De collectie van het Rijksmuseum omvat een foto waarop drie vrouwen van Indiase afkomst zijn geportretteerd. Mogelijk gaat het om een moeder met haar twee dochters. De jonge vrouw links, zit op het linkerdijbeen van de middelste vrouw, die de hand vasthoudt van de staande vrouw rechts. Dit blogbericht is beperkt tot opmerkingen over de trefwoorden die het museum in de digitale catalogus ´Rijksstudio´ heeft toegekend.1
In de digitale catalogus zijn twee titels opgenomen. Het object zelf bevat, op het passe-partout, de handgeschreven tekst: ‘Britsch-Indische koeliemeisjes.’ Deze oorspronkelijke tekst is in de objectomschrijving opgenomen als tweede titel. De eerste titel bestaat uit de woorden van het museum: ´groepsportret van drie Indiase vrouwen in Calcutta´.
De collectie van het Nederlands Fotomuseum omvat vier werken van Francis Wilberforce Joaque (ca. 1845 – 1893). Op drie van deze werken zijn één of meerdere vrouwen uit Gabon geportretteerd. Joaque kwam ter wereld in Sierra Leone en behoort tot de eerste generatie Afrikaanse fotografen. Tot op heden worden rond de tweehonderd foto’s met aan Joaque toegeschreven, mogelijk bevinden zich reproducties in Nederlandse collecties.
Joaque was actief in de periode dat in West-Afrika de transitie plaatsvond van de trans-Atlantische slavenhandel naar de zogeheten legitieme (ruil)handel: Afrikaanse grondstoffen werden geëxporteerd naar het industrialiserende Europa. Gelijktijdig intensiveerde de Europese kolonisatie van het continent, ook bekend als de ‘wedloop om Afrika’. Beide ontwikkelingen zijn vastgelegd in het werk van Joaque.
Jörg Schneider, verbonden aan de universiteit van Basel, is gespecialiseerd in Afrikaanse fotografie en onderzocht de levensloop en het oeuvre van Joaque. Hij bezocht musea, bibliotheken en archieven op verschillende continenten die werk bewaren van Joaque. Scheinder spreekt van een ‘sterk gefragmenteerd en slecht gedocumenteerd archief’; uiteenlopende ‘archivale culturen’ bepalen of er toegang wordt verkregen tot fotocollecties, of het maken van digitale kopieën is toegestaan en met welke kosten dit gepaard gaat.1
Schneider slaagde er in verschillende opdrachtgevers in kaart te brengen, waaronder katholieke missionarissen, koloniale overheden en handelshuizen. Zo werkte de fotograaf tien jaar samen met Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza (1852-1905), die tussen 1875-1885 drie expedities leidde in Gabon en Congo.2
Joaque’s werkterrein bestreek naast Sierra Leone, ook het eiland Biako (destijds Fernando Po geheten) en Gabon – koloniën van respectievelijk Groot-Brittannië, Spanje en Frankrijk. In de Gabonese hoofdstad Libreville vervaardigde Joaque onder meer een album waarin factorijen van Europese handelshuizen als Hatton and Cookson en Wöhrmann zijn vastgelegd.3
Twee groepsportretten van vier Mpongwe vrouwen en van zes Mpongwe mannen treffen Schneider door Joaque’s spel met symmetrie. Hij wijst op de lijnen en hoeken die de zes mannen creëren door hun geweren in eenzelfde hoek te houden en de kleine afwijkingen van zuivere symmetrie die Joaque zich permitteerde. De compositie met de mannen is, volgens Schneider, hoogstwaarschijnlijk in de vroege jaren 1870 gemaakt in opdracht van de Duitse handelsmaatschappij Wöhrmann.4
De beide werken (RV-A45-122 en RV-A45-119) zijn opgenomen in de collectie van het Museum Volkenkunde, onderdeel van het Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen (NMvW). In de digitale catalogus van het NMvW ontbreekt de naam van Joaque. Schneider stelde vast dat Joaque, naar Europees gebruik, de achterzijde van zijn foto’s voorzag van een stempel met het logo van zijn studio. 5 Mogelijk zijn de foto’s in de collectie van het NMvW reproducties, waarbij het logo ontbreekt.
