The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

 
 
 
Japanese contortionists

Japanese contortionists


A carte-de-visite portrait of two contortionists identified as 'Japanese acrobats' by a pencilled inscription in a period hand on the reverse of the mount.

Photographed by The Adelaide School of Photography in Adelaide, South Australia.

In August 1875 the two children were appearing in Tasmania with The Asiatic Circus Company. According to a report in the local Tasmanian paper: 'The younger members had considerably improved, especially the little fellow Itcha, who now does the bamboo feat which used to fall to the lot of the girl Ma-Kitchie. These two, with Coma Schloe, form a trio of remarkably efficient performers, and as contortionists and acrobats they undoubtedly stand unrivalled.'

On the 7 August 1875 the Laureston Examiner reported that: 'The Japanese again gave specimens of their wonderful skill; Coma Schloe and Itcha going through their contortionist performances on the pedestal of boxes, and Bungaro giving further proofs of his powers in balancing'.

Reading the various reports, it seems that the boy on the left in this portrait is Itcha, the son of Bungaro, co-manager of the troupe. The younger lad seen here on the right is Coma Schloe. Their names would today be transliterated as Icha and Komashowa. Bugaro and son Icha settled in Queensland but Icha went off the rails. Court records show that in 1876 he was prosecuted for swearing in public, at which time he was 12 years old, and he was subsequently sent to reform school for three years when another court found him guilty of theft.
 

Code: 124384
 
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© Paul Frecker 2018