The Bonambelas (ca. 1927)

For much of the interwar period many resident Blacks in Germany earned a living through performance. On the one hand this was partly the result of a lack of access to other forms of employment. On the other hand popular enthusiasm for North American cultural products such as jazz created new employment opportunities. Touring African-American performers such as Josephine Baker and the Sam Wooding Orchestra enjoyed enormous success, while many Black Germans and their German-born children reinvented themselves as actors, musicians, dancers, and circus entertainers. 

This promotional postcard shows Hermann Muna Kessern (standing) and Adolf Ngange (sitting); two members of the performance troupe, the Bonambelas. The group’s name was a reminder of the village in Douala, Cameroon where the men originally came from. The image shows the men dressed in Harem costumes giving an indication of the types of exotic roles Black performers were expected to undertake.

Robbie Aitken

Bonambelas 1

Source: Postcard (ca. 1927). Collection Aitken.

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