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“Fallacious Mirrors:” Colonial Anxiety and Images of African Labor in Mozambique, ca. 1929*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 May 2014

Eric Allina*
Affiliation:
Yale University

Extract

African historiography has over the past decade begun to pay increasing attention to photographs as a source for African history. A growing body of work has raised a number of methodological and theoretical questions about how scholars can and should work with images. From their experience with written documents, historians are aware of the ideologically charged conditions under which colonial knowledge was produced. This awareness has armed scholars with a skepticism to look beyond the image itself and examine the physical and technological environment in which photographers worked. Posed studio shots that create “natural” settings and post-event retouching are only some of the practices photographers used to endow their images with a greater semblance of accuracy.

Andrew Roberts and David Killingray's “outline” of photography in Africa charts the development of photographic techniques and how their use created specific kinds of images of Africa; Virginia-Lee Webb emphasizes photographers' manipulation of not only their subjects, but also the environment in which they were photographed. What this work has produced is an oft-spoken axiom that photographic images of Africa (or any other place) ought not be taken at face value. This axiom has guided a significant amount of scholarship, although Beatrix Heintze wisely cautions against overinterpretation.

Scholars who work with written documentary evidence from the colonial period have well established the ways in which administrators, missionaries, and other Europeans represented Africans as an “other,” as they sought to create cultural and social distance between themselves and Africans. Still other scholars have combined written and oral materials to show how Africans established their own identities and interpreted colonial discourses to create alternative, liberating discursive spaces.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © African Studies Association 1997

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Footnotes

*

Thanks are due to Paul Landau, who directed my research into the literature of photography in Africa, and also to the other participants in the Yale Program of Agrarian Studies' Graduate Student Colloquium, who provided not only thoughtful comments, but also a great title.

References

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2. Killingray, David and Roberts, Andrew, “An Outline of Photograph in Africa to ca. 1940,” History in Afria, 16 (1989), 197208CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Webb, Virginia-LeeFact and Fiction: Nineteenth-Photographs of the Zulu,” African Arts, 25/1 (1992), 5059.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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8. The only attribution provided refers to “the [two] amateur photographers who mostly contributed to these Albums.” Rufino, , Albuns Fotogràficos, volume 1, 3.Google Scholar One of these two—Ignàcio Piedade Pó, a native of Goa—was a photographer who worked for the national railway company (Caminhos de Ferro de Moçambique). Pó is pictured in photo 1; he died in 1975. Thanks to Dr. António Sopa of the Arquivo Histórico de Moçambique for this biographical information.

9. Crary, Jonathan, Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 1990), 6.Google Scholar

10. In addition to the two photographers mentioned, the albums identify the author of the extensive descriptions and captions, and “the initiator, compiler, and editor” of the project. Rufino, Santos, Albuns Fotográficos, volume 1, 3Google Scholar

11. Rufino, , Albuns Fotográficos, volume 10, vii.Google Scholar

12. In a 1661 treaty Britain undertook to defend Portuguese colonial conquests, an alliance that came under strain in the late 1880s and early 1890s, when Portugal made a number of attempts to push her territorial claims beyond those recognized in 1885 in Berlin. Britain fiercely opposed these attempts, culminating in the infamous Ultimatum of 1891.

13. Duffy, James, Portuguese Africa (Cambridge, 1959), 148–49.Google Scholar

14. Ibid., 155.

15. Penvenne, Jeanne, “Forced Labor and the Origin of an African Working Class: Lourenço Marques, 1870-1962” (Boston, 1979), 1.Google Scholar

16. Cited in Duffy, , Portuguese Africa, 155–56.Google Scholar

17. Ibid.

18. Smith, Alan K., “António Salazar and the Reversal of Portuguese Colonial Policy,” JAH, 15 (1974), 655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

