Popular Films and Colonial Audiences: The Movies in Northern Rhodesia

During the 1940s and 1950s, no visitor to the coppermining cities of colonial Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) in central Africa could escape the visible marks of the impact of American films.[1] In the vast company compounds that housed the African miners and their families on the Copperbelt, groups of African boys, “dressed in home-made paper ‘chaps’ and cowboy hats, and carrying crudely carved wooden pistols,” were a ubiquitous presence running through the streets and alleys in endless games of cowboys and Indians. Others appeared “more sinister, . . . with a black mask over the eyes and a wooden dagger in the belt.” As they engaged in their mock battles, they could be heard shouting, “Jeke, Jeke,” a local corruption of “Jack,” the universal term among urban moviegoers in the British central African colonies for the heroes of cowboy films.[2] In the same streets, young men affected styles of dress that plainly showed the influence of westerns and gangster films—ten-gallon hats, kerchiefs, and so forth.[3]

This phenomenon of “Copperbelt Cowboys” and its manifestation in urban areas across much of British-ruled Africa vividly demonstrates the rapid and pervasive penetration of mythic Hollywood screen imagery into even remote corners of the empire.[4] In the early 1950s, the industrial development of the Copperbelt, and the concomitant creation of urban settlements, was scarcely two decades old; even those who regarded themselves as permanent town residents still had strong ties to the countryside.[5] Yet, by the late 1930s, film shows, known locally as “the bioscope,” were a well-established feature of life in the copper-mining towns and company compounds. Thousands of women, men, and children crowded into enclosed open-air cinemas each week to watch film programs that mixed entertainment and current events;[6] and many young town dwellers were avid bioscope fans, valuing films above all other forms of entertainment.[7] For people caught up in the dramatic development of urban and industrial communities, the popularity of films clearly represented something more than the superficial appropriation of global media jetsam. The remarkable persistence of Copperbelt audiences in their affection for cowboy films and the styles derived from them draws attention not only to the apparently inexorable dispersion of elements of Western popular culture but also to the deeper processes of media globalization.[8]

This essay takes up the history of film entertainment in Northern Rhodesia in order to explore the broad question of the transmission and reception of Western mass culture in the context of colonialism. The story of moviegoing in Northern Rhodesia places in particularly sharp relief issues defining the movement and appropriation of media images as they travel across the boundaries of culture, ethnicity, and race—in this case, the profound economic and cultural chasm that separated African residents of the Copperbelt from the centers of media production in the United States and Britain. The people who eagerly attended outdoor cinemas on the Copperbelt generally had had little if any formal education; not many had traveled outside the territory; most were little educated to the symbols, customary behaviors, and settings that contextualized these films for Western audiences or even for relatively better-off and better-educated Africans across southern Africa. Certainly, few moviegoers had sufficient knowledge of colloquial spoken American or British English to comprehend the dialogue—even if it had been discernable in the noisy atmosphere that characterized these film shows.[9] In any case, censors had cut films shown on the Copperbelt to ensure that African audiences were not exposed to images or story lines that they imagined might inspire challenge to the white supremacist colonial order—a tall order, given the violent rituals that characterize the plot of a typical western.[10] The resulting celluloid butchery apparently left many movies devoid of discernable narrative. One official noted in 1956, “many films which you may have seen are sadly lacking in continuity.”[11] Most members of the audience could therefore make little sense of film plotlines and consequently experienced these movies in quite different ways than did moviegoers in North America. If censorship and noise obscured plots and dialogue, what was it, then, that drew African filmgoers to Hollywood westerns, and how did these filmgoers comprehend or consume these films across the sharp cultural and class divide between filmmaker and filmgoer?

