionaries in Cape Town and in its surroundings (from 1790 to about 1840) and which was marked by the abolition of slave trade and slavery,14 the second part of the nineteenth century was a period of intense exploration in the interior of the country. ‘This was the opening up of great regions of South Central Africa by Livingstone, of East Central Africa and the Lake Regions by Burton, Speke, Grant, Baker and others’ (Stewart 78).15 Men and women occupied a lot of different positions in the missions. The preachers were almost always accompanied by their families. They were assisted by teachers, doctors, engineers and all sorts of artisan missionaries who helped develop the missions and contributed to making life easier. Most of the time they did not belong to the elite: they were mostly field people who strongly believed that they had a role to play among the native populations. Whether they became famous or not, most missionaries had to be skilled and easily adaptable to the hardships they encountered in the mission stations. This was an absolute prerequisite to survive in such difficult conditions. Indeed, many of them died from tropical diseases (malaria, yellow fever) or skirmishes. It should be mentioned that while the Basotho and the Tswana openly welcomed missionaries, other groups like the Pedi, the Pondo and the Zulu strongly rejected them (Williams 1959).16 The LMS, for example, recommended that the missionaries should have some knowledge of agriculture and mechanics because they considered that they were indispensable in ‘uncivilized countries’ (Williams 1959).

7Livingstone himself insisted on the necessity of having a practical mind and a deep interest in science.17 He wrote: ‘There is much value to be attached to a training in natural science . . . . No missionary ought to go out, at any rate into the heathen field of missions, without some knowledge of surgery, medicine, and their attendant branches of scientific acquirements’.18 Indeed, many missionaries had a medical degree or some knowledge of pharmacopoeia. This was the case of Stewart who founded a hospital in Lovedale mission in the northeast of Cape Town. His approach to local people was quite unusual as he tried to combine Western medicine with the practices of the Zulu medicine men (the Sangomas). His book Dawn on the Black Continent or Africa and its missions (1903) not only gives us contextual elements on the history of missionaries but it also reveals that he is the typical example of a missionary who was really committed to his mission (he stayed in South Africa for forty years) and he was quite a ‘connoisseur’ of the situation in South Africa at that time.19

8However, it cannot be denied that the missionaries became inevitably part of a system: they were sent by their respective congregations and, thus, were part and parcel of the colonial process. But equating them with colonial authority would be too reductive because in practical situations missionaries found themselves frequently thrown into direct antagonistic relationships with the white rulers, traders and employers, as mentioned by Etherington.

Towards a Specialisation of the Representation of the Other20

  • 20 The concept of the Other has notably been developed by E. Said in his book Orientalism (1978). It i (...)
  • 21 Monica Wilson quoted by J. & J. Comaroff (Comaroff vol.1, xiv).

9If we try to understand the role of the missionaries in the representation of Zulu people we may feel confused between two apparently contrasted views. According to Etherington ‘To some [critics], the missionary deserved more opprobrium even than the white settler or the mining magnate [because] he wanted to colonise the natives’ minds’ (Etherington 1983, 130). On the other hand, as mentioned by the anthropologist Monica Wilson, ‘It is impossible to understand the past and present in South Africa without taking into account the salience of religion’ (Wilson xiv).21 Indeed, the boundaries between the different observers are blurred and it is difficult to use categories because each of them played different roles. We have seen that the early missionaries were some kind of explorers (Campbell, Mackenzie); they were sent to a country they did not know and were literally confronted to Otherness. This was compounded by the fact that, most of the time, they could not choose their destination: they had to face many hardships before settling down and then had to look for funds and labour to maintain their mission stations. This was in every sense an everyday struggle. Some missionaries were physicians, but they were also linguists, interpreters, teachers, storytellers. For example, Livingstone not only promoted Christianity; he also advocated Civilisation and Commerce (the famous 3Cs!). Monica Wilson, herself, like Isaac Shapera, Agnes Winifred Hoernle, Henri-Philippe Junod and other South African anthropologists, was born of missionary parents. As a last example of the direct relationships between missionaries and anthropologists we should add that A. R Radcliffe-Brown (1880‒1955) organised vacation courses for missionaries and civil servants with the School of African Life and Languages in the 1920s (Niehaus 103).

