THE PEN AND THE SWORD: ORIGINAL NEWSWORTHY DRAWINGS FROM THE JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF GIFT TO THE WOLFSONIAN LIBRARY

Today’s blog post comes to you directly from Sharf Associate Librarian Rochelle Pienn. Rochelle has been cataloging the most recent batch of gifts added to the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection at The Wolfsonian. Here is her report:

Al-Shabab, the Somalia-based terrorist organization, claimed responsibility for the recent massacre of innocent people in a Nairobi mall. The world watched events unfold online, on television, and on the front pages of newspapers.

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PHOTO BY GORAN TOMASEVIC FOR REUTERS

The power of an image comes to us in colorful pixels and bytes. Captured on a digital camera in a far-away land, a photograph can instantaneously be fed online and distributed globally. Accompanied by reporting from a major news organization, the impact of a picture immediately resonates as visual evidence to prove a particular point of view.

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PHOTO FROM BBC NEWS

Today, British reporting concerning al-Shabab (allied with al-Qaeda) attacks in Somalia, Africa, is illustrated by stunning photography of ethnic Somali people displaced by violence. Over a century ago, the British public relied on newspapers sporting engraved illustrations from handmade sketches to glean information about conquests and colonies.  Part of a recent donation to the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection, an original sketchbook dated 1886 and signed with the initials C.H.P. provides a remarkable look at long past Somali existence through illustrative art.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

Somaliland, currently a country whose independence from Somalia is not officially recognized, once was a place of imperial contention. In 1886 the area became a British protectorate; it had formerly been under the rule of the Warsangali, the warring tribes that fought with the Muslim dervishes against invading Europeans. Described in the handwritten caption, this sketch shows “An ordinary Somali hut.” The word “house” has been crossed out.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

The artist also depicts the native animals and countryside in watercolors.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

Exquisite individual color paintings show detailed vignettes of animals grazing, and natives building their homes.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

This payment note from The Graphic, the popular illustrated London weekly, was signed by its founder, William L. Thomas. In the few remaining years before halftone photography became the mainstay of newspapers. Publishers competed for patronage via compelling illustrations, reproduced from original drawings through the engraving process. Color plates then completed the dramatic appeal. The Graphic, along with its rival British paper, The Illustrated London News, employed many talented artists.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

This preliminary outline sketch shows “Somali Card Playing.” The caption describes the activity: “they are in the habit of dashing a card down with great force.”

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

Portraits of ethnographic types are articulated in watercolors.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

Detail of a pack donkey.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

“Zaila from the Sea.” Zaila (also Zeila or Saylac) was an area of contention between Egypt, Great Britain and France. In this pen and ink sketch, the artist points out the different nations’ consulates onshore.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

A seascape painting and a landscape painting.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

These two portraits show the visual contrast between the Somali civilian and Somali warrior. On the left is “Mohamad Akavar, Somali Messenger from British V. Consul to the Emir of Harar as he arrived in Zeila.” On the right is a “Somali Warrior,” a notably younger man with a much longer spear.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

At the northeastern-most horn of Africa, Somalia still seethes with unrest. Natives struggle to assert their identities against pervasive remnants of warrior tribes, which trace back to the Ottoman Empire.

Over a century ago, The Graphic artist C.H.P. depicted a pivotal period of diplomatic paternalism in his scrapbook of Somalia. Visit the Wolfsonian-FIU library to see more.

~ by "The Chief" on October 31, 2013.

2 Responses to “THE PEN AND THE SWORD: ORIGINAL NEWSWORTHY DRAWINGS FROM THE JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF GIFT TO THE WOLFSONIAN LIBRARY”

  1. That the depiction of a Somali soldier is inaccurate. The Somalis of the time would have dressed more like these fellows

    Somali soldiers were usually armed with rifles as well as spears. A lot of those photos of them wearing those thin robes, sporting Afros and the like are photos of the Afar nomads or warriors of the Afar people who generally inhabit parts of Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia but mostly Djibouti.

    These are Afars:

    http://afardhukubo.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/nomad11.jpg?w=1000&h=

    There’s also one photo of this Afar man who’s commonly used an example for Somalis. They look like Somalis which usually the source of the confusion. Somalis, Amhara or Tigre or Oromo Ethiopians, Afars and Bejas in Sudan and Egypt (who commonly look like those kinds illustrations) are all genetically the same people but there are cultural differences. That illustration isn’t of a Somali, Somali’s commonly wore turbans, these sort of kilts or skirts you’ll find commonly among Indians, thobes and heavy robes. You can actually find some people in Somali dressed like that “soldier” but they’re usually pastoral nomads, not the kinda attire and weaponry you wanna use when you’re battling Ottomans, Ethiopian imperial soldiers, Brits and Italians. It’s even confirmed dthat they were generally armed by the Ottoman or German empires or arabs in the arabian peninsula.

    But thanks for trying ta spread some awareness about the horn of africa in anyway at all. Appreciate it.

    On a side note. A man people commonly mistake as Somali but is really an Afar:

    Strapping fella and he looks Somali enough but again, I’m from Somalia and I could walk around Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti and not standout for a second, I’ve had Amharic people approach my mother and I and speak Amharic to us cos they thought were Amharas. We all look very alike.

  2. Thank you for your expertise! This does not surprise me–the assumptions and labeling of images as etho-types based on the artist’s also limited knowledge of what he was seeing. Being an artist for The Graphic further enables this activity. The phenomenon of categorizing (i.e. stereotyping) also came up within a British imprint containing photographs of Siberia. Our visiting Russian scholar noted that the photos lumped certain ethnicities together under blanket Asiatic peoples wherein there were distinctive sub-cultures represented, for which she knew the designations. Input from our learned readers helps us further understand our amazing collections.

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