Askari Sculpture, 1875
About the object
According to the inventory, the male figure made from reddish wood represents an Askari, i.e. an African soldier who fought in the German colonial army. The figure stands on a stool-like pedestal and carries a sidearm attached to his belt.
see less see more
The male figure transports us back to a dark chapter in our history: the period of the German Imperial colonial rule in East Africa from 1885 until 1916, which included the territories of present- day Tanzania (excluding Zanzibar), Burundi, Rwanda and a small part of Mozambique. The figure is formally reminiscent of the traditional Zaramo burial poles, among other things due to its elevated position on the stool, but thematically it belongs to the context of colonialism: the figure has been depicted in full uniform, arms at his sides, a sidearm attached to a leather belt buckled around the figure, and the cap is merely suggested. According to the inventory, this is a depiction of an Askari, an African soldier who fought in the German colonial army. Askari is a loan word from Arabic and means policeman, soldier, warrior or warden in Swahili; in pre-colonial times, it denoted the armed retinue of long-distance caravans or research trips. However, the hint of a moustache and the bushy eyebrows could also indicate a representation of a white colonial soldier. Possibly the object was commissioned for a member of the German colonial authorities. The figure comes from the coastal region of Tanzania, probably of Zaramo or Swahili provenance. Between 1901 and 1909, Karl Sauer donated and sold numerous objects from East African ethnic groups such as the Maasai, Chaga, Zaramo and Swahili to the museum, as well as hunting trophies, botanical specimens, minerals, shells, etc. Sauer worked in the colonial administration between 1898 and 1912. The museum still holds about 60 items of ethnographica from his collection, comprising for the large part weapons and household utensils, but also masks of the Makonde. Author: Eva Gerhards, Translation: Timothy Connell