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Africa: Visual materials

The British Library holds some prints, drawings and photographs of Africa, mainly from the collections of the East India Company and the India Office, and now held in the Prints, Drawings and Photographs section of the Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections. Some moving image has also been collected, particularly by the British Library Sound Archive.

Colour drawing of the annual procession of clergy carrying traditional Ethiopian crosses, at the Church of St Michael, Ankobar, Ethiopia

Colour drawing of the annual procession of clergy carrying traditional Ethiopian crosses, at the Church of St Michael, Ankobar, Ethiopia. British Library OIOC WD 2209/5. Copyright © The British Library Board

Africa formed a significant focus of interest in the trading, political and economic activities of the East India Company and the India Office. As a result, the India Office Library collected a number of items of African interest, mostly from southern Africa, Egypt and east Africa. These include an 18th-century oil painting of Table Bay at the Cape of Good Hope; drawings mainly from southern and east Africa from the 18th to 20th centuries; and photographs with a similar geographical coverage from the 19th and 20th centuries.

To search these collections, see the catalogue of Prints, Drawings and Photographs. To view this material, you will need an appointment in the Asian and African Studies Print Room. Some visual material is also available in the India Office Private Papers.

For photographs of Africa in the British Library see also the Photographs Catalogue.

The British Library Sound Archive holds moving image material related to African music, dance and drama, as well as film of anthropological interest. The catalogue is available here.

Although strong in some respects, the British Library’s collections of visual material on Africa will not usually be the first port of call for researchers in this area. See our web links page for other institutions with strong collections of, in particular, photographs, posters and moving image material.