Images of Africa: 1924-1941

Zagourski photo of scarrified African woman

The Yale University Library has an extraordinary collection of 200 postcards made from photographs taken by Casimir Zagourski in Africa between 1924 and 1941.

Zagourski – a fascinating story himself – was a Ukrainian who served in the Russian army and later in the Polish army. He settled in what was then Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) and took photographs of Africa and its people. He made a name for himself when he exhibited his work, L’Afrique Qui Disparait (Disappearing Africa), at the 1937 Paris World’s Fair.

The photos are set in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly known as the Belgian Congo), Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Chad, Kenya, Central African Republic, Cameroon, and Congo-Brazzaville.

“The historical importance of these photos is obvious,” says Dorothy Woodson, curator of Yale’s African collection. “So many of the practices we observe in these images are no longer practiced. For example, the skull deformation of the beautiful Mangbetu women and their daughters is a custom they don’t observe anymore.”

The Yale collection of Zagourski’s photographs may be viewed here.


Published by Chris Malinao

Chris teaches Lightroom as workflow software to photography students at the FPPF, Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation. He also teaches smartphone photography.