  • 22 See for example ‘A white doctor vaccinating an African child, surrounded by crowds of women and chi (...)
  • 23 This type of depiction can be found in most documents released on the subject in the second part of (...)
  • 24 For example, from the DEFAP collection, Edith M. E. Baring-Gould, Strange Faces from Many Places, A (...)
  • 25 His most popular books are The Essential Kafir (1904), Savage Children (1906) and Echoes from the B (...)

10With the missionary expansion, the development of technical innovations in the printed press and the beginning of mass communication in the last part of the nineteenth century, they did not hesitate to advertise their action out of the religious sphere and they popularised the importance of providing education and welfare to African people. They showed photographs of vaccination campaigns,22 white schoolmistresses surrounded by black children, groups of idle children sitting on the floor in front of their kraals, young bare-breasted mothers bearing their babies on their backs, old men or women standing alone in the wilderness. By doing so, they emphasized the opposition between ‘primitive cultures’ and ‘civilised cultures’ and their publications became the ‘vehicles of imperial propaganda’ (MacKenzie 16‒38).23 Their implication in the ethnological field as well as their will to justify their role in the missions became visible to a larger audience. Their documentation was no longer limited to letters addressed to the headquarters of their congregation, leaflets printed for Sunday classes and aimed at children,24 or annual reports in evangelical magazines. Dudley Kidd, as a missionary photographer, is a significant example of the link between missionary work, ethnological studies and popularisation. He wrote eleven books25 illustrated by his own photographs of ‘Kafirs’ (Swazis, Pondos, Zulus, Tembus, etc.) and was a pioneer in the study of ‘Kafir’ children. In the preface of The Essential Kafir, a note was reprinted from The Standard. It praises his work and indirectly stresses the impact of such a study on the public sphere:

  • 26 This note is reprinted in the edition of Savage Children, a Study of Kafir children, 1906. It conta (...)

Mr Kidd’s power of observation and his insight into character are unusual. . . . . He takes his readers with him into the innermost recesses of native thought, whether of things material or things spiritual, of hope or fear, joy or grief. We get indeed, an insight into the Kafir view of the mysteries of life, of his relation to the universes and his fellows . . .  as useful as it is interesting.26

11Indeed, Kidd was also the author of a special issue entitled The Heart of Man. Who can know it? (1890) from the series Peeps at Many Lands which was quite fashionable at that time. A note of the editor states that this series was a ‘smart marketing tool that not only sold more books, but [was] instrumental in shaping public imagination and literary taste by providing accessible (‘cheap’) books destined for the home library. . . .  These attractive books were (and still are) desirable collectables’.

  • 27 Books or magazines published by Palala Press are by or about people of African descent.

12It is also worth mentioning that some of his books have recently been reissued in British (Forgotten Books, 2018) and African American editions (Palala Press27, 2016), which is a sign of the ongoing vivid interest in this subject. The numerous photographs he took are all emblematic of what is now called ‘ethnological photography’. Some of them can be found in the Wellcome collection in London. They represent young children (‘Zulu babies’, ref. 541968i), domestic scenes (‘A group of African women on a mission station’, ref. 536746i, ‘Two African women doing washing at a mission station in Tembuland’, ref. 536739i, ‘A group of African girls carrying pots of red clay’, ref. 536784i, ‘African people outside a mission station building near Lake St Lucia’, ref. 536707i ) or local people being treated by a white physician (‘A missionary examining an African man’s mouth, ref. 536825i). We will see in the next section how these pictures contributed to the biased and stereotyped imagery of South African people.

From an Individual to a Collective Experience

Visualisation Process and Storytelling

13How did the individual experience of the first explorers become a collective experience? Did other observers produce different contents? How did these representations interact? These are the questions we will try to answer in this second part.

14We have seen that Livingstone was accompanied by some scientists in his expeditions and that his adventures were far from being a solitary quest. For his second journey to the Zambesi River, he travelled with his brother Charles who was the photographer of the expedition and Thomas Baines who was hired as a botanist, draughtsman and storekeeper. In his book Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, he explained that his intentions were not only humanitarian and religious but they were also part of the imperial project

. . .  to extend the knowledge already attained of the geography and mineral and agricultural resources of Eastern and Central Africa, to improve our acquaintance with the inhabitants, and engage them to apply their energies to industrial pursuits, and to the cultivation of their lands with a view to the production of the raw material to be exported to England in return for British manufacturers. (Livingstone 15)

  • 28 See for example Speke’s album of water colours which can be consulted at the RGS, PICLIB, B010 or t (...)