Movies emerged as popular entertainment in Northern Rhodesia at the same time that social critics in the United States and Western Europe began to give serious attention to the impact of films on “impressionable” audiences—chiefly youths, immigrants, and the urban poor. Scholars linked to the Frankfurt School argued that movies constituted a kind of trivial mass deception;[12] while in more concrete terms, studies like those of the Payne Fund on “Motion Pictures and Youth” accumulated data to document charges that movies encouraged antisocial behavior among young people, sustaining debates about the impact of media that still thrive.[13] The rise of movie attendance in the 1930s inspired many white residents of the Copperbelt and more than a few prominent Africans to express similar concerns—about what they saw as the negative and potentially dangerous effects of the products of Hollywood on the impressionable African youths who festooned themselves with cowboy gear.[14] Because censors in both South Africa and Northern Rhodesia had reviewed and often cut the films that were approved for African audiences, such worries were presumably exaggerated.[15] But if attempts to link filmgoing to criminality, a decline in deference, the erosion of traditional values, and sexual violence strain credulity, the popular passion for these films that persisted among urban youths for several decades was nevertheless a remarkable sign of the strong engagement of urban audiences with films. Yet scholars have largely ignored the complicated interplay between African audiences and popular films.[16]

Researchers have focused instead on the post-independence emergence of local filmmakers and indigenous cinema and on the representation of Africa in films, but the important body of work they have produced does not, for the most part, touch on the impact of Hollywood films, or other forms of popular media, in African communities or other societies shaped by colonialism.[17] The paucity of scholarship addressing the global impact of popular films reflects a notable inattention in film studies generally to film reception across race, ethnic, national, class, generational, and gender lines.[18] Standard accounts of the history of movies in the United States, for example, typically pay little attention to audience and especially to audience diversity.[19] This apparent lack of serious concern among film historians and other scholars for the process of film consumption contrasts markedly to the continuing prominence in political and moral discourse—in circumstances as diverse as the United States and Northern Rhodesia—of the dangers that certain kinds of films supposedly represent to the social and moral order. Instead, scholarship on cinema in Africa, like most of film studies, concentrates on a detailed, almost textual, analysis of individual movies or movie genres as autonomous products, an approach that has tended to privilege the scholar-critic as the arbiter of film meaning and effectively dismisses the audience as irrelevant or assumes its passive reception of a film’s putative message.[20]

The traditional orientation of film scholarship toward critical analysis of individual films has sustained a substantial scholarly literature analyzing representation—typically of suppressed or marginal groups, including Africans, whose distorted image in film has been documented by Peter Davis’s In Darkest Hollywood and a number of other important studies.[21] Interestingly, scholars have given much less attention to how moviemakers have represented mainstream Western culture (unless one refers to the “Wild West”) to groups or societies outside that mainstream, for example, immigrants in American cities or the residents of colonial southern and central Africa.[22] Certainly, scholars have ignored or avoided the fascinating question of how such oppressed people interpreted the West through the prism of popular Hollywood movies.[23] Film scholarship has tended not only to dodge the issue of audience response to popular cinema but also has typically avoided analysis of the characteristically cinematic elements of such films—the very elements that apparently drew residents of Northern Rhodesian towns to the theaters week after week.[24] Instead, film scholars have most often “read” films almost as conventional literary narratives—in effect, as scripts disengaged from film images and techniques.[25] These readings embody a contradiction that links film scholars in an ironic intellectual alliance with those who demanded movie censorship. Both scholars and censors have confidently extracted the putative narrative meanings of films, largely ignoring the visual images that convey those narratives, while at the same time investing the film medium with transcendent didactic power rooted in those same dazzling visual qualities.[26]

Imperial propagandists likewise became convinced that films invested with appropriate narrative messages could bolster loyalty to the empire and promote colonial “development” objectives. These rather feeble efforts at propaganda films have nevertheless attracted considerably more interest from scholars than the Hollywood fare.[27] Like most film studies, this scholarship generally incorporates a textual determinism that effectively marginalizes the audience.[28] Yet, in practice, and notwithstanding the best efforts of paternalistic imperial bureaucrats, African moviegoers generally had little patience for films on postal savings banks, “Better Hides and Skins,” and proper teeth-brushing procedures.[29] For them, movies meant the bioscope—the high-action products of Hollywood dream factories.[30]

