Printer Friendly

Out of Africa.


The names of Burton and Speke, Stanley and Livingstone have been etched indelibly into the annals of British history. But less known are those of the men who led the explorers' entourages, acted as diplomats and even carried them when the going got tough. Drawn from Bombay Africans 1850-1910, an exhibition showing at the RGS-IBG until 29 November, these images tell the stories of these right-hand men--many of whom were liberated African slaves hired in India


Above: Abdullah Susi and James Chuma at Newstead Abbey, near Nottingham, in 1874, with relatives and friends of David Livingstone, after the explorer's death the previous year. It was Chuma and Susi who led the team that famously carried the explorer's body and his journals more than 1,600 kilometres from llala, now in Zambia, to Bagamoyo, Tanzania, having spent seven years in his service in Africa. Both first met the explorer during his ill-fated Zambezi expedition of 1858-63. Chuma was one of 84 slaves freed by Livingstone in what is now Malawi in 1861. And Susi, from Mozambique, was a member of the team that constructed the Lady Nyassa, a boat Livingstone had built to promote 'honest trade' on Lake Nyassa. From 1864, they spent more than a year in Bombay--Sisi working in the docks, Chuma attending a mission school--after the Zambezi expedition was recalled and Livingstone chose to dispose of the vessel there to stop it falling into the hands of slave traders


Above and inset: Sidi Mubarak Bombay is one of the best known 'Bombay Africans' to take part in the exploration of Africa. A member of the Yao tribe, which lived near Lake Nyassa, close to the modern-day border between Tanzania and Mozambique, he was captured as a child and sent to work as a slave in Gujarat. Freed after the death of his master, he served in the Sultan of Oman's army in East Africa before being hired by John Hanning Speke and Richard Burton, as gun-bearer, for their expedition to locate the central African Great Lakes in 1857-58. Mubarak subsequently accompanied Speke on his exploration of East Africa during the early 1860s, which included a voyage down the Nile from Khartoum to Cairo. His role on these journeys earned him a Royal Geographical Society silver medal. Mubarak later joined Henry Morton Stanley on his expedition to find David Livingstone in 1871, during which he was promoted to chief of caravan. Between 1873 and 1875, he traversed the continent with V Lovett Cameron, from Zanzibar off the east coast to Benguela, now in Angola, making him in all likelihood the most widely travelled 19th-century explorer in Africa. Mubarak's background earned him the names Sidi and Bombay: 'sidi' being the common Indian term for a free African and 'Bombay' denoting his origin. His fascinating journals have been edited by Jan Merlin into two volumes, entitled Gunbearer


Left: HMS Lynx, sketched in 1859, carrying slaves freed from an Arab dhow to India. During the mid-1800s, the Royal Navy liberated thousands of African slaves being transported to Arabia and took many of them to live in Bombay, hence the moniker Bombay Africans; Above: Matthew Wellington was one of around 200 slaves freed from an Arab dhow by HMS Thetis around 1860. He spent more than ten years in Bombay, where he trained as an embalmer, before returning to East Africa in 1872 to work with Stanley, then Livingstone and Joseph Thompson. Wellington embalmed Livingstone's body, using salt and brandy, following the explorer's death in 1873, and then helped to carry it to Bagamoyo; Above left: the slave routes were the main avenues by which explorers and their entourages gained access to the African interior; Top: a sketch of Joseph Thompson (centre), James Chuma (left) and another Bombay African, drawn posthumously, in 1896


Above: James Chuma, photographed in 1874. After Livingstone's death, Chuma returned to Zanzibar to work for the United Christian Mission's Association. In 1879, he was hired by Keith Johnston and Joseph Thompson to work as head man on a Royal Geographical Society expedition to explore the territories between lakes Nyassa and Tanganyika. Such was the significance of Chuma's contribution to the expedition that he was subsequently awarded an RGS silver medal and a sword in 1881. Chuma's death in Zanzibar the following year moved Thompson to write: '[Chuma] died after a short but stirring life, having in his own special way, done so much to open up Africa to science and communication'

Royal Geographical Society with IBG

Advancing geography and geographical learning

The Royal Geographical Society Picture Library is an unrivalled resource, containing more than half a million images of peoples and landscapes from all over the world. The collection holds photographs and works of art from the 1830s onwards and includes images of exploration, indigenous peoples and remote locations. For further information on image licensing and limited-edition prints, or to search our online collection of more than 7,000 images, visit

Rolex kindly supports public access to the Society's collection of photographs, books, documents and maps.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Circle Publishing Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Geographical archivel; Bombay Africans 1850-1910, images of men that helped in the exploration of Africa
Comment:Out of Africa.(Geographical archivel)(Bombay Africans 1850-1910, images of men that helped in the exploration of Africa)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 1, 2007
Previous Article:A flower in the desert: the nomadic Touareg roamed the Sahara for a millennium, fiercely protecting their way of life until 20th-century...
Next Article:The rise of the East.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters