Jeffrey Green

Jeffrey is a historian
based south of London

060: Black London, 1880

In late January 1880 The Times advertised ‘The Zulus’ at Brighton’s Grand Aquarium, featuring Princess Amazulu and her suite. Just above this there was another advert: ‘Farini’s Contented genuine Zulus have been augmented by the discontented genuine Zulus, who are now being contented, and they appear from 2 p.m. till 6.30 p.m. in their war dances, war songs, marriage festivities, &c. Special performances 2.30 and 5.30.’ Admission was one shilling (5 pence). On the Saturday night in Brighton 2,874 entry tickets were sold.

Farini (a New York-born Canadian named William Hunt) had mounted Zulu shows at London’s Westminster Aquarium since 1879, returning in 1880. The alleged princess was not part of his troupe at this time for a court hearing in London at the end of February (Dando v. Browne), concerned over the payment of receipts for ‘the Zulu troupe’  named her, two maids of honour (Steemala and Isibiaca) and four male bodyguards who were appearing at the town hall in Leeds. The Zulus cost £3 10s (£3.50) a week each: for wages (ten shillings each), board, food and travel. The case was reported in the Huddersfield Daily Chronicle 1 March 1880.

Six other Africans were in London in April — they had come from Uganda. Their ruler Mtesa had sent a letter to the Queen, and instructed the group to study Britain and the British. Accompanied by missionaries C. T. Wilson and R. W. Felkin, the three chiefs were named Namkaddi, Kataruba and Sawaddu in the report in The Times (27 April 1880, page 11) on their presence at the Royal Geographical Society’s meeting of 26 April, held at London University. On 4 May they, and three other ‘coloured visitors from Central Africa’ were on the platform at the Church Missionary Society’s annual meeting. Ten days later the three chiefs presented Mtesa’s letter to Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace, again with Wilson and Felkin, and also Edward Hutchinson, CMS lay secretary (who is to be seen on page 046).

In the evening of 9 June a visiting Canadian named Arthur W. Masters was assaulted near the Savoy Arms pub off the Strand. Thomas Shea was sentenced to 15 months; James Pinner was found not guilty. The Old Bailey trial heard a comment that in the pub was ‘a coloured man named Taylor’.

The Christmas circus show at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, employed ‘a coloured man’ who, at the Old Bailey trial of  19 year-old John Connor, told the court through an interpreter that he worked at that circus. His name was Bolivar Taltawv, and his watch had been stolen in Liverpool Street – Connor was sentenced to 12 months on 16 January 1881.

 Amazulu and her colleagues remained in Britain into mid-January 1881, one year after they arrived. Farini had been showing ‘Cetewayo’s daughters’  Unomodlosa and Unozendabo at the Aquarium along with Amazulu, according to the Standard 5 June and both continued (Morning Post 12 October 1880, 7 January 1881) but the theatrical weekly the Era (15 January 1881) when reporting they were to leave on 18 January, noted Amazulu was at the Standard Theatre and she had nine male colleagues. Until their names are located on the ship’s passenger list we could assume that some were not Zulus — and Farini and the others were exploiting the 1879 Zulu War with its African successes over the British army.

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