15The Royal Geographical Society sponsored the expedition’s scientific instruments (cameras, sextants, compasses, barometers, etc.) for the explorers. In return, the society expected some ‘records’ and ‘evidence’ of the travellers’ ‘discoveries’ which they reproduced in the proceedings and journals of the Society. Today we can read the issues of the Journal of the Geographic Society of London from 1831 to 1880 on the site of the RGS as well as the Proceedings from 1857 to 1892 and the Monthly Record of Geography from 1879 to 1892. They contain addresses to the RGS, commentaries, notes taken en route by different explorers, extracts from the explorers’ journals. Even if they were not publicly accessible at the time, they were reproduced in newspapers and magazines which also advertised the numerous public lectures given by the travellers all around the country. Back from their expeditions, the travellers used to put their pictures in albums, writing descriptive captions and sharing these views with their families and friends.28 They often sent their pictures and notes to botanists, zoologists and other scientists to ask them to identify some animals and plants (Koivunen 106). The enthusiasm for ‘primitive’ cultures (Tylor, Frazer, Lang) was such that more and more people were attracted by the images of these ‘exotic’ people. Thomas Baines’s paintings and James Chapman’s photographs (more than one hundred) were even shown at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1867.

  • 29 See letters to Sir William Hooker, the director of the botanical gardens at Kew for example. They m (...)
  • 30 See T. Baines’s illustration ‘War dance under a fig tree’ 1859 reprinted in Livingstone’s Narrative (...)
  • 31 Samuel Daniell’s A Hottentot Woman (1805) in Sketches Representing the Native Tribes and Scenery of (...)
  • 32 W. J. Burchell’s Female Hottentot (1820) in Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa, Vol. 1 (182 (...)
  • 33 G. F. Angas’s The Kafirs Illustrated in a series of drawings taken among the Amazulu, Amaponda and (...)
  • 34 Their paintings eventually inspired some photographers like Alfred Martin Duggan-Cronin and a lot o (...)

16Indeed, Thomas Baines joined several expeditions organised by the RGS. He travelled with James Chapman to South West Africa and published Explorations in South West Africa in 1864 while Chapman published Travels in the Interior of South West Africa in 1868. Both men shared the ambition of most explorers at this time: they wanted to collect information but they also wanted to sell it.29 One of the narrative themes that Baines exploited in words and images was the representation of Zulu people. His water colours and paintings followed the principles of ethnological studies (text accompanying very detailed illustrations) but they also produced stereotyped images insisting on exotic elements (nakedness, hairstyle, attitudes, accessories such as beadwork, knobkerries, assegais, etc.). Thus, they contributed to the emergence of a sort of romantic vision of Africa and participated in the misrepresentation of this part of the world by Westerners. His predilection for some motifs like the warrior figure in the tradition of the ‘Noble Savage’, chiefs or Zulu dancers30 became quite famous even in his own time (Godby 30) and they were also part of theportrait galleries’ painted by artist-travellers like Samuel Daniell31 (1775‒1811), William John Burchell32 (1782‒1863) or George French Angas33 (1822‒1886).34

Mass Production and Collective Imagination

  • 35 For example, Askeys’s ‘Peoples and Places’ series: a twenty-five card set packaged in tins of Briti (...)
  • 36 For example, a series of twelve cards in the collection ‘Greetings of different nations cards’ show (...)

17In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the representations of South Africa (its landscapes and inhabitants) became a marketable product and all sorts of items were produced on a large scale to be sold and collected by Victorian and Edwardian people: images on cigarette packets, tins of biscuits,35 manufactured products sold with Singer sewing machines, series of cards36 and, above all, postcards. As rightly argued by MacKenzie ‘the democratisation of the visual image was undertaken by the postcard’ (MacKenzie 1984, 21). As cheap and handy collectibles, they were a good means to convey messages to a large audience. Studying the representation of Zulu people and their customs through this new medium proves to be quite revealing when considering the influence of these narratives on British people (Teulié).

  • 37 Koivunen, Chapter 7: The inevitable transformation.
  • 38 Koivunen (178).
  • 39 ‘The ethnographic detail of a composition could also be increased by adding objects and artefacts b (...)

