King's College London
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I speak of Africa

Abyssinia

The hairstyles adopted by the women of Gondar and Againe, as depicted in: Théophile Lefèbvre. Voyage en Abyssinie exécuté pendant les années 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842, 1843. Paris : Arthur Bertrand, [1845-51] [FCO Historical Collection FOL. DT377 LEF]The hairstyles adopted by the women of Gondar and Againe, as depicted in: Théophile Lefèbvre. Voyage en Abyssinie exécuté pendant les années 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842, 1843. Paris : Arthur Bertrand, [1845-51] [FCO Historical Collection FOL. DT377 LEF]Over the centuries European travellers and explorers remained drawn to Ethiopia’s fascinating civilisation and its intriguing Christian religion.

During the years 1839-43, a French scientific expedition under the leadership of Théophile Lefèbvre (1811-60), a young naval officer, explored the country in detail. During their stay the explorers sent a collection of 26 different mammal skins, 156 dead birds, twelve reptile skins and a herbarium containing 600 different species of plants back to France.

The expedition’s findings were embodied in eight volumes of text and three volumes of plates, detailing Ethiopia’s history, internal politics, administration, flora, fauna and the inhabitants’ religion, customs and manners, as well as their physiognomy. Lefèbvre also reported on commercial opportunities offered to Europeans by the country, thus fulfilling another aim of the expedition. He recommended a political alliance with one of the provincial tribal leaders in order to support French trade.

The plate on display shows the facial features and distinct female hair-styles adopted in different provinces of Ethiopia.

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