Een van de werken in het Nederlands Fotomuseum is Joaque’s portret van twee vrouwen in hooggesloten kledij. Ze dragen beiden een volumineuze japon met ruches, sierknopen, strikken en een lange sleep. De kledingkeuze kan bezien worden in het kader van overgang van de trans-Atlantische slavenhandel naar legitieme handel. De twee vrouwen behoorden tot de Mpongwe, die langs de kust van Gabon een elite vormden. Zij wisten deze status te verwerven door een monopolie op handelsrelaties met de Europeanen, die teruggingen tot de zeventiende eeuw. Aanvankelijk bedreigde de beëindiging van de trans-Atlantische slavenhandel de welvaart en autonomie van de Mpongwe. In de veranderende economische, sociale en religieuze structuur wisten zij evenwel hun positie veilig te stellen. Vanaf de jaren 1840 richtten Amerikaanse zendelingen en Franse missionarissen in Gabon een educatief stelsel in, waarin mannen uit de gemeenschap vaardigheden opdeden die hen in staat stelden in dienst te treden van het Franse koloniale bestuur of de Britse en Duitse handelsondernemingen.6
Voor de missie stond een Europese kleedstijl gelijk aan ‘beschaving’ en volgens Rich stonden Mpongwe vrouwen vanaf de jaren 1860 bekend om hun handgemaakte jurken die niet onderdeden voor de mode van Londen en Parijs. Op basis van foto’s, waaronder die van Joaque, concludeert Rich dat Afrikaanse statussymbolen van belang bleven. Een voorbeeld is de traditionele haardracht, de scheiding in het midden was voorbehouden aan gehuwde vrouwen. De Mpongwe vrouwen combineerden zo strategisch Europese en Afrikaanse elementen om hun hoge sociale status en identiteit als toegewijde Christenen uit te dragen.7
Mpongwe vrouwen die niet tot de elite behoorden, droegen vanaf de jaren 1840 eveneens Europees textiel. Hun lichaam werd van de enkels tot de oksels bedekt door een enkele lap die om het lichaam werd gedrapeerd.8 Deze kledingstijl is te zien op een serie van ongeveer vijftig cartes de visite, foto´s op klein formaat. Joaque maakte de serie in Libreville, naar schatting van Schneider in de periode 1875-1882.
In de stad werkten Gabonese mannen als tolken, beambten, arbeiders en ambachtslieden, bovendien ontstond de mogelijkheid voor vrouwen om in hun onderhoud te voorzien als verpleegsters, wasvrouwen, huishoudsters, winkeleigenaren, etc. In Libreville ontstonden vriendschappen en relaties met arbeiders uit andere delen van Afrika, Gabonezen, Europeanen en Amerikanen. Schneider schrijft dat de Mpongwe vrouwen zich lieten fotograferen en hun portret als souvenir schonken aan kennissen, vrienden en geliefden wanneer zij de stad verlieten.9
Op Joaque’s carte de visite in de collectie van het Nederlands Fotomuseum is de vrouw is gevat in een ovaalvormig venster dat contrasteert met het rechthoekige kader. Op de achtergrond loopt een horizontale lijn, enigszins lijkend op de sierlijst van een muur. Dezelfde elementen keren terug in zeven portretten in de collectie van het NMvW.10
Schneider concludeert dat de grote kracht van Joaque lag in portretfotografie. Hij beklemtoont daarbij dat naast koloniale opdrachtgevers als overheden en handelshuizen, Joaque een heterogene Afrikaanse clientèle bediende. Naast Mpongwe vrouwen namen lokale leiders, arbeidsmigranten uit West-Afrika en handelaren plaats voor zijn lens. Nader onderzoek naar foto’s uit uit Sierra Leone, Fernando Po en Gabon in museumcollecties kan wellicht leiden tot een toevoeging aan de werken die van Joaque bekend zijn.
