Franec began colonizing North Africa (1830). Algeria was from the berginning the major colony.
The Second Republic abolished slavery in all French colonies, including Algeria (1848). This outlawed the slave trade and slavery illegal in Algeria, Tunisia, and the rest of France’s colonial empire. Yet thousands of slaves, mainly women and children, continued to be sold, bought and freed. [Brower] French photograohrs began to establish studios and we begin to see images like this. There weas a market for ethnographic photograohs.
The CDV mount helps to date the portrait to the 1860s. Here there was no accompoanying information. We do not know who these two women and the boy are. But because they are not veiled, we suspect that the women are slaves and because the boy is prbably one of their sons. That would make him a slave as well. He looks to be the son of gheir owner. It is difficult to tell. Note that both women have jewlry, which suggests a degree of status. We are still assessing the image. What we find confusing is that we have no real idea aht brings these three together. Now it is possible that that the lady on the left may be the boy's mother, but clarly the youngr girl on the right is mot related to the oyther two. And while they both are showing real affection to the boy. Yet the boy is poorly clothesed compared to the two women. His robe is both plain and filthy. And he is barefoot.
A CIH reader writes, "There are no elements to think that these are slaves. The veil was common in North Africa, but it is not imposed by Koran, and not in all communities was used, especially among low condition people.
I am thinking about another thing. There are many postcards showing shirtless women (and even unclothed). Most of them have an erotic attitude. Clearly the photographer asked them to take off their clothing. However there are only two possibilities. If they were free women, they didn't follow the modesty rules. That is possible. The situation was not so fundamelist and clearly the photographers gave some money. If they were slave women the modesty rules were different. They have to cover only the pelvis (the photos with naked women are anyway against modesty rules).
Many images are erotic, according to the orientalistic fashion at the time. Here you can see two that are a bit more acceptable."
While we baically agree with our reader, we do yhink that the veil was important. It was mot rquired by tyhe Koran, but many husbands insisted on it. but he is right, it is not absolute proof that the women were slaves. Anotgher factor is the one woman's African featutres. Now again the Koran did not sanction racially based slavery. But in the Magreb, the primary source of slaves, was captive people from sub-Saharan Africa. This is not to say that all slaves were Africans. They were not. There were European captives taken by the Barbary pirates. Those would have been relatively small numbers and only the women would have fisteed children in any numbers.
We note many similar images from British-influenced Egypt, although there were more people of frican ancestry in Egypt. This was because of the Nile and the fact that Cairo was a major markert for the Indian Ocean slave trade. Of course the Trans-Sharan carvans brought captive Africans into North Africa, but not in the same numbers.
Our reader has provided us a postcard showing a Moroccan slave in Marrakech. He tells us, "Looking at the photo, the women don't wear the usual headscarf. Anyway they cover their heads a bit. Here a Moroccan postcard declaring that it is a photo of a slave woman from Marrakech." What is notable is that the children so not have prominent African features.
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