18The direct consequence of the mass production of pictures is that they were no longer used to inform or educate British people but rather they became a form of entertainment. Textual framing (captions or short narratives) was not always informative; it sometimes heightened the exotic dimension of an image or it created some distance (expressing contempt, irony, empathy, etc.) implying that the viewer was aware of what was at stake. In other words, Victorian and Edwardian people became new eye witnesses. Koivunen dedicates a whole chapter37 to the ‘inevitable transformation’ undergone by travel accounts: from the technical imperatives (the conversion of images into block prints, the recolouring of pictures, the ‘rearrangement of pictorial elements’38) to the editor’s policies, the misinterpretations of first-hand material, and even dubious practices39 were inevitable. These multiple adaptations contributed to creating a fictionalised version of Africa.

  • 40 See The Battle of Isandhlawana by Edwin Fripp in 1885: British soldiers at the centre of the pictur (...)

19During the Anglo-Zulu war (1879) and the second Boer war (1899‒1902), the ‘traditional’ pastoral scenes were replaced by terrible war scenes showing half-naked Zulus brandishing their spears and running after British soldiers wearing red uniforms.40 According to MacKenzie, war illustrators—like Melton Prior (1845‒1910) who covered the Boer war for the Illustrated London News or Charles E. Fripp who worked for The Graphic as a war correspondent—‘helped both to reflect and shape the popular vision of the Empire at war’ (MacKenzie 1986, 54). Such productions galvanised the imagination of young boys who discovered the existence of such ‘atrocities’ in the numerous boys’ magazines and dreamt of getting rid of the enemy to maintain the Empire.

  • 41 See Marie-Claude Mosimann-Barbier, ‘Henry Rider Haggard in Zululand: A reluctant Imperialist?’, in (...)

20The production of these different observers has naturally inspired writers of ‘imperial romances’ or adventure boys’ stories, a lot of whom had personally experienced colonial life. G. A. Henty, F. S. Brereton, B. Mitford, and H. R. Haggard are the most famous ones. Their adventure stories were serialised in family magazines and they had a wide audience. They used the same pattern as the ones which were used by Campbell, Livingstone or other missionary-explorers to write what we suggest here should be called ‘new travelling accounts’. Their narratives dramatized the adventures of typical characters who sometimes directly referred to historical figures—for instance, Henty’s With Buller in Natal, a Born Leader (1901) or Brereton’s With Wolseley to Komasi: A Tale of the Ashanti (1908). The collective dimension of their work is all the more significant as they sometimes shared the same illustrators. For example, William Rainey who illustrated Henty’s With Buller in Natal contributed to two hundred books and exhibited his paintings at the Royal Academy, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and the Royal Institute of Painters of Water Colours. He won medals at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and in the Paris Exhibition of 1900. Haggard, a writer of ‘popular fiction’, who spent several years in South Africa not only wrote ‘lost race’ tales like She-who-Must-Be-Obeyed or King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quatermain but also published a famous essay called ‘Cetywayo and his White Neighbours’41 (1882) which was re-issued several times. He eventually wrote numerous articles about the political situation in South Africa and published them in The Times and The Daily Express. MacKenzie stresses the connection between these different observers and the production of knowledge on indigenous people:

Stories of travel and exploration, missionary writings and biographies, the endless stream of popular lives of General Gordon and other heroes, books celebrating military and naval exploits, the ‘romance’ of transport, communication and engineering, the excitements of migration and pioneering life, the quaint and exotic among indigenous peoples of the Empire, all became Christmas and birthday present staples, and above all prizes for school and Sunday school. To them we can add the vast range of children’s novels and stories by G. A. Henty, F. SBrereton and others. (MacKenzie 1984, 18)

Conclusion

21The observers who wanted to describe their encounter with South African peoples were inevitably influenced by their personal, social, and cultural background. Their ways of viewing Africa and Africans reveal their lack of knowledge, their conception (or rather misconception) of the Other as well as their interrogations and interpretations (or misinterpretations).

22However, it appears that these different observers did not all have the same motivations and expectations and they logically produced different types of representation. The missionaries focused on the welfare and the education of the people they were supposed to convert and, by doing so, they mostly represented children, women (young mothers) or elderly people. The first anthropologists relied on the experience of the missionaries (both observers were ‘men in the field’) to provide a scientific documentation on local people. Their observations and analyses were quite in the same line. They focused on ‘typical characters’ (women, initiates, witch doctors, for example) and concentrated on social interactions (courting, wedding ceremony, war dance, funeral, etc.).