Black and white photograph on cardboard of a seated Louis Joseph Goddefroy (1843-1921) surrounded by objects he collected in Angola, between September 1884 – June 1885. The photograph was made by Louis Robert Werner (1834-1896) after Goddefroy’s return to the Netherlands, between September and December 1885. Parts of the collection were auctioned in 1887 and 1902. The name of auctioneer Frederik Muller & Cie. is printed on the lower right corner of the cardboard. The firm added the French caption in 1902: ‘Collection ethnologique réunie par m. L.J. Goddefroy à Angola (Afrique) pendant l’expédition scientifique ayant eu pour chef feu m. Daniël Veth.’ (Ethnological collection brought together by mister L.J. Goddefroy in Angola (Africa), during the scientific expedition led by mister Daniël Veth).
In 1882 the Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap (Royal Dutch Geographical Society) allotted funds for the first Dutch scientific expedition to Africa. Two years later, civil engineer Daniël Veth (1850-1885) received permission to explore Angola, more specifically the surroundings of southern cities like Benguella and Quillenges (Wentholt 2004). Veth would concentrate on geological research, two other members were to collect: P. Van der Kellen gathered natural specimens, and L.J Goddefroy accumulated man-made objects such as religious carvings, amulets, weapons, and utensils for everyday use (Veth and Snelleman 1887: 124-125). In September 1885 Goddefroy returned to the Netherlands with an estimated 1300 objects (De locomotief 1885).
One of the aims of the expedition was to visit the so-called Trekboeren in the remote settlement Humpata. These were white South Africans of Dutch and German descent who had left the Transvaal in 1874 to escape British rule. The expedition remained six weeks in the settlement, an opportunity for Goddefroy to expand his collection with axes, maces, and arrows (De Locomotief 1885). In the photograph, these can be seen hanging against the wall behind Goddefroy.
The most precious items Goddefroy acquired are grouped in the centre of the photograph. Immediately next to his left elbow, there are two conical dark figures, ornamented with white seashells. According to the Dutchman, these were ‘idols’ made of woven plant fiber and were believed to enhance female fertility. He traded these on his way from Benguela to Humpata, for cotton, beads, a dagger, bracelets, and several mirrors (Veth and Snelleman 1887: 355, 352). In between the two dark figures sits, elevated on a stool, a wooden statue we now know as a nkisi phemba : a kneeling maternity figure (RV-1354-47) with a child in her lap and another child on her shoulder. Another striking nkisi (‘power figure’) is standing near Goddefroy’s knee( RV-1354-46). A white male with a cocked hat and frack coat, presumably modeled after a European sea captain.
The Dutch expedition coincided with the Conference of Berlin (November 1884 – February 1885), where the African continent was divided between European nations. Although the Netherlands did not lay claim to an African colony, the country did have considerable commercial interests along the west coast of Africa. From 1857 onwards, the Afrikaansche Handels Vereeniging (African Trading Company) and its successor Nieuwe Afrikaansche Handels-Vennootschap (NAHV) (New African Trading Association), had opened trading posts along the coastline of Congo and Angola. In the course of the 1880s, the NAHV came to dominate the Congo trade. The business of the NAHV was barter trade: European textiles, weapons, and spirits were exchanged for African produce, notably palm oil, gum, copal, and ivory (Wesseling 1981: 496). The NAHV provided practical support for Veth and his two associates. They could use the vessels of the company and stay at several trading posts, known as ‘factories’. During a sojourn of almost eight weeks in the main NAHV-factory in the port Banana, Goddefroy bartered European textiles, beads, red coral, and mirrors for an array of ethnographic objects (Veth and Snelleman 1887: 120, 151).
To journalists visiting the collection in his home in Amsterdam, Goddefroy explained the power figures were gifts from Portuguese and Dutch employees of the NAHV, who had seized them during punitive expeditions to rebellious villages (De Locomotief 1885) In the newspaper report, Goddefroy did not mention the names of the villages where the NAHV carried out the punishment.