19. Duffy, , Portuguese Africa, 224.Google Scholar

20. Ibid., 150.

21. Nevinson, Henry, A Modern Slavery (London, 1906), 37.Google Scholar

22. Ibid., 46.

23. Ibid., 117.

24. Ibid., 58.

25. Ibid., 167.

26. Anti-Slavery Reporter, 26/1 (January-February 1906): 6.Google Scholar

27. Anti-Slavery Reporter, 25/4 (August-October 1905): 94, 92.Google Scholar

28. Anti-Slavery Reporter, 26/3 (June-July 1906): 82.Google Scholar

29. Anti-Slavery Reporter, 27/5 (November-December 1907): 124.Google Scholar

30. Cited in Anti-Slavery Reporter, 27/3 (June-July 1907): 79.Google Scholar

31. Ibid, 79-80.

32. Duffy, , A Question of Slavery (Cambridge, 1967), 202.Google Scholar

33. Duffy, , Portuguese Africa, 155.Google Scholar

34. Ibid.

35. Ibid., 156.

36. Ibid., 164.

37. Harris, John, Portuguese Slavery: Britain's Dilemma (London, 1913), 9.Google Scholar

38. Ibid., 10.

39. Ibid., 127.

40. de Andrade, A. Freire, Rapport présenté au Ministre des Colonies, à propos du Livre Portuguese Slavery, du Missionaire John Harris (Lisbon, 1914), 3.Google Scholar

41. Ibid., 5.

42. Ibid.

43. Ibid.

44. Ibid., 6.

45. Duffy, , Portuguese Africa, 164.Google Scholar

46. Ross, Edward A., Report on Employment of Native Labor in Portuguese Africa, (New York, 1925), passim.Google Scholar

47. Ross, , Report on Employment, 12.Google Scholar

48. Ross, , Report of Employment, 53.Google Scholar The Mozambique Company was one of the chartered companies that Portugal set up in the 1890s along the model provided by Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company. The Company governed 65,000 square miles of central Mozambique with quasi-sovereign authority from 1892 to 1942.

49. Ibid., 19,58.

50. Ibid., 60.

51. Santos, Oliveira, Reply to the Accusations Addressed to the League of Nations by Mr. Edward A. Ross (Lisbon, 1930).Google Scholar The original Portuguese version was published in 1927.

52. Ibid., 14.

53. Ibid., 21.

54. “Algumas Obervações ao Relatório do Professor Ross” [Some Observations on the Report of Professor Ross], Boletim da Agência Geral das Colónias, no. 6-8 (1926).

55. Ibid., 154.

56. Cavolia, Lourenço, “A Obra da Colonização Portuguesa” [The Work of Portuguese Colonization], Boletim da Agência Geral das Colónias, no. 7 (1926), 24.Google Scholar

57. Ibid., 25.

58. de Vasconcellos, Ernesto, “Os Portugueses Não São Incapazes Colonizadores,” Boletim da Agência Geral das Colónias, no. 7 (1926), 35.Google Scholar

59. Ibid., 3.

60. Ibid., 4-5.

61. Ibid., 5.

62. Ibid., 101.

63. MacKenzie, John, Propaganda and Empire: The Manipulation of British Public Opinion, 1880-1960 (Manchester, 1984), 97.Google Scholar

64. Ibid., 99.

65. Ibid., 100.

66. Ibid., 99.

67. Greenhalgh, Paul, Ephemeral Vistas: The Expositions Universelles, Great Exhibitions and World's Fairs, 1851-1939 (Manchester, 1988), 70.Google Scholar

68. Ibid., 70.

69. Ibid.

70. Paris 1931 International Colonial Exhibition, Your Guide (Paris, 1931)Google Scholar, quoted in Greenhalgh, , Ephemeral Vistas, 70.Google Scholar

71. Exposition Coloniale Internationale et des Pays D'Outre-Mer, , Rapport Général, volume 7 (Paris, 1934), 335.Google Scholar

72. Ibid., 336.

73. Ibid., 345.

74. Ibid., 354.

75. Rufino, , Albuns Fotográficos, volume 1, viii.Google Scholar

76. Ibid., volume 10, iii.

77. Lourenço Marques Guardian, 24 October 1929,3. Thanks once again to Dr. António Sopa of the Arquivo Histórico de Moçambique for this reference.