23As for the production of the other observers (other scientists, artists, officials and writers) one should mainly differentiate their intentions to evaluate their productions: were they informative, entertaining, exotic or biased…? For example, whilst many artists were interested in the depiction of local royal families, ‘Noble savages’ or ‘Zulu Belles’ (Angas, Baines), scientists developed racial theories about the innate inferiority of African people (craniology, phrenology, physiology, etc.) and they focused on some characteristics of the different African ethnic groups and very often singled them out in full-length portraits or close-ups on some physical aspects, and all the while colonial officials insisted on the ‘uncivilised’ character of local people to maintain and justify their control on the population. In the end, we can assume that what is common to all these presentations is that, consciously or unconsciously, they conveyed stereotypes and clichés which persist today.

  • 42 See the 2021 symposium of the SFEVE, Showcasing Empire, Then and Now: Material Culture, Propaganda (...)
  • 43 See Stephen Coan and Alfred Tella, Mameena and Other Plays: The Complete Dramatic Works of H. Rider (...)

24In terms of reception, the first representations did not reach a wide audience as they were mostly restricted to the private sphere. But in the 1850s with the development of the mass media and the height of British imperialism they became popular and had a significant impact on Victorian and Edwardian people as ‘more images were printed and circulated than ever before’ (Koivunen 3). Indeed, it appears that the images gradually became predominant in the popular press and in the public sphere42 as shown by the development of postcards, the numerous exhibitions, fairs, ‘Freak shows’ and theatrical representations showing Zulu people ‘in flesh and blood’.43 Sadiah Qureshi demonstrated how the promotional materials of these shows (playbills, handbills, etc.) often relied on travel literature to stimulate the public’s curiosity:

. . . promotional materials effectively extended invitations designed to encourage patrons to interpret the shows within diverse frameworks ranging from literature to foreign affairs. By employing these strategies, showmen made their materials of fundamental importance in shaping the show’s receptions while simultaneously implicating them in the creation of broader nineteenth-century attitudes toward human difference. (Qureshi 49)

  • 44 ‘Images like histories and technologies, are our creations, yet also commonly thought to be ‘out of (...)

25To some extent, we can say that these images ‘took over’ the texts which accompanied them (descriptions and captions) and became ‘out of control’ to use Mitchell’s words.44

  • 45 ‘une immense sphère de brassage’

26Finally, we can determine that the diversity of discourses produced by various observers with different motivations led to a kind of ‘stirring pot’. Fauvelle refers to ‘a huge sphere of exchanges’45 (Fauvelle 37, my translation) while Jean and John Comaroff speak of ‘a cascade of narratives that strung together motley ‘scientific facts’ and poetic images-facts and images surveyed by an ever more roving European eye’ (Comaroff 87). Whether they were produced by travellers, artists or scientists, the British public had become familiar with them and they are now part of the collective imagination.

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Bibliographie

Primary sources

Angas, George French. Kafirs Illustrated: Sketches Representing the Native Tribes and Scenery of Southern Africa. London: J. Hogarth, 1849.

Baines, Thomas. Explorations in South West Africa, Being an Account of a Journey in the Years 1861 and 1862 from Walvisch Bay, on the Western Coast to the Lake Ngami and the Victoria Falls. London: Longman, Green, Longman Roberts and Green, 1864.

Brereton, Frederick Sadler. With Shield and Assegai: A Tale of the Zulu War. London: Blackie, 1899.

Brereton, Frederick Sadler. With Wolseley to Komasi: A Tale of the First Ashanti War. London: Blackie, 1908.

Burchell, William John. Travels in the Interior of South Africa. Vols. 1 & 2. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1822.

Campbell, John. Travels of South Africa Undertaken at the Request of the Missionary Society: Being a Narrative of a Second Journey in the Interior of that Country. London: Black, Parry, & co, 1815.

Chapman, James. Travels in the Interior of South West Africa 1849-1863 with Journeys across the Continent from Natal to Walvisch Bay, and Visits to Lake Ngami and the Victoria Falls. 2 vols. London: Bell & Daldy, 1868.

Daniell, Samuel. Sketches Representing the Native Tribes and Scenery of Southern Africa. London: Richard and Arthur Taylor, 1820.

Frazer, James. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. 15 vols. London: Macmillan and Co, 1890.

Haggard, Henry Rider. Cetywayo and his White Neighbours. London: Trübner, June 1882. Second edition with new introduction, 1888.

