Photograph from German East African Campaign

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Description

This private photograph comes from an album of a British soldier who served in the East African campaign. It depicts a local civilian being held by an Indian sepoy for the duration of the photograph. It reflects the desire of many Europeans encountering non-Europeans in the war to document these meetings. Unable or unwilling to explain the process of photographing, the Indian sepoy is made to hold the African for the picture.

Context

The Allied campaign against the German colony in East Africa saw one of the most diverse forces of the war, as soldiers, labourers, and porters from the entire region were recruited or forced into service. These men were joined by troops from other parts of Africa, such as South Africa and Nigeria, as well as men from Britain and India. We know very little about the encounters and exchanges between the different soldiers and the local population, but photographs provide an important snapshot of these events. The majority of these images are private photographs taken by Europeans, and so reflect a Western view and perspective of Africa and its population. Most aimed to imitate an ethnographic aesthetic, forcing their subjects into rigid poses; a few others tried to capture the hardship of the campaign and impact of the war on local civilians.