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Central and Southern African Tribal Art





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Casimir Ostoja Zagourski


Kazimierz Zagórski  - 1883-1944

Adventurer - Pioneer - Photographer - Artist - Historian


From the J R Ivy Album



Bwaka Men


Casimir Zagourski (Kazimierz Zagorski) was born the 9th of August 1883 in Zytomiez (Zytomierz) Poland (Ukraine). His father was a Polish nobleman. As a young man, he took up a military career in the Czarist Air Force (Russia). He left military service as Lieutenant Colonel Zagourski. Circa 1924 found him struggling to make a living. He set sail for Léopoldville - Belgium Congo, as an amateur photographer.




Casimir Zagourski in his first Studio - 1925 - Léopoldville - Belgian Congo


There he established a business called PHOTO - Photographie Zagourski. The original location looked more like an explorers base with maps, posters, cameras, tripods, crates and guns adorning the walls. By 1930 his letterhead read; Atelier PHOTO Cinématograpique - Casimir Zagourski.




 ZAGOURSKI  Lost Africa - Pg. 11 - PHOTO - Photographie Zagourski


In 1935 Zagourski moved his firm to a new location. He sold AGFA photographic equipment - materials and produced countless portraits of Europeans. A dark room was located in the basement. He was often commissioned to take photographs of events and buildings. The shop continued to serve as his base, but it never provided adequate funding for his expensive expeditions to the interior. At times he obtained government funding, where he was able to record the colonies flora - fauna and tribal people. Records confirm that he produced films for the government, but to date none of these have surfaced.




Expedition Photographie - C. Zagourski - 1934 Ford Panel Van  with side valve V8  Motor


Zagourski sacrificed his time, energies, savings and in the end his health, in order to reach out to the territories in a quest to satisfy his passion for photography. During his 20 years in and around the Congo, he embarked on countless expeditions, highlighted by those of 1929, 1932, 1935 and 1937. Judging from aerial images and remembering that he was a lieutenant in the air force, it appears he flew to destinations such as Chad (French Equatorial Africa) and the Kuibo Falls in Katanga (Shaba). He also traveled to Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania (Tanganyika) and Uganda. The adventures resulted in 1000's  of technically sophisticated images of the Bafurero, Bakuba or Kuba, Bakwamputu or Mputu, Baluba or Luba, Banza, Bashilele or Lele, Benia-Bounga, Bongmelima or Bongomelima, Bwaka, Kakumu or Kumu, Kikyu, Lulua, Maasai or Masai, Mangbetu, Nendi or Nandi, Ngombe and the Wagelia or Enia. Zagourski felt pride when his photographs were used in research documents.


From the beginning, Zagorski was driven to be recognized by the Belgian colonial government and the Royal Court. In 1928 he was commissioned to document the royal visit of King Albert and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. He used the opportunity to present the monarch with an album of his photographic work. It was bound in snakeskin and adorned with an ivory plaque bearing the royal couples initials under a crown. In 1937 he placed his work on view at the Colonial Exhibition in Paris. He won a gold medal and the grand prize in Brazzaville - French Congo (Médaille d.Or, Grand Prix ŕ l'Exposition), which crowned the height of his photographic career.





Then and Now


Zagourski traveled up and down the River Congo (Fleuve du Zaire) and its tributaries on paddle boats, steamers and diesel powered barges. To this day, antiquated diesel powered craft - seemingly discarded by the former colonial government - drag broken craft that act as barges - up and down the mainstream.




Navigational Portions of Fleuve Congo (River) and it's Tributaries


In 1937 - Zagourski set off from Dar-es-Salam Tanganyika (Tanzania) to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Kivu and onto Stanleyville (Kisangani). Photographic work included African dress, adornment, scarifications, coiffures, weapons, musical instruments, pots, all types of artifacts, architecture, dances and masquerades. Zagourski captured ritual events of what was basically an untouched civilization. He was able to photograph the actual circumcision of Bawaka girls, a people living in the northern portion of the Equator Province.





                    ZAGOURSKI - Lost Africa - Pg 8                                      Zagourski - L'Afrique Qui Disparait


Using silver gelatin prints, Zagourski selected 415 images to create two numbered series of albums using postcards and enlargements. With astute perception, he entitled them; L'Afrique Gui Disparait. (Vanishing Africa or Lost Africa) Deluxe editions of the albums were bound in leather. Postcards in the portfolios had informative captions printed on their face. The postcards themselves were produced in Leipzig - Germany. Sales of single postcards and or albums, became an important aspect of Photographie Zagourski's income.


Zagourski found himself stuck in Europe at the outbreak of WW2. The Germans would not allow him to leave occupied Poland, as he was a citizen. His strong relationship with AGFA allowed him to encourage them to intervene on his behalf, which was successful. In 1940  he made his way to Belgium, where he fell ill with a kidney disorder. He moved to France when a German invasion of Belgium became immanent. There he had surgery and barely recovered before traveling to Portugal, where he set sail for the Congo in 1941.


Zagourski never fully recovered from his illness. He died the 10th of January 1944 in present day Kinshasa. His final words were: I am proud to have lived and to die not only a good and loyal Pole, but also a consummate Congolese. During the years of Zagourski's African tenure, no photographer in central Africa technically articulated the visual image of the peoples of the region more aesthetically, or with equaled sensitivity, as did he.



The J R Ivy Album


Casimir Zagourski




Photograph by Casimir Zagourski


The JR Ivy Albums consist of 12 portfolios containing photographs purchased from firms and well known photographers of their era. (Alice Mertens / Barbara Tyrrell / C Lamote / Casimir Zagourski / Congopress / Constance Stuart-Larabee / Dennis Cleaver / Frank Gordon / Goldstein / Killie Campbell Library /  Lynn Acutt Photographers /  Mrs. Fred Clark /  P M S du Toit / Peter Jurgens / Ralph Banning /  SATour / Whysall's Studios) The historic photographic records were assembled by Margaret Winckler - Ford (1907-2000).


Winckler was a world traveler who managed the Durban branch of J. R. Ivy's. J R Ivy's were world renowned taxidermists and purveyors of ethnographic and tribal art works. The assembled albums provided visual reference for clients, exposing segments of native life and their art forms. During Winckler's tenure at J R Ivy's, she traveled to the Dondo Museum in Angola. There she obtained an extensive collection of 184 Casimir Zagourski postcards. Back in South Africa, the Zagourski  postcards became the core of the Ivy album entitled CONGO. It is our privilege to share these postcards with you.


L'Afrique Qui Disparait - Vanishing Africa


The people, cars, homes and animals are now gone.


What remains is a Portuguese stone inscription along the Congo River - and imagery by Casimir Zagourski.


10 cheers to Zagourski for capturing their moments in time!



































































































































































































































































































































Cheers to Zagourski's for his astounding foresight and personalized moments time!









Galerie Ezakwantu

Southern African Tribal Art - African Art 


Central and Southern African Tribal Art


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