Haggard, Henry Rider. ‘The Zulus: The Finest Savage Race in the World’. London: Pall Mall Magazine, June 1908.

Henty, G. A. With Buller in Natal, a Born Leader. London: Blackie, 1901.

Henty, G. A. The Young Colonist: A Story of the Zulu and Boer wars. London: Blackie, 1901.

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Kidd, Dudley. Peeps at Many Lands. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1910.

Lang, Andrew. Custom and Myth. London: Longmans, Green, and co, 1874.

Lang, Andrew. Myth, Ritual and Religion. London: Longmans, Green, and co, 1887.

Sedgwick, Adam. Dr Livingstone’s Cambridge Lectures. London: W. Monk, 1858.

Stewart, James. Dawn on the Black Continent or Africa and its Missions (1903). Edinburgh & London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1903.

Tylor, Edward Burnett. Primitive Culture. Vols. 1 and 2. London: John Murray, 1871.

Tylor, Edward Burnett. Anthropology: An Introduction to the Study of Man and Civilisation. London: Macmillan and Co, 1881.

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Coan, Stephen, and Alfred Tella. Mameena and Other Plays: The Complete Dramatic Works of H. Rider Haggard. Ed. with an introduction and notes by S. Coan and A. Tella. Johannesburg: U of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2007.

Crouan-Véron, Patricia. ‘Henry Rider Haggard and John Langalibalele Dube on the Native Land Act Question in South Africa after the Passing of the Native Land Act (1913)’. Marang: Journal of Language and Literature, special issue on Race, Identity and Ethnicity in the SADC region, U. of Botswana, vol. 32, 2020, https://journals.ub.bw/index.php/marang/issue/view/132 : 89‒102.

Dinnerstein, Myra. ‘The American Zulu Mission in the Nineteenth Century: Clash over Customs’. Church History 45.2 (June 1976): 235‒46, https://0-www-jstor-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/stable/3163720, accessed 20 May 2023.

Dodman, Daniel. ‘Race, Respect and Revenge: British Attitude to the Zulu in the Conflict of 1879’. JAZWHS 23 (2008): 34‒46.

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Notes

1 R. Thornton is Professor of anthropology at the University of Witwatersrand. He is quoted here by V. Y. Mudimbé, p. 28.

2 The Boys’ Friend was ‘a magazine of literature, science, instruction and amusement’.

3 Quoted by Leila Koivunen, Visualizing Africa in Nineteenth-Century British Travel Accounts, p. 9.

4 I am borrowing this title from Kapil Raj. See bibliography.

5 This conception inevitably stipulated the superiority of the West.

6 The travellers often referred to South African people as ‘Hottentots’, ‘Khoikhoi’ or ‘Kafirs’ and used these words indifferently but they refer to different ethnic groups (the word ‘Hottentot’ was mostly used before the twentieth century. Then, it was replaced by the word ‘Khoikhoi’). The Khoikhoi are of San origin and their skin is generally lighter than the other ethnic groups (Fauvelle 161).

7 It was founded in 1795 as The Missionary Society and was renamed The London Missionary Society (LMS) in 1818. From the turn of the nineteenth century to the mid twentieth century the London Missionary Society remained one of the most famous organisations in the world.

8 Note that John Langalibalele Dube, the first President of the African National Congress in 1917, was raised in the American Zulu Mission. He was born at Inanda Mission station in Natal in 1871. His grandfather was a Qadi chief. His father, James Dube, was one of the first ministers ordained by the AZM. See also my article about his relation with the writer H. R Haggard, ‘Henry Rider Haggard and John Langalibalele Dube on the Native Land Act Question in South Africa after the Passing of the Native Land Act (1913)’.

9 James Stewart (1831‒1905), was a Free Church Minister at New College, Edinburgh. He was also a physician, a botanist and a linguist and he was considered as a pioneer in medical missions because he founded a hospital in Lovedale. He became Principal of Lovedale in 1867 one year after his arrival. As he spent forty years in the mission, he was also called Stewart of Lovedale. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Stewart (missionary).

10 Kaffraria corresponds to the Eastern Cape of South Africa today.

11 Today’s Botswana.

12 It corresponds to today’s Zimbabwe in the South and Zambia in the North.

13 This is a quote from The Missionary Magazine for Children, vol. 1, 1844.

14 The Foreign Slave Trade Act was voted by the British Parliament in 1806.

15 The last stage ended around the beginning of the twentieth century. It was a period of ‘great expansion and great consolidation of missions in previously occupied fields’ (Stewart 78).

