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Watussi Dancers, Nyanza, Ruanda-Urundi (now Rwanda), Africa, 1937


In his last major multi-national exploration in 1937-1938, Hoppé visited Central Africa. Here more than anywhere else he was able to demonstrate the encroachment of modern culture in photographs. Traditional clothing and western fashions were seen existing side-by-side.  A tribal chief in robes was seen chatting on a telephone. Dancers were seen dressed in local clothing and American cowboy gear. Children look with a guarded curiosity into an automobile window. Women were seen opening a new dress factory specializing in current Western fashion looks, while hunters still demonstrated ancient techniques wearing decoy bird figures on their heads. The contrasts were dazzling.

The cinemas disgorged their audiences; the whole place vibrated with coloured lights, music and dancing. A few nights ago, only four kilometres away from this gay city, elephants had trampled down the bank manager’s garage. Just before that, crocodiles had killed three boys who had gone down to the shore at night without a lantern. One is apt to forget it, but this is still Africa!

– E.O. Hoppé