Saturday, May 9, 2015

A camera actress in the wilds of Togoland (1915)

; the adventures, observations & experiences of a cinematograph actress in West African forests whilst collecting films depicting native life and when posing as the white woman in Anglo-African cinematograph dramas.
by Gehrts, M

Published 1915
Topics Togo

The following excerpt should prove interesting, I suggest you take a quick look.

By the way I am frequently reminded here, as 
elsewhere, that I am the first white woman to in- 
trude her presence among these primitive people. 
The women shrink from me, or look askance, and 
the children run screaming in terror away from me. 
Once I got the interpreter to inquire of one sweet 
little lassie of about nine or ten why she had run 
from me. He brought the child before me, but for 
a long time she would not say a word. She just 
stood still, with eyes downcast, and trembling in 
every limb. 

At length she looked quickly up, and shot a 
hard, swift question at the interpreter. 

" No ! No ! No ! " was his reply. " Of course 
not. Stupid little one! Why do you think such 
things ? " 

I asked him what the child had said. He 
answered that she had asked whether, if she spoke 
the truth, I was going to flog her. 

" Tell her," I said, " that, on the contrary, I 
will make her a present." 

He translated my promise, whereupon the girl, 
after one quick half-inquiring, half-doubting glance 
at me, rapped out something that sounded short, 
solid, and authoritative, like the rat-a-tat-tat of a 

Then it was the interpreter's turn to take refuge 
in silence. He absolutely declined to translate 
what she had said, saying that it was too dreadful, 
was quite unfit for me to hear, &c. &c. 
" Very well," I said at last, " I will go and tell 
Major Schomburgk that you refuse to perform your 

Whereupon the poor man, driven into a corner, 
blurted out the message, running his words alto- 
gether in his confusion and excitement. " The 
impudent little wench says," he rapped out, " that 

I had to laugh. I simply could not help it. 
But my mirth had a slight— a very slight— tinge of 
bitterness in it. To be told to my face that I was 
ugly ! And by this naked little ebony imp. 

Well, men, I reflected, had not found me un- 
comely. And even from my own sex — supremest 
test of all — I had listened to words of appreciation, 
and even of admiration upon occasion. So I play- 
fully pinched the cheek of my little critic, and 
sent her away happy in the possession of a gaudy- 
coloured silk handkerchief. 

This incident broke the ice, so to speak, and soon 
I was on the best of terms with practically the 
entire juvenile population of Paratau. They dis- 
covered that I was not really an ogre, as they had 
imagined at first. But I could not prevail upon them 
to admit that I possessed any claim upon their 
admiration, whatever I might have upon their 
gratitude. " Am I really and truly ugly ? " I one 
day asked a little boy, a dear little chum of mine. 
" Really and truly you are, dear Puss," he replied, 
with childish frankness. " But," he added in ex- 
tenuation, and as a balm perhaps for my wounded 
feelings, " you cannot help that. The good God 
made you so, did he not ? We cannot all be black 
and beautiful." 

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