Antique Zanzibar Sketches

The drawings of W. A. Churchill.

William A. Churchill was the younger brother of the British Counsel at Zanzibar in the late 1860's. He came for a visit to the Islands bringing only his talent and his sketch pad but these resulted in some remarkable views of 19th century Zanzibar.

The railway depicted in this fine sketch is not the famous Bububu Line, which was built in 1905 and ran north out of town after passing through the N'Gambo neighborhood. Rather it is the very early Tram line that was built by Sultan Barghash.

This narrow-gauge tram line was one of the very first tracks laid in sub-Saharan Africa. It ran south of town to the Sultans Palace at Chukwani. The trams were at first pulled by horses when the line opened but in 1881 the first locomotive engine ever imported to east Africa arrived from England. This locomotive was named the "Sultanee" and it hauled the Tramcars on this line until it closed in 1892.

In this sketch Churchill captures the image of one of the many business men from around the world who took up residence in old Zanzibar.

The Zanzibar army was not well organized in those days, the Navy having priority on the best resources and men, however it's rather open recruitment practices did cause to the army to become at least a temporary home for many of the professional soldiers of that age.

Churchill seemed intrigued by  Zanzibar women, who made up a large percentage of the workforce that kept Stone Town running as a functioning city perched on the edge of the vast and at that time mostly unexplored continental wilderness that was old Africa.

Some Zanzibar women are represented as powerful figures in society.

Simple street scenes, the plight of the slaves, and the spirit of the Sultans troops, all caught the attention of Mr. Churchill.

By the late 1800's Livingstone was seen as a hero and a martyr in England.

This fine sketch of Livimgstone’s house on Zanzibar may be the work of Mr. Churchill. 

W. A. Churchill's brother was the diplomat Henry Adrian Churchill who was the Zanzibar Counsel from 1867 to 1870. H. A. Churchill had a long diplomatic career, he also seemed interested in medical science. He wrote an article on cholera in Zanzibar in 1870, corresponded with scientists about the possible use of a certain Chinese bird to reduce the swarms of mainland Tsetse flies, and acted as a mentor for the more famous British Counsel John Kirk, who served as his surgeon and vice-counsel during those years.

Churchill even sketched the British Councils house, where he stayed while in Zanzibar. This house was almost destroyed two years later, during the massive hurricane of 1872.

One wonders, from this sketch, if William Churchill captured his brother Henry at work

The drawings of MAY ALLEN.

Compiled and Edited by Torrence Royer, 2004.

All rights reserved.

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