16 Williams’s book is referred to on https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/european-missionaries-southern-africa-role-missionaries, accessed on May 14 2023.

17 See the inscription on Livingstone’s bronze statue sculpted by Amelia Robertson Hill in Edinburgh: ‘A bible in his right hand, a compass and pistol at his waist and an axe in his left hand’.

18 See https://archive.org/stream/drlivingstonesca00livi/drlivingstonesca00livi_djvu.txt (before appendix 170), accessed May 25 2023.

19 As a field missionary he used to say that he had always wanted to go to Africa ‘with a bible in his pocket and a rifle on his shoulder to supply his wants’.

20 The concept of the Other has notably been developed by E. Said in his book Orientalism (1978). It is a key concern in postcolonial studies.

21 Monica Wilson quoted by J. & J. Comaroff (Comaroff vol.1, xiv).

22 See for example ‘A white doctor vaccinating an African child, surrounded by crowds of women and children waiting to be vaccinated’. Process print after a photograph by Meisenbach, ref. 17883i, Wellcome collection. https://wellcomecollection.org/works/uzaqjyy9, accessed 27 January 2023. George Meisenbach (1841‒1912) was a photographer and reproductive printmaker and we can easily imagine that the images he released were seen by a high number of people. His portrait can be seen in the National Portrait Gallery.

23 This type of depiction can be found in most documents released on the subject in the second part of the nineteenth century. I have been able to access many examples in public libraries in France (DEFAP – Département Evangélique Français d’Action Apostolique – or Service protestant des Missions, Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris) in Great Britain (Wellcome collection in London), in South Africa (Killie Campbell Library in Durban). I should add all the digital versions released by libraries which can also be consulted online (SOAS, DELCAMPE for example) as well as digitalised private collections and auction sites.

24 For example, from the DEFAP collection, Edith M. E. Baring-Gould, Strange Faces from Many Places, A Missionary Alphabet London Church Missionary Society, Salisbury Square, E.C, unidentified date. It is obviously aimed at Victorian children to educate and entertain them with drawings and photographs of people from different ethnic groups in different countries. Miss Edith Baring-Gould (1887-1941) is also the author of 41 travel journals in which she relates her travels in the company of her father. She accompanied Church Missionary Society delegations to numerous countries including North America, Japan, China, Ceylon, India, Central and East Africa. See https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/search/archives/e2a63055-16db-319d-a8a4-bc7daa040c5b, accessed 26 May 2023.

25 His most popular books are The Essential Kafir (1904), Savage Children (1906) and Echoes from the Battlefields of South Africa (1900) which was reissued in 2015 by Creative Media Partners, LLC.

26 This note is reprinted in the edition of Savage Children, a Study of Kafir children, 1906. It contains thirty-two full-page illustrations from photographs by the author (London, Adam and Charles Black, 1906).

27 Books or magazines published by Palala Press are by or about people of African descent.

28 See for example Speke’s album of water colours which can be consulted at the RGS, PICLIB, B010 or the photos taken by Dr Tempest Anderson (1846‒1913), ophthalmologist, volcanologist, inventor and amateur photographer, member of the British Association of the Advancement of Science, the Royal Geographical Society, the Geological and Linnean Society. They are located at the Wellcome Collection in London. Anderson travelled around the world and gave many lectures which he illustrated with his own photographs (about 5,000 photographs).

29 See letters to Sir William Hooker, the director of the botanical gardens at Kew for example. They mention Sir William Hooker (the director of the botanical Gardens at Kew: https://0-plants-jstor-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/stable/10.5555/al.ap.visual.kadc7125) as someone who was clearly expecting their images.

30 See T. Baines’s illustration ‘War dance under a fig tree’ 1859 reprinted in Livingstone’s Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi and Its Tributaries, and of the Discovery of the Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa, 1858-1864. London: John Murray, 1865.

31 Samuel Daniell’s A Hottentot Woman (1805) in Sketches Representing the Native Tribes and Scenery of Southern Africa (1820).

32 W. J. Burchell’s Female Hottentot (1820) in Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa, Vol. 1 (1822).

33 G. F. Angas’s The Kafirs Illustrated in a series of drawings taken among the Amazulu, Amaponda and Amakosa tribes (1849).

