Algeria – Zouave on sentry duty

Zouave en faction.jpg

Description

The postcard depicts a Zouave soldier in full uniform, resting on his rifle and gazing into the distance. The soldier’s facial expression conveys confidence, reliability, and strength, assuring the viewer of value that the Zouaves offered the French army. The soldier wears a traditional Zouave uniform of baggy, red trousers, a short, open-fronted jacket, and the typical head gear. The traditional sash seems to be missing.

Context

Zouave was the name for the light infantry regiment from North Africa. The name originated from the Kabyle tribe living in the district of Zuavia in Algeria. The region was known for its brave mercenaries fighting for the Ottoman Empire. From 1831, the French deployed Zouave regiments, in particular during their conquest of Algeria. However by World War I, the Zouaves had lost their special status and their regiments were composed mostly of conscripts from among French settlers in North Africa. The Zouaves were deployed on the Western Front and even began to recruit prisoners of war amongst their ranks. They retained their traditional colourful uniforms until 1915, only replacing them for better camouflage. The image of the 'oriental' soldier prevailed, even though the troops were no longer comprised of colonials. This was thought to frighten enemies, capitalising on the Zouaves’ reputation as brave and efficient warriors. It also provided reassurance to the French public of the strength of their army.