Photographers in Africa grasped the opportunity to serve a lucrative market for images of the continent during the global postcard craze that peaked around 1900 and continued for several decades.
The cards were produced for residents, travellers in Africa and buyers and collectors who had never set foot on the continent. Their depictions of colonial administrations and exploitation of resources and peoples, as well as images inscribing tribal identities, racial classifications and disturbing objectification of women, often reflect the colonisers’ worldview. Yet it is also possible to recover the authorship of some of the African women and men who participated in these photographic encounters, as when cards show that members of Africa’s elites recognised the power of photographic images to enhance their standing and present their own narratives.
The majority of the cards reproduced here are drawn from the extensive Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
About the Author
Christraud M. Geary is an independent scholar and Teel Senior Curator Emerita of African and Oceanic Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
About the Publisher
Founded in 1870, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston, is one of the most comprehensive art museums in the world, with a collection that encompasses nearly 500,000 works of art. Through exhibitions, programmes, research and publications, the Museum documents and interprets its collections. It provides information and perspective on art through time and throughout the world.