Wijs (2014) identified the villages as Futila and M’Buco-M’Bule in Cabinda, north of the NAHV head factory in Banana. Representatives of the NAHV, together with the Koninklijke Nederlandsche Zeemacht (Royal Dutch Navy) arrived in Futila on February 10, 1885. The Dutch indicated a villager was suspected of a plot to kill the Portuguese head agent of the NAHV in Cabinda. Although this suspicion dated from several years earlier, the NAHV demanded an immediate fine of 300 gallons of palm oil and rendition of the suspect. As villagers couldn’t meet these demands, their houses were set on fire two days after the arrival of the NAHV and Dutch navy (Wijs 2014: 16-17). In her research, Wijs has brought to light other objects in Dutch ethnological museums that were seized from the houses in Futila (Wijs 2014: 12-13). Since Goddefroy’s reference to a punitive expedition is limited to a fleeting remark made to a journalist, it cannot be ascertained with certainty that he acquired the power figures from NAHV-staff who were involved in the penal actions.
Hundreds of Goddefroy’s objects were sold to the foremost ethnographic institutions of the Netherlands: Artis Natura Magistra in Amsterdam and the Rijks Ethnologisch Museum in Leiden. Initially, he kept the most precious items in his private collection. However, a dire lack of resources compelled him to auction these in 1887. The two power figures remained unsold due to their high price. Consequently, the auction house contacted the ethnological museum in Leiden, which was then able to acquire the nkisi phemba and the power figure in the form of a European captain. Other parts of Goddefroys private collection were bought by a Dutch collector. This unnamed Dutchman sold the objects in 1902; once again it was the Leiden museum that bought the majority of the objects that were collected in Angola, more than seventeen years earlier (Willink 2006: 233). As a result of fusions of several Dutch ethnological museums between 2014-2017, almost all objects of Goddefroy are now part of one collection that belongs to the Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen (National Museum of World Cultures).
A selection of objects that are discernible in the image: Bracelet, 19th century, Angola, iron, collected by L.J. Goddefroy, Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, RV-594-59. Sculpture of a European man, presumably a sea captain, 19th century, Lower Congo River, wood, 35,8 x 11,2 cm, collected by L.J. Goddefroy, Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, RV-1354-46. Power figure nkisi phemba, 19th century Cabinda (Angola), wood, pigment, glass, textile, resin, 44 × 14,5 cm, collected by L.J. Goddefroy, Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, RV-1354-47. Seat with a male figure, 19th century, Angola, wood, 64 x 38,5 cm, collected by L.J. Goddefroy, Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, RV-1354-48. Stool, 19th century, Angola, 25 x 22, collected by L.J. Goddefroy, Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen , RV-1354-49. Sceptre, 19th century, Chokwe, Angola, 57,7 x 5,8 cm, collected by L.J. Goddefroy, Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, RV-1354-65. Ceremonial vessel, 19th century, Chokwe, Angola, 7,5 x 22 cm, collected by L.J. Goddefroy, Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, RV-1354-103. Pair of leather sandals, Quillenges, Angola, 24 cm, collected by L.J. Goddefroy, Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, RV-2668-241 and RV-2668-242.
Nineteenth-century European trading factories in Congo and Angola depended on African labour for different tasks. Examples are the Kru, also called Kru-men, and the Krumanos. Both names sound alike, but there was an important difference. The Kru took up paid employment, whereas the Krumanos were forced into labour.
Frost explains Kru was the name given by Europeans to inhabitants of communities along the coastline of present-day eastern Liberia. Their highly developed skills in fishing and canoe faring proved and advantage in their interaction with the Europeans. It is believed the development of their maritime skills in the eighteenth century led Kru to be employed on slave ships to the America’s. After Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1808, Kru took up employment on naval ships of the West Africa Squadron; the blockade against illegal ships intent on carrying Africans into slavery in the America’s.1
Frost writes the mobility of the Liberian Kru increased in the nineteenth century when formerly enslaved people from the United States of America were settled in Liberia, under the auspices of the American Colonisation Society. These so-called Settler Liberians competed with the Kru in trade and land acquisition. Kru men migrated to the coastal cities, where European trading companies were expanding their business. Kru became employed as agricultural labourers. palm oil ships, as shoremen, and construction workers 2
William Holman Bentley (1855-1905) of the Baptist Missionary Society wrote:
‘When we reached to Congo in 1879 all the labour of the trading factories was performed by slaves. […] ‘Kru boys, from the Kru coast about Libera, were the labourers on the coast steamers and factories higher up the coast: so to throw dust in the eyes of those who would make inquiries, the factory slaves about the Congo were called Krumanos. The average price of a Krumano was £ 5.
