Friday, 9 March 2012

More on “The Fashionable Hair”–style on Africa’s west coast in the 1900s

In a post last month I looked at a series of early postcards by the African photographer Arkhurst showing images of women’s dress and hair styles on Africa’s west coast, the region stretching from Nigeria up to Sierra Leone, in the early 1900s. Since so many people enjoyed seeing them, today I have brought together another group of postcards from the same era, this time by other photographers, showing similar fashions. All photos author’s collection, click to enlarge.


“Gold Coast, Fanti Woman” – postcard circa 1900, photographer “W.S. Johnston & Sons, Art Photographers, Freetown, Sa Leone.”



The above two photos “Gold in evidence gold coast Type” and “Gold Coast Beauty” are a rare instance of two views from the same sitting. Photographer “Photoholm – Lagos” circa 1900.


“Fantee-women” published by L. Pagenstecher & Co, Sekondi. circa 1900.


“Accra” – photographer and publisher unknown. circa 1900.


“Sekondi – Fantee Woman” photographer and publisher unknown. circa 1900.


“Congo. Femme Acra” photographer and publisher unknown. circa 1900.

For a discussion of this kind of image in the wider context of the history of photography in Africa I can recommend the book Photography and Africa by Erin Haney (reaktion books, 2010.)


  1. They are BEAUTIFUL!! I am enamored. Thank you for sharing! One of my favorite eras, and I'm so glad to see some sisters defining beauty by a different standard than the typical Edwardian standard. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing these beautiful photographs -I also have many on my blog, but I wondering? Why aren’t you crediting these photographs as Ghanaian (formally Gold Coast)? Please note, photographer F.W.H Arkhurst was born in the Gold Coast, now -Ghana, and anything that mentions: Accra, Akan, Asante, Ashanti, Axim, Elmina,
    Gold Coast, Fante, Fanti, Nzima, Sekondi, Takoradi or Tarkwa is from Ghana.

    1. My thoughts exactly these photos are from Ghana they are all fante women but there is no mention at all of Ghana

  3. Thanks for your interest. Arkhurst was indeed born in Gold Coast. However he lived and worked in Cote D'Ivoire. Perhaps he considered himself a citizen of Gold Coast, perhaps an Ivoirian, perhaps both. On your broader point, the places you list are of course in Ghana but some of the ethnonyms you have to share - there are a lot of Nzima and Akan in Cote D'Ivoire.

    1. but they are Ghanaian pictures of Ghanaian so why don't you just credit them here is absoulty nothing for us looking for old pictures of Ghanaian women

  4. Duncan,

    Glad you mentioned that these places are in Ghana. Me and my family are from Ghana and we are from Tema....every Ghanaian knows that when one says Gold Coast they are referring to Ghana, :-) thank you for clarifying the locales....

  5. Just stumbled on these photos, what a rare find and they are beautiful!!!