The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

James Chuma and Abdullah Susi

James Chuma and Abdullah Susi

A carte-de-visite portrait of Abdullah Susi and James Chuma, seen here with various objects connected to the life and work of their former employer, the explorer and missionary David Livingstone. The photograph was taken in June 1874 at Newstead Abbey in Northamptonshire. Once the home of Lord Byron, in the mid-nineteenth century it was owned by Livingstone’s friend and fellow explorer William Frederick Webb. Livingstone stayed there from September 1864 to April 1865 while he was writing The Zambezi and Its Tributaries.

The two men travelled with Livingstone in Africa for many years and brought his body to the coast after his death at Ilala in 1873. Once they had accomplished their mission, the British authorities would have happily forgotten them but they were taken to Zanzibar and then afterwards to Britain through the generosity of Livingstone’s old friend Dr James Young, the Scottish chemist who had made a fortune in the paraffin oil industry. Their accounts of their time with Livingstone proved invaluable to the explorer's close associate Horace Waller, who edited and published Livingstone's journals. These were published in two volumes in 1874, as The Last Journals of David Livingstone in Central Africa, from 1865 until his death. Waller gratefully acknowledge the assistance he had received from Susi and Chuma and included portraits of them in his work. When the Royal Geographical Society presented them with medals in recognition of their contributions to geography, Waller was unstinting in his praise: ‘The faithful companions of Livingstone were able to give an intelligible account of every river and mountain and village in the regions they had passed through; and such aid as they could give was of the first importance to Mr Livingstone in preparing the work on which he was engaged’ [quoted in The Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, 2013, ed. John Hannavy].

Photographed by R. Allen and Son.

Published as Number 1 in a series entitled ‘Livingstone Memorials’, a caption printed recto in the margin reads ‘Brought by faithful hands o’er land and sea’, the words which are carved on Livingstone’s tomb in Westminster Abbey.


Code: 126193
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