You could have told me this photograph was snapped in Los Angeles or San Francisco in the twenties and I wouldn’t have said otherwise if it wasn’t for the little barefooted boy in the right hand corner of the shot, looking strangely out of place, if not lost. Of course, the only strange thing about it is that this little boy is “out of place” in his own home.
The University of Florida digital collection holds ten complete albums of what I can only describe as colonial “brochures” titled the Photographic and Descriptive Albums of Portuguese East Africa. Published in 1929, what strikes me most about the photographs is how they’ve really managed to make the East African colony of Mozambique just look like one giant country club for white folks– dressed in their own white linen uniform, replicating their luxurious lifestyles in foreign lands as if it were a god-given right.
A relevant excerpt from Wikipedia’s page on Portuguese Mozambique that might answer a few questions:
The establishment of a dual, racialized civil society was formally recognized in Estatuto do Indigenato (The Statute of Indigenous Populations) adopted in 1929, and was based in the subjective concept of civilization versus tribalism. Portugal’s colonial authorities were totally committed to develop a fully multiethnic civilized society in its African colonies, but that goal or civilizing mission, would only be achieved after a period of Europeanization or enculturation of the native black tribes and ethnocultural groups. It was a policy which had already been stimulated in the formerPortuguese colony of Brazil and in Portuguese Angola. The Estatuto established a distinction between the colonial citizens, subject to the Portuguese laws and entitled to all citizenship rights and duties effective in the metropole, and the indígenas (natives), subjected to colonial legislation and, in their daily lives, to their customary, tribal native laws. Between the two groups there was a third small group, the assimilados, comprising native blacks, mulatos, Asians, and mixed-race people, who had at least some formal education, were not subjected to paid forced labor, were entitled to some citizenship rights, and held a special identification card that differed from the one imposed on the immense mass of the African population (the indígenas), a card that the colonial authorities conceived of as a means of controlling the movements of forced labor. The indígenas were subject to the traditional authorities, who were gradually integrated into the colonial administration and charged with solving disputes, managing the access to land, and guaranteeing the flows of workforce and the payment of taxes.