[…] I have often seen these factory slaves working in chains, four to six chained together by a ring on the neck. Sometimes there might be among the chain-gangs a rowdy slave or two in the chain for punishment; but as a rule, they would be ordinary Krumanos, new or not trusted, kept in the chains to prevent their flight.3
The word ‘Krumanos’ in the description of the photograph by Jose Augusto da Cunha Moraes might mean the men were unfree labourers. According to Vos, European trading companies used local networks to obtain so-called servicais, or enslaved labourers. They were bought or hired from local chiefs, who supplied them to serve for a short or indefinite time. 4 Besides, small numbers of slaves from the interior were a part of ivory caravans to the coast, where they were sold by African middlemen. Vos cites a report of Onno Zwier van Sandick, (1861-1881), an employee for the Afrikaansche Handelsvereeniging, when he points out the unfree Krumanos received remuneration: they were paid in so-called ‘longs’ (a textile measuring unit of six yards)). They earned two to three longs a month, Vos states this was a reasonable salary compared to Kru ((four longs), canoe men (three longs), female servants (four to six longs) or linguisters (eight to ten longs). 5 Zwiers van Sandick explained the reasoning behind the payment of the Krumanos. They were at all times at the disposal of the Afrikaanse Handelsvereeniging, whereas Kru could be employed for a maximum of sixteen months. Zwiers van Sandick ruled out employing other free African labourers: ‘a free negro doesn’t think of working as soon as he has had enough to eat.’ 6 Vos includes a citation from the British consul Hopkins about the Krumanos of the Dutch Afrikaansche Handelsvereniging, who in 1877 held about 150 slaves.
‘[…] these people are so well treated that, to all intents and purpose, they are free, and they are never sold or exchanged; in fact, it is their boast that they are the children of the Dutch house.’7
However, from the report of Zwier van Sandick, a somewhat different picture emerges. He travelled May 1879 to November 1880 from the headfactory in Banana to smaller factories. The factory in Banana owned fifty slaves, Zwier van Sandick described they were bought at the coast, for about 30 longs, and shipped to Banana. Some ship captains were hesitant to take the Krumanos on board, out of fear for inspections by the British West Africa Squadron. As a solution each Krumano received a contract, the words ‘paid in Banana’ was a code for the AHV these were in fact ‘factory slaves’. After arrival, Krumanos were immediately chained in a neck collar or libámbo. Zwier van Sandick recalled how the resistance of Krumanos to be chained was forcibly repressed.
‘In October 1879 I witnessed how one continuously yelled: senhór landaáz, grácia-grácia (Sir Dutchman, mercy, mercy). Whereupon the supervisor ordered to lash him into silence – which happened. Completely bloodied he lay numb and had stopped yelling.’
According to Zwier van Sandick these cruelties were persistent in the factories where he was stationed. In case a Krumano died, the costs were debited to the headfactory in Banana. In the early 1900s, coastal factories would acquire enslaved labourers and traded them illegally or as contract workers.8
In the period 1870-1890 José Augusto da Cunha Moraes photographed European trading posts along the coastline of Congo and Angola. The Dutch National Museum of World Cultures holds several of these images in its collection.
Companies like the Nieuwe Afrikaansche Handels Vennootschap (NAHV) built premises, so-called ‘factories’, on plots of land that belonged to local rulers. In return, the companies were obliged to pay for the use of the land. Furthermore, local rulers provided each factory with a representative, or ‘mafuka’. The mafuka, called ‘linguisters’ by the Europeans, were men of distinct families with in-depth knowledge of local law, politics, and the network of African traders. They negotiated prices between the trading companies and the African traders who brought agricultural produce; thus they were crucial for the profitability of European trade.
