A Cameroonian apprentice in Langenau (ca. 1888)

The image shows a studio shot of the young Duala Dinne Dumbe (Ndine Dumbe) from Cameroon surrounded by members of his German host family. Dumbe spent over two years in the small town of Langenau, Baden-Württemberg with the wealthy Burger family; one of three Cameroonians to do so. There he undertook an apprenticeship as a cook and he was taught to read and write German. In line with European ideas of the civilising mission Dumbe, like many West African youngsters who arrived in Germany for educational purposes or to undertake an apprenticeship, also received moral and religious instruction. He was eventually baptised in Langenau, taking on the name  Heinrich Eugen Ndine. When he returned to Cameroon in 1890 he found short-term employment in Eugen Zintgraff’s expedition of 1890 to the Cameroonian hinterland working as a cook. Like many returnees, however, he found reacculturation into the rigid racial hierarchy of colonial society in Cameroon difficult. 

The composition of the image emphasises notions of civilising mission.  While Dumbe looks directly at the camera, chalkboard and chalk in hand, two of the female members of the family who are instructing him look over his work. The youngest member of the Burger family, to whom Dumbe developed a close bond, reads aloud for Dumbe to follow.

Robbie Aitken

Dinne Dumbe bw1

Source: Postcard (ca. 1888). Collection Aitken.

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A Cameroonian apprentice in Langenau (ca. 1888) by Robbie Aitken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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