34 Their paintings eventually inspired some photographers like Alfred Martin Duggan-Cronin and a lot of cabinet photographers (like the Caney brothers) at the turn of the century.

35 For example, Askeys’s ‘Peoples and Places’ series: a twenty-five card set packaged in tins of British biscuits (Sobadia 316).

36 For example, a series of twelve cards in the collection ‘Greetings of different nations cards’ showing a Zulu warrior in full regalia, Zulu dancers, etc.

37 Koivunen, Chapter 7: The inevitable transformation.

38 Koivunen (178).

39 ‘The ethnographic detail of a composition could also be increased by adding objects and artefacts brought from Africa or on display in European museums—a practice that had been used for centuries to vitalize European representations of non-Western people’ (Koivunen 184).

40 See The Battle of Isandhlawana by Edwin Fripp in 1885: British soldiers at the centre of the picture are holding bayonets and resisting the half-naked warriors holding spears and assegais. The contrast between the red colour of the British uniforms and the dark colour of the Zulu’s skin emphasizes the dramatic situation and the horror of the scene.

41 See Marie-Claude Mosimann-Barbier, ‘Henry Rider Haggard in Zululand: A reluctant Imperialist?’, in Another Vision of Empire. Henry Rider Haggard’s Modernity and Legacy, E-Rea (revue électronique d’études sur le monde anglophone), https://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/erea/10058, accessed 20 May 2023.

42 See the 2021 symposium of the SFEVE, Showcasing Empire, Then and Now: Material Culture, Propaganda and the Imperial Object, and the special CVE issue https://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/cve/8724?lang=en.

43 See Stephen Coan and Alfred Tella, Mameena and Other Plays: The Complete Dramatic Works of H. Rider Haggard. Ed. with an introduction and notes by S. Coan and A. Tella, Johannesburg, U. of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2007.

44 ‘Images like histories and technologies, are our creations, yet also commonly thought to be ‘out of our control’—or at least out of ‘someone’s’ control, the question of agency and power being central to the way images work’ (Mitchell, Picture Theory 6).

45 ‘une immense sphère de brassage’

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Patricia Crouan-Véron, « Representation and Reception of the Image of the Zulu. From Travel Accounts to the Public Sphere in Mid-Victorian and Edwardian Great Britain (1850–1914) »Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens [En ligne], 99 Printemps | 2024, mis en ligne le 01 mars 2024, consulté le 12 juin 2024. URL : http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/cve/14439

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Patricia Crouan-Véron

Patricia Crouan-Véron studies Victorian and Edwardian popular fiction. She is particularly interested in imperial romance (1880‒1914) with a special emphasis on questions of identity, and the relationship between literature and society. More recently, she has focused on written and visual representations of South Africa at the turn of the century and their impact on the British people. She directed a special issue on ‘The power of images, affects and emotions’ with Laure De Nervaux-Gavoty (Université Paris Est Créteil) for Ties in 2019 and another issue with Gilles Teulié (Université Aix-Marseille) entitled ‘Another vision of Empire. Henry Rider Haggard’s Modernity and Legacy’, published in e-Rea. She is currently preparing a monography on ‘The Representation of South Africa through the figure of the Zulu (1879-1925): popular fiction and other forms of expression in the public space’.
Patricia Crouan-Véron travaille sur la fiction populaire victorienne et édouardienne et plus particulièrement sur les récits d’aventures et de mondes perdus qui se situent en Afrique du Sud (période 1880-1914). Elle s’intéresse aux questions d’identités, de représentations littéraires et visuelles de l’Afrique du Sud et, plus généralement, à l’hybridité littéraire et à ses enjeux. Elle a codirigé avec Laure De Nervaux-Gavoty (Université Paris Est Créteil) un numéro portant sur « Le pouvoir de l’image, affects et émotions dans le domaine littéraire et dans les arts visuels » paru dans la revue TIES en 2019. En 2020, elle a codirigé avec Gilles Teulié (Université Aix-Marseille) un autre ouvrage collectif intitulé Another Vision of Empire. Henry Rider Haggard’s Modernity and Legacy paru aux éditions e-Rea. Elle se consacre actuellement à la rédaction d’une monographie dont le titre provisoire est La Représentation de l’Afrique du Sud en Grande-Bretagne à travers la figure du Zoulou (1879-1925) : fictions populaires et expressions dans l’espace public.

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