The Power of Images

During my recent travels I stumbled upon a coronation memento from 1902, which was commemorating the coronation of Edward VII.

Although it initially didn’t fit into my collection’s scope, I decided to add it because it brought to mind a picture I had previously seen in a newspaper from my archives.

Attached is a photo of the newspaper dated back to 1908, an edition of The Graphic. It contains a sketch depicting a Wukari King, accompanied by some chiefs, being “introduced” to the British monarchs via framed photographs by a British Commissioner.
The article is titled “PEACE OFFERING FOR A DUSKY MONARCH”. Below is an excerpt from the article.

“ …British Commissioners and others carrying on negotiations with African Chiefs commonly provide themselves with coloured pictures of our King and Queen, such as those published, for the purpose of presenting them as gifts to woo the savage mind”

In the late 1800s, photography became commercially available and gained popularity by 1900. However, actual photographs were not widely accessible to many Nigerians at that time. The British authorities, recognizing the power of photography used it to their advantage by displaying realistic images of the British monarchy. This strategic move had a profound impact.

The British used these images to create a sense of awe and reverence for the monarchy, portraying them and those representing them in Nigeria as a symbol of power, authority, and civilization.

These pictures were widely distributed in Nigeria through propaganda materials such as framed paintings and photographs. Furthermore, colonial officials and missionaries frequently exhibited depictions of the British monarchy in public areas such as schools and government buildings to reinforce the message of British superiority and dominance. This strategy was instrumental in shaping the mindset of numerous Nigerians towards the British colonizers and their colonial strategies.

Since the era of British colonization, Nigerians have adopted several practices, such as the English language, legal framework, and sports like football. And maybe this influence may also be observed in framed photos displayed in government offices today.

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