The photos are mostly of women, decked in elaborate clothing and jewelry, wearing serious or playful or romantic expressions. Many of the images have been colorized — hand-painted to bring ruby lips, golden pendants, emerald chairs to life.
These portraits were captured in photography studios throughout Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia from the 1890s to the 1920s.
SA+AH alumna Prita Meier (BAHA Art History '96), the co-curator, chose these postcards because "they show the compelling and amazing ways" that people living on the Swahili coast quickly embraced photography, especially portraits, and made the art their own. Meier is the author of a forthcoming book about photography on the Swahili coast from the 1870s to the 1970s and is an assistant professor of art history at New York University.