Empirical observations about the experience of watching movies in Northern Rhodesia converge persuasively with a new scholarship that argues for a radical rethinking of the complicated relationship between viewer and subject that would embed the reception of “film texts” in specific historical circumstances. Locating the history of the bioscope in this way implies shifting the perspective from the films themselves, and the objectives of those controlling their distribution and exhibition, and instead focusing attention on audiences. Such an emphasis on spectatorship requires in turn exploring the “cultures” of film viewing and extending the meanings of a film in networks of information transmission beyond the theater; cinema becomes, in other words, “a particular public sphere . . . a space where viewing communities are constructed in a way that involves both acculturation to social ideals and the affirmation of marginality.”[31] This new literature on spectatorship, rooted in feminist scholarship, is strangely silent, however, on issues of race, culture, and class.[32] The work that purports to explore the racial dimensions of spectatorship is in fact mostly concerned with isolating stereotypical imagery in films whose subject matter is identifiably race rather than reading the reception of mass-audience films in race-conscious or culture-conscious terms.[33] Still, the impulse that has led scholars to feminist readings of audience engagement with horror films holds considerable promise for analysis of the often raucous outdoor film showings that were regular features of the urban landscape of Northern Rhodesia during the 1940s and 1950s.[34] Just as women and men may experience the apparently misogynist themes and images of horror movies in ways that confound confident assumptions, so, too, African audiences seem to have appropriated elements of westerns and other action movies in ways that subverted the narrative and racially defined principles of censorship. The recent and dramatic growth of the distribution of imported videocassettes across Africa has attracted a few scholars to the complex phenomenon of audience response to popular films.[35] Whether exploring the popularity of Indian movies among audiences in northern Nigeria or the appeal of romance films to secluded Muslim women on the Kenya coast, this work focuses attention on the complicated processes through which films are seen across cultural divisions.[36] Likewise, audiences on the Copperbelt in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were by no means passive consumers of cinema. They absorbed exotic images and discussed the actions and motivations of characters, but they also appropriated and reinterpreted film images and action in their own terms. To the young women and men who flocked to film shows on the Copperbelt, the often disjointed and exotic images of the “Wild West” that Hollywood films conveyed comprised a crucial repertoire of images through which to engage notions of modernity—a vital concern for residents of this industrial frontier.[37]

In the networks of film distribution, the Northern Rhodesian mining district lay on the extreme margins, a distant outpost for a South African distributor.[38] The introduction and spread of film entertainment in Northern Rhodesia followed rapidly on the development of the copper mining industry in the late 1920s, as colonial officials and mine management sought to provide “appropriate” leisure activities for an African work force that was for the most part unaccustomed to the temporal and spatial constraints of industrial employment. After the first public film showing in 1928, the bioscope spread steadily across the Copperbelt.[39] By the mid-1930s, tens of thousands of Africans lived in municipal African townships and mining company residential compounds in the mining district, and cinema shows had become a commonplace feature of town life.[40] Through the 1930s, British and American silent films dominated screens, but by 1935 the paucity of silents in distribution had forced the mine companies to introduce sound.[41] World War II brought a rapid expansion of film showings across the British Empire under the aegis of the Colonial Film Unit, as imperial officials strove to mobilize support for the war effort.[42] In 1942, the Northern Rhodesia Information Service began a mobile cinema service in the countryside.[43] In 1944, when the African population of the entire territory numbered about 1.3 million, approximately 17,000 Africans saw films each week in the established municipal and mine-company cinemas; in addition, the mobile cinema van reached about 80,000 people during the year.[44] By 1947, the film library had expanded to 650 titles, and six mobile units and fifteen outdoor theaters provided films to Africans in Northern Rhodesia; seventeen private exhibitors also showed movies from time to time.[45] Thus, by the 1950s, a large segment of the African population in Northern Rhodesia had some knowledge and experience of films, and an established audience of filmgoers had emerged in towns.[46]

