Category Archives: Africa

The Castle (225)

By Vincent Smith, an American artist: Elmina Castle (1972). Elmina Castle was a trading post established by the Portuguese in 1482 which became a major port in the slave trade.


I found the image above while I was researching Cape Coast Castle, another Portuguese fort, which was taken over by the British and used as a collection and embarkation point for enslaved Africans. By the time you return to class on Wednesday you should know how that setting figures in Yaa Gyasi’s historical novel/ family saga Homegoing.

I was initially hesitant to share the image below with you but given its significance and the fact that it is the creation of a notable American artist, Andrew Wyeth (son of famed artist/illustrator N.C. Wyeth and father of Jamie) I reconsidered.

The title of this painting is Barracoon (1976). A barracoon is essentially the space described by Gyasi on the lower floor of Cape Coast Castle.


What troubles me about this painting is its idealizing eroticism. Given what conditions in the barracoons were actually like, this depiction of a feminine form seems like a lie, an effort to tantalize the viewer rather than confront them. This objection has to do with history and power instead of form. How would a painting of the barracoons based on Giyasi’s imagery look?


A bronzed and Brylcreemed Victor Mature plays Ken Duffield, an American soldier turned white hunter, in this turgid colonial romance that also stars a benzedrine-thin Janet Leigh as a former showgirl on holiday with her pompous billionaire fiancé.

When the dreaded Mau-Mau horribly butcher his wife and son with the aid of one of  his Kikuyu “house boys,” Jeroge (Bermuda-born actor Earl Cameron), Ken vows to avenge them. He escorts Linda Latham (Leigh) and the increasingly erratic and demanding Sir Vincent Brampton on safari, intending to use the hunting expedition to locate his nemesis and kill as many Mau-Mau as possible.

Also features Zanzibari child actor Juma as Odongo, a tagalong scamp prone to bouts of loud, forced laughter.

Simba (303/415)

It’s strange to see Dirk Bogarde– generally more well-known for the films he did with Harold Pinter and Joseph Losey or even The Night Porter— in this late imperial romance. Though there’s room here for a soft liberal critique of British colonialism in Africa– Bogarde’s Alan Howard is poisoned by his hatred of all black Kenyans in the aftermath of his brother’s murder by the Mau-Mau– the film argues for a kind of enlightened paternalism. There were a whole string of films devoted to this version of the Empire as an ultimately beneficent if sporadically violent enterprise (Zulu, Something of Value, etc.) during the era of decolonization.