All trading companies depended on African labour for an array of tasks, these workers were managed by the linguister. 1 Men and women from the coastal region Cabinda in particular were recruited as canoe men, cooks, carpenters, and domestic servants. Appreciated by European trading agents, the Dutch NAHV-employee Onno Zwier van Sandick described the men and women from this region as ‘relatively developed’ and ‘with potential to be civilized’, claiming they learned their skills of British and Portuguese ships who patrolled the Congolese coast to prevent illegal transatlantic slave shipments.2.
Photographs of José Augusto da Cunha Moraes (1855-1933, in several Dutch museum collections, provide visual information about a Dutch trading firm with settlements along the coastline of Angola and Congo, in the second half of the nineteenth century. Kerdijk & Pincoffs, and its successor ‘Afrikaansche Handelsvereeniging’ (African Trade Association) would come to dominate trade in a region that struggled with the troubled transition from the slave trade to forms of indentured labour.
In 1849 Henry Kerdijk and Lodewijk Pincoffs founded a firm that traded in indigo and madder. Located in the port Rotterdam, shipping was another branch of the company, which gained in importance following the stagnation of the dye trade in the 1850s. 1 In 1857 Kerdijk & Pincoffs bought the British trading company Horsfall & Co. in the village Ambriz, northern Angola. Together with the firms Tobin & Co. and Hatton & Cookson, Horsfall was one of the three firms from Liverpool in Ambriz. Historians assume these company premises functioned as barracoons for enslaved Africans up to 1807 – when the United Kingdom prohibited the transatlantic slave trade. 2 After 1807 the nature of their business changed to so-called ‘legitimate commerce’ or ‘legitimate trade’: European manufactures, predominantly cotton pieces, weapons and spirits, were traded against African raw materials, notably palm oil, gum copal and ivory. 3
In 1836 Portugal outlawed the transatlantic slave trade. Nevertheless, the number of illegal shipments of African captives sharply increased between 1830-1865. Whereas Luanda had been the most important port of embarcation in Central Africa during the slave trade, Portuguese-Brazilian merchants and slave smugglers from Spain and Cuba relocated further north to the port Ambriz.4 Slave trading firms from Rio de Janeiro organized shipments of enslaved Africans to Brazil, when these were abolished in 1850 they concentrated on Cuba.5
The illegal slave trade and the legitimate trading companies were connected. In theory, the trading companies strictly limited their activities to lawful barter trade. In reality, the clientele of Cuban and Brazilian middlemen provided the trading companies with cash payments. These slave smugglers bartered the purchased European goods for enslaved men, women and children from the African interior. 6 In the first year in Angola, Kerdijk & Pincoffs started trade with Portuguese slave dealers in Ponta da Lenha. 7
Advertisements found in the database Delpher show the first shipment of Kerdijk & Pincoffs arrived in May 1858 in Rotterdam from Luanda, the administrative center of the Portuguese.8 Within a year of opening a factory in Ambriz, Kerdijk & Pincoffs followed British traders to nearby Kisembo, in order to avoid the high Portuguese custom dues in Ambriz.9
In 1860 Kerdijk & Pincoffs opened a factory in Banana, along the Loango coast of Congo. The factory was adjacent to the trading company of Victor and Louis Régis, from Marseille. In the early 1830s, Régis began trading in Senegal, and expanded southwards to Sierra Leone and Angola. In 1841 the French state granted the company permission to open a trading post in Dahomey at Whyda, in the ruins of a fort that had functioned as a depot for enslaved Africans. 10 Régis became pivotal in a scheme of the French government to procure human labour for the colonies in the Caribbean. In 1831 France ended the slave trade and signed a convention with the British against human trafficking. This convention expired in 1856, which opened the way for France to contract Régis to recruit and transport African labourers for Guadeloupe and Martinique. 11
Between 1857-1863 Régis purchased enslaved people from African authorities, declared them free and signed them to indentured labour contracts. The French ‘redeemed’ enslaved Africans mostly in Boma, one of the former centers of the Atlantic slave trade, but housed the so-called ‘free emigrants’ (émigrés libres) in newly built factories in Banana and Loango. In each factory up to fourteen hundred people could be housed.12 The French considered the redemptions as ‘an act of humanity’, yet the mortality on the early voyages was high. At the end of the scheme, Regís had carried around seventeen thousand people to the Caribbean colonies, their properties in Banana were sold to neighbouring Kerdijk & Pincoffs. 13
With the settlement in Banana as the centre of the commercial activities, Kerdijk & Pincoffs expanded further in the Angolan region Cabinda. In 1868 Kerdijk & Pincofss became a limited company under the name of Afrikaansche Handelsvereeniging (African Trading Association – AHV). By 1871 the company had opened thirty-three factories in Angola and Congo, in 1877 this had risen to forty-four. 14 In 1879, after a financial scandal, the company continued as ‘Nieuwe Afrikaansche Handels Vennootschap’ and traded in Africa until 1982.