The government recognized the development of a local movie audience by launching “The Northern Spotlight,” a 35-millimeter current events magazine series, and by permitting the establishment of film societies and film showings in clubs.[47] These efforts to reach an influential segment of the African population coincided with the emergence of bitter opposition among Africans in Northern Rhodesia to the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland into a Central African Federation dominated by white settlers, with a broader campaign by the mining companies and the state to nurture a privileged class of relatively well-paid and well-educated African workers.[48] Commercial indoor movie theaters in Northern Rhodesia, however, remained reserved for whites, and regulations thwarted even private showings of films for groups that included both whites and Africans, until all public facilities were desegregated in 1960 in anticipation of majority rule.[49]

The mythology of the birth of film celebrates stories of spectators screaming and running from auditoriums in terror at the destruction of the distinction between the real and imaginary that motion pictures putatively represented. Film historian Tom Gunning has argued that vivid and exaggerated early accounts, and the persistent theoretical assumptions drawn from these stories, have typically portrayed early film showings as the dramatic confrontations of naifs with a frightening unknown force, replicating “a state usually attributed to savages in their primal encounter with the advanced technology of Western colonialists, howling and fleeing in impotent terror before the power of the machine.”[50] Gunning effectively situates these early film shows as a “cinema of attractions” in a history of spectacle. He persuasively rereads the myths of reactions to moving images of onrushing trains “allegorically rather than mythically,” arguing that “screams of terror and delight were well prepared for by both showmen and audience.”[51] Audiences in the mining compounds and at rural film shows experienced films in much the same way as European audiences at the turn of the century. The movies shown in Paris and New York at that time aimed to amaze—like the magic shows that preceded them—not to tell stories. By 1905, narrative films had entirely supplanted this early genre, but, exported to Northern Rhodesia and shown in censored form, mainstream movies were often perceived viscerally as a disconnected series of exotic, exciting, and frighteningly pleasurable images and special effects. At film shows on the Copperbelt, the audience members continually engaged in the action: “men, women, and children rose to their feet in excitement, bending forward and flexing their muscles with each blow the cowboys gave. The shouting could be heard several miles away.”[52] Accounts of film showings invariably emphasize the enthusiasm of audiences, but they provide little evidence of the existence of “primitive” machine terror.[53] African audiences may have had no specific experience of magic attractions, but they could nevertheless locate films in an indigenous tradition of plays and other kinds of performances and enjoy them in the context of a storytelling tradition that was by no means rooted in linear narrative.[54]

If audiences seem in fact to have rapidly accommodated film technology, colonial cinema policy (not to mention modern cinema scholarship) remained rooted in deeply held assumptions about the powerful, emotional effect of films on Africans. Even as late as 1960, when the colonial government was attempting, against considerable settler resistance, to engineer a transition to majority rule, many white colonial officials remained absolutely convinced of the continued need to censor films on a racial basis. When Harry Franklin, longtime director of information in Northern Rhodesia, had the temerity to argue, “the idea that the white female leg or the safe blowing crackman shown on the screen encourages Africans more than any other people to immorality or crime is outmoded,” the official reviewing the memorandum penciled in defiantly, “But it’s still true.”[55]