78. The captions are not specifically attributed to Costa, head of the Statistics Department of the Mozambique Company, leaving their authorship somewhat hazy. Further complicating the subject of authorship is the question of translation, as all the text in the series is rendered in Portuguese, French, and English. The volumes identify the translator as Frank Hildescheim, a civil engineer who, identified as being from Hamburg, was probably German.

79. Duffy, , Portuguese Africa, 148.Google Scholar

80. Rufino, , Albuns Fotográficos, volume 10, ix.Google Scholar

81. Ibid., volume 3, 61.

82. Ibid., volume 1, vii.

83. Ibid., volume 2, 60, 65, 88.

84. Ibid., volume 10, 5.

85. Ibid., volume 10, xii.

86. Ibid., volume 7, 95; volume 10, 55; volume 9, 35; volume 4, 3.

87. Ibid,, volume 10, xii.

88. Geary, , “Missionary Photography: Private and Public Readings,” African Arts 24/4 (1991), 49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

89. Rufino, , Albuns Fotográficos, volume 10, 30, 36.Google Scholar

90. Ibid., volume 6, 69; volume 4, 13.

91. Ibid., volume 4, 16, 32.

92. Ibid., volume 6, 61.

93. Ibid., volume 7, 70, 93; volume 5, 47, 92; volume 9, 36.

94. Ross, , Report of Employment of Native Labor in Portuguese Africa, 58.Google Scholar

95. Rufino, , Albuns Fotográficos, volume 9, 73.Google Scholar

96. Prochaska, David, “Fantasia of the Photothèque: French Postcard Views of Colonial Senegal,” African Arts 24/4 (1991), 43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

97. Williams, Raymond, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (New York, 1983), 158.Google Scholar

98. Geary, , “Missionary Photography,” 59.Google Scholar

99. Tagg, Jonathan, The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories (Amherst, 1988), 187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

100. Ibid., 4.

101. Ibid., 2.

102. I have little doubt that the Albuns Fotográficos contain a sufficient number of gendered images that this paper could have focused on gender alone.

103. Vail, /White, , Power and the Praise Poem, 117.Google Scholar

104. Ibid., 127.

105. Tagg, , Burden of Representation, 11.Google Scholar

106. See, for example, Alloula, Malek, The Colonial Harem (Minneapolis, 1986).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

107. Santos Rufino, volume 10, 63. In French, it reads slightly differently: “Sacks of coffee without milk. Old ‘Artifa’ of Chinde.” Chinde is the name of a town situated where the Zambezi river meets the Indian Ocean. “Artifa” may be the woman's name. There is also a play on words, since café com leite/café au lait are staples of Portuguese and French cuisine. What is highly problematic about this image is that the English translation of the caption omits the vulgar reference to the woman's breasts, and prefaces the introduction with a sarcastic “modest.” The difference in translation cannot be due to the knowledge of the translator, for the phrase “Sacos de café sem leite” is hardly a challenging one, and the translator produced passable translations of far more sophisticated passages elsewhere in the volumes. Conceivably, the translator had some ideas about the Anglophone appreciation for vulgarity as falling short of the Francophone or Lusophone. An interesting path for additional research would be to conduct a systematic comparison of the captions throughout the volumes. The comparison would reveal whether there is logic to the omissions or differential translations.

108. Tagg, , Burden of Representation, 188.Google Scholar

109. Rufino, , Albuns Fotográficos, volume 1, vii.Google Scholar

110. Ibid, volume 9, 67.

111. Geary, , “Missionary Photography,” 48.Google Scholar

112. Gaskell, Ivan, “History of Images” in Burke, Peter, ed., New Perspectives on Historical Writing (University Park, 1992), 183.Google Scholar

113. Gaskell, , “History of Images,” 183.Google Scholar

114. Coombes, Annie E., Reinventing Africa: Museums, Material Culture and Popular Imagination in Late Victorian and Edwardian England (New Haven, 1994), 3.Google Scholar

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