Amira Hanafi:
In Search of an Afrocentric Book

I fly from Egypt to Switzerland overnight. After a devastating encounter with Lynching Photography in America, I begin to search the library for an Afrocentric book. I meet Lobagola on the Africa shelf. He takes me back to another Africa —

“As for me, I never saw a white man in my country (…) My mother said (…) they were formed much differently from our own men; every white man had only one of everything: one eye, in the middle of the forehead, one leg, with a great, wide foot, fan-shaped, so that when he lay down, the foot acted as a sunshade.”

Lobagola and a group of boys set out to find the white man. Their adventure culminates aboard a ship. On seeing a white man for the first time, all but one plunge to their death in the sea. Lobagola is transported to Glasgow, where a white family keeps him as a companion to their son. Thus begins his liminality, moving between Europe, Africa, and the US.

On the Internet, Lobagola is an American impostor who lived his life performing as a native African.

[img. 1]
Ibn Lobagola, Bata Kindai Amgoza
Lobagola: An African Savage’s Own Story
Publisher: New York: Negro University Press
Call Number: VG 018

[img. 2]
Allen, James; Als, Hilton; Lewis, John; Litwack, Leon F.
Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America
Publisher: New Mexico, Twin Palm, 2000
Call Number: KCC 026

[img. 3]
Marginal image in The Rutland Psalter
Illustrated manuscript c. 1260
held at the British Library

April 2017
Text: Amira Hanafi