Ironically, it was educated people, both European and African, rather than the general African audience, who were most dazzled by the medium and convinced of its powerful potential for harm and good. In 1960, an African government official could still aggressively defend racial censorship in public testimony, citing the deleterious impact of “scenes of crime or violence being shown to the unsophisticated, uneducated mass of the African people.” He went on to assert: “such films have an adverse effect emotionally . . . The primitive African is always being told of the advantages of assimilating Western Civilisation, but when he sees Europeans in a film indulging in sexual and criminal misbehavior doubts are raised in his mind.”[56] Even if, in retrospect, it seems laughable that the state would have found it necessary to protect African audiences from Fitness Wins the Game or The Lavender Hill Mob (1951),[57] the assumptions that sustained such actions and the criticisms of them inscribe critical debates about the relationship between the nature of film media on the one hand and on the other the evolution of class and race difference. Moreover, the practice of censorship had a direct, material effect on the actual experience of film attendance, while the ideas that shaped the practice provide an essential context for reading the accounts of African filmgoing—texts that were largely the product of white officials and observers and that often took the form of ritualized encounters of “the primitive” and technology.[58] Thus a white businessman proposing the establishment of commercial cinemas for Africans in the 1950s noted casually that, “from a health point of view,” it was essential such film shows be in the open air.[59] Similarly, a description of mobile cinema shows in Northern Rhodesia in 1950 contained the warning that “on no account should an attempt be made to give a demonstration in a confined space unless the attendance can be effectively controlled. The larger the space the better.”[60] These concerns about space reveal plainly the imminence of danger that Europeans saw in film shows for Africans, where it was imagined that emotional surges provoked by moving images might inspire irrational, immoral, or criminal acts.[61]

From the very beginning of film showing in the early 1930s, government officials insisted on some form of race-defined censorship; in the late 1930s, as the number of film showings increased quickly, they created a special board to censor films for African audiences.[62] The principles that governed the board’s actions flowed from a number of sometimes contradictory formulations of the interplay between African audiences and film. Employers and many government officials held that only “action” could hold the interest of African spectators and that settings and meaningful plotlines were often irrelevant.[63] Such officials regarded action movies as “healthy amusement” for urban workers and could be contemptuous of those who saw the entire genre as lacking in value or even as dangerous.[64] By contrast, the activities of the Bantu Educational Cinema Experiment (BECE) and subsequent experiments with educational film were rooted in an opposing perspective.[65] As early as 1932, the report of an investigation of conditions on the Copperbelt sponsored by the International Missionary Council waxed rapturous on the possibilities that Soviet media campaigns had demonstrated for Christian education and development through film. Mesmerized by the power of film, and in particular the power of film over “primitive” audiences, those involved in the BECE and its successors like the Colonial Film Unit believed deeply in the educational and development potential of film and were profoundly disturbed by what they believed to be the economic and social consequences of the popularity of commercial movies.[66] During its brief existence between 1935 and 1937, the Carnegie-funded BECE concentrated on the production of didactic “entertainment” films with local settings and actors that would be shown especially in rural areas in British East Africa and central Africa.[67]

The development of programs of educational film distribution in Northern Rhodesia and other British African colonies incorporated a distinctly imperial theory of African visual cognition that surfaced repeatedly in the pages of the official periodical, Colonial Cinema. An article published in 1943 emphasized that, to gain and maintain the attention of the African audience, a filmmaker had to employ a “technique which is skillfully related to the psychology of the African.” That meant that images had to be “needle sharp” and subjects correspondingly straightforward. Above all, it was critical that “tricks” used in filmmaking to convey elapsed time or to shift scene be avoided:

visual continuity from scene to scene should be sustained. Every new shot without a visual link with its predecessor starts another train of thought which may exclude everything that has gone before . . . To the illiterate such a technique leads to utter confusion; their minds are not sufficiently versatile to comprehend these swift and sudden changes.[68]
Similarly, films that framed a distance shot of a moving boat with a swaying tree branch closer up would supposedly confuse African filmgoers, who would focus on the moving branch rather than the boat.[69] Certainly, the BECE placed particular emphasis on the importance of using recognizable film settings and avoiding exotic locales, a perspective maintained by the officials of the Colonial Film Unit: “Fun and games in the snow do not look so funny to an audience which thinks snow is sand and wonders how it sticks together.”[70] The enormous popularity of American westerns—in which such techniques were commonplace—would seem effectively to dispose of these theories.[71] But perhaps not. The evaluation of the effects of film techniques invariably made narrative comprehension the measure of a movie’s quality; but in a cinema of attractions, individual sequences and powerful imagery supersede questions of narrative and continuity.
If whites in Northern Rhodesia debated the dangers and entertainment value of ordinary Hollywood fare, virtually all agreed that certain categories of films and film images were inappropriate for Africans to view. No statutory guidelines governed censorship decisions, but the definition of what was suitable for African audiences remained consistent over time, although political concerns seem to have become more prominent after 1945.[72] Scenes “invariably cut from films” in 1946 included women in swimsuits or other scanty attire, “women of easy virtue, manhandling of women, prolonged embraces, fights between women, crimes readily understood by Africans [and] scenes of drunkenness.”[73] A list dating from 1951 used those same categories but stressed the censorship of scenes involving violence, laying special emphasis on those ritual scenes in which American Indians captured and tied up white pioneers. Objections were also raised to films that included scenes of war atrocities, violent battles, arson, masked men, or rioting and demonstrations.[74] A 1956 summary of the Censorship Board’s criteria for cutting or banning films added “deliberate murder, wanton killing, and knife scenes,” as well as any films “with religious references which might be misunderstood and thereby reflect poorly on any church.”[75] By the mid-1950s, the board reviewed as many as 200 films a year and cut scenes from perhaps half. A number of films were banned outright for African audiences.[76]

The public discourse on censorship imputed a powerful relationship between moving images of violence and sexuality and impulsive, aggressive, and violent forms of behavior on the part of male, working-class Africans. This preoccupation expressed itself especially in terms of the repression of black male sexuality and a defense of white womanhood. Any kind of display of white women’s bodies or of female sexuality, it was argued, undermined Africans’ respect for (white) morality. A defender of tight censorship maintained that “the safety of the [white] women and girls in Northern Rhodesia hangs upon their being respected by the Africans.”[77] Perhaps more to the point, the security of white male authority required that respect. Censorship was in fact defined essentially as a male domain. White women were included on the Censorship Board beginning in the 1930s, but only reluctantly, because it was difficult to find men with the spare time to devote to a task that, despite the rhetoric, was regarded as essentially frivolous. Moreover, officials privately argued that the presence of a woman member would “disarm criticism” if any “unpleasant crime by natives in this area should be attributed to anything seen on the films.”[78] The message was clear: this (male) official did not really believe that any such connection was likely to exist. The token female members of the Censorship Board were meanwhile tolerated as ineffectual observers of base imagery, as it was argued that they did not recognize scenes of “rank indecency” readily identified by their male counterparts.[79] The all-white board was very eager, however, to include male African members, arguing that such men would bring a special insight into what was for many whites an unfathomable world of African taste.[80] By 1945, two of the ten unofficial board members were Africans, whose perspectives differed little from “moderate” white members in their concentration on the impact of film on urban youth.[81] Interestingly, none of the series of commissions appointed to investigate urban discontent and labor activism on the Copperbelt made mention of movies as a source of urban criminality or aspirations.[82]

Actions taken on which films to pass or ban often struck perplexed observers as arbitrary or even ludicrous. In the late 1950s, a letter to the governor on the subject questioned permitting the distribution of a film on the Indian Ocean slave trade, West of Zanzibar (1954), which included a scene of African slaves throwing overboard “slick Indian lawyers and a villainous Arab dhow captain,” while at the same time the board banned Frontier Trail (1928), a silent western that followed a “half caste American Indian sneaking through the snows and conifers of Canada to ambush a posse of ‘Mounties.'”[83] If the proposition that African audiences would be more likely to identify with a slave mutiny than American Indians defending their land seems obvious, the banning of Frontier Trail possessed a certain tortured logic in the provincial and racially charged context of Northern Rhodesian censorship: the Mounties were, after all, British Empire policemen, and they were white; the slavers were Arabs, and they were represented as criminals.[84]