Further reading & listening
Roquinaldo Ferreira, ‘Writing the history of abolitionism in the Portuguese South Atlantic’, Brown Univerity (March 20, 2014) https://youtu.be/pSwe8zhdvIk.
Niek Joosse, Afrikaanse Droom. De handel van Henry P. Kerdijk en Lodewijk Pincoffs in Afrika, 1857-1879. (Master Thesis Geschiedenis, Erasmus Universteit Rotterdam 2016) https://thesis.eur.nl/pub/34933.
The Rijksmuseum and The National Museum of World Cultures (Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen – NMvW) in The Netherlands together hold over more than two hundred photographs by José Augusto da Cunha Moraes (1855-1933) in their collection. His father opened a photography studio in São Paolo de Loanda (now: Luanda) in 1863, and J.A. da Cunha Moraes became a professional photographer in the 1870s. By the 1880s he had produced over four hundred photographs. According to historian Jill Dias (1944-2008), his individual portraits were exceptional, for they captured the social contrasts in the capital of colonial Angola.1
In the second half of the nineteenth century, inhabitants of the coastal town Loanda were divided into two categories: civilized and uncivilized.2 White Europeans constituted the elite of society, among them were landlords, traders and slave owners. 3 A minority were free Portuguese settlers, the majority came to Angola as convicts (degredados). Since early modern times Portugal had practiced degredo: the limiting or degrading of the legal status of convicts by means of forced exile.4 The exiles served a practical purpose: 97% of Portuguese migrants choose Brazil as their new home. The African colonieswere no less important in the Portuguese self-perception as an imperial nation. Forced colonization provided the necessary manpower to make the overseas territories profitable. 5
Since Portuguese settlers and degredados were almost exclusively male, they formed families with local women. Their mixed race descendants were included in the Loandan elite of ‘civilized peope’. 6 These Euro-Africans acquired positions in education, in the army, clergy and public offices of the colonial administration – although their main economic occupation remained trade, including slave trade. 7
Dias stated Da Cunha Moraes preserved the image of this elite, 8 but didn’t include any examples. Hitherto I haven’t been able to find other secondary literature on this subject that provides photographs from the end of the nineteenth century. Unfortunately somewhat speculative, I wonder whether some of the photographs in the collection of the NMvW are portraits of women belonging to the Luso-African elite. In some of the captions of the NMvW it is explicitly mentioned the women are of mixed descent. One description (RV-A45-52) contains the family name of the sitter: Gamboa.
Experts emphasize that the Loandan elite of the nineteenth century was culturally and racially mixed.9 The category of the ‘civilized’ included Africans of different ethnic groups, who were educated, Christian, cosmopolitan, possessed assets, capital and dressed in a European manner. It might not be impossible that Da Cunha Moraes portrayed African families of the Europeanized elite of his city, who designated themselves as ‘filhos da terra‘, ‘filhos do país‘, (sons of the country) or ‘Angolenses‘.
Around the turn of the century, social relations in Angola transformed, leading to the subordination of the ‘filhos da terra’. Portuguese planters and administrators who failed to achieve economic and social development ascribed this to the ‘inherent barbarism’ of Africans. In their perspective, modernizing Angola equaled increasing the white population. As a consequence, the white population of Angola tripled between 1900-1930. Furthermore, a new, racially differentiated wage system was established, along with a limit for the number of Africans that could be employed in the civil service. Hence, being white became a prerequisite for positions of authority in the colonial administration. 10. By 1920 the Euro-African elite had been excluded from the administration of the colony and public life. 11