Shauri, Images of Arabs, and Representation of Colonial Hierarchies in the Visual Sources of German East Africa


Anastasia Banshchikova


The article deals with the display of colonial hierarchies in the shauri scene (in German colonial practice shauri was a council, a meeting of the administration of the colony and local residents, where the decisions of the administration were announced and brought to the attention of the population; a court and other meetings with the participation of locals were called shauri too) in the visual sources of the German East Africa, namely on postcards, in photography, sketches, illustrations of memoirs, and on the so-called trading cards. Studying of these sources shows that the position in space and postures of shauri participants are never random: they demonstrate dominance, the presence of might, or, conversely, subordination, and reflect the balance of power that is relevant both for specific participants in the meeting and sometimes for the entire region.

Significantly, in this expression of dominance, the Arab-Swahili component of the German East Africa population occupies a special place. Artistic and compositional means emphasize the significant influence of Arabs and Arabized Swahili on shauri; sources depicting them outside the council scenes also demonstrate visual superiority over African inhabitants of the colony. It turned out that there are stable contexts in which Arabs appear in the visual sources, notably in the scenes depicting trade, markets, and slave trade. The constant topos of Arabs’ connection with slavery and their role as brutal slave traders in German verbal and visual colonial discourse is also embodied in the shauri scenes and in the general visual material. These sources allow us to trace the reflection of the racialized and hierarchized picture of the world of both the German colonialists and the local Arab and Arab-Swahili elite.


German East Africa, shauri, Arabs, colonial photography, postcards, trading cards, memoir literature, visual representation of social hierarchies




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