White residents of the colony often emphasized the dangers they saw in exposing Africans to typical cowboy movies with their scenes of lawlessness and violence, including violence that pitted “one bunch of Europeans against another.”[85] Some censors were even uneasy about films depicting combat during World War II or resistance to the Nazis.[86] A film like Town Meeting of the World might be banned for the dangerous democratic and internationalist sentiments it was likely to convey, but much more threatening was the American western that included a train hijacking and seizure of weapons, “poisonous stuff” in Northern Rhodesia when increasingly bitter conflict over political power challenged the race hierarchy and threatened order.[87] Many whites saw all popular films as intrinsically dangerous—they eroded the fundamental culture of deference by encouraging “the idea that to stand and speak to anyone with hands in pockets, lounging, and possibly giving the hat—firmly on the head—an insolent backward tilt is to show a high degree of sophistication.”[88]

In an interview conducted in 1990, the South African actor John Kani described his childhood encounter with Hollywood films: “Just to sit in this dark place, and magic takes place on the wall. For a moment, we forgot apartheid, we forgot there was another world that wasn’t good, we sat there and were carried away by the dream of these American movies.”[89] As the actor Djimon Hounsou, from Benin, has very recently recalled, going to the movies in African cities differed strikingly from the experience in the United States or Europe. The film was usually a dated western, but “it was amazing . . . We’d climb the walls to get in, and you’d see people packed in . . . Here, people refuse to sit in the first row of the theater. In Cotenou [Benin’s capital] there were kids pressed up against the screen.”[90] Children in Ghanaian cities would pool their change to raise enough money to buy a single movie ticket for the one boy or girl who could be counted on to absorb the film and describe in detail the hero’s dress and gait and repeat his memorable phrases.[91] Elderly Zambian city-dwellers hold similar memories of escapist pleasure in their recollections of the bioscope. One African woman became particularly animated as she recounted hours spent watching westerns. She did not care for the other important diversions that town life had offered her; she did not drink or attend dances: “I only liked the bioscope. Horses, cowboys, big hats, America.”[92]

Film attendance in Northern Rhodesia grew rapidly during the 1940s—the same time that the movies reached their peak as an attraction in North America and Britain. Many thousands of Africans were paying a small admission to see films each week, and with “African cinemas well equipped and supervised, especially in the Copperbelt, a generation of regular ‘film fans’ is in the making.”[93] The campaign of the various information arms of the imperial state to develop a base of support for the war effort brought film to a much wider area of the country at the same time that the intensifying movement between rural home areas and urban industrial employment spread knowledge about the character of urban life and its amenities, such as the cinema.[94] This was by no means, however, the same cinema that attracted many millions of patrons in Europe and the United States. Simple outdoor amphitheaters or mobile cinema vans or barges stood in for luxuriously appointed movie palaces. And whereas marquees and posters attracted spectators in North America and Britain from shopping streets in urban business districts into an enclosed world, in Northern Rhodesia it was the setting up of apparatus and the gradual transition from dusk to dark that drew people into the film world. In both urban and rural areas until well into the 1950s, Africans saw movies almost exclusively out of doors. At the Roan Antelope Mine in the mid-1950s, two thousand or more would gather for weekly film shows that were social events as much as entertainment.[95]

At seven o’clock on a clear evening, adults and children lined up for their tickets—”thruppence” (three pennies) for adults and a penny for children—at the large, unroofed white stone amphitheatre connected with the mine Welfare Hall . . . As the theater began to fill up, friends greeted each other, some young men attempted to make assignations with young women, children jostled and pushed each other and were told to be quiet and to make way for their elders. There was a continuous hubbub. The large audience spilled over into the center aisle, sitting on the steps of the inclined floor. Late-comers stood by the walls. Talk, laughter, and a sense of expectation pervaded the theater.[96]
Cinema shows attracted mainly children and young adults, although older people were certainly found among the audiences. A survey of film attendance conducted on the Copperbelt in the 1950s suggests that a majority of town dwellers attended movies at least occasionally and that a sizable minority went to film shows on a weekly basis. Males clearly predominated, but substantial numbers of young women were also dedicated moviegoers. Copperbelt residents with more education and better jobs were more likely to go to movies than their less educated counterparts and probably more likely to be dedicated fans, but it was still working-class male youths with relatively little education who made up the core of film audiences.[97]

The program typically began with “The African Mirror,” a magazine series that showed elements of African life such as first-aid teams at a mine, traditional dancing, and commercial agriculture. This was followed by “The Northern Spotlight,” the government-sponsored newsreel, and then British news. Animal cartoons, called kadoli, favored by small children, preceded the main feature, usually a dated or “B” cowboy film or occasionally a Superman film. Although each week brought a new feature, the cheap westerns that dominated film shows for three decades were generally instantly recognizable to audiences. In film after film, cowboy heroes faced brutish outlaws and badmen in a series of confrontations. Sometimes, the hero himself was disguised as an outlaw, or the villain was a supposedly respectable citizen, or stereotypically bloodthirsty Indians were called upon to take to the warpath in opposition to the heroes. Although major Hollywood westerns became increasingly complex and sophisticated during the 1940s, the “B” movies that dominated the Copperbelt outdoor cinemas remained remarkably consistent, offering uninterrupted series of vignettes of fights, chases, and horseback stunts.[98] By the time the chase was over and the hero victorious, it was 9:30, the show was over, and the audience drifted home on foot and bicycles.[99]

Even as African audiences became more accustomed to film entertainment and some became regular moviegoers, the film experience in Northern Rhodesia still involved aspects of the wonder and amazement that were characteristic of first encounters with motion-picture technology. The imperial mythologies of natives struck dumb by moving images and disembodied voices emanating from black boxes may have been largely products of Europeans in the thrall of the medium, but film shows did provide novel and sometimes thrilling experiences as darkness fell and the images and sounds brought familiar scenes to the screens or exposed audiences to exotic, incomprehensible settings. Europeans argued that the lack of understanding of the technologies that produced these films meant that Africans regarded movies in the “same category with the miracle of an airplane.”[100] But audience behavior reveals no more sense of such mystery and alienation than that of Americans today confronting baffling cyber technologies.

In the Roan Antelope mine compound in the early 1950s, “going to the movies was a social experience . . . There was an excitement in being part of a movie audience of more than a thousand people, constantly commenting to each other, shouting their pleasure and booing their displeasure.”[101] In place of the regimented and reverential silence imposed on filmgoers in North America and Europe, African film shows were characterized by the noise, commentary, and engagement typical of spectacles.[102] Scenes of mine workers produced loud commentaries on the quality and energy of the workers; portrayals of “traditional” dances led to debates on changing mores; a newsreel on Kenya produced discussion of mountains in the tropics and memories of war service; but the greatest and most enthusiastic involvement was reserved for the featured western.[103] The dynamic of these film shows underscores Lawrence Levine’s argument that, in nascent industrial communities, “people enjoyed popular culture not as atomized beings vulnerable to an overpowering external force but as part of social groups in which they experienced the performance or with which they shared it after the fact.”[104] Although the characters and plots varied, Northern Rhodesian audiences always called the hero “Jack.”[105] This convention, at odds with American and British preoccupations with particular characters and the actors who portrayed them, symbolizes a deeper divide in film spectatorship.

African audiences in Northern Rhodesian for the most part seem to have ignored or dismissed plots, made murky in any case by the unfamiliar language or accents, the crowd noise, and the censor’s shears.[106] Moviegoers watched the films for the stock scenes that amused and delighted, in one form or another, in film after film: the characteristic stride, the fighting style, the memorable phrase. These elements were observed and appreciated according to well-defined standards of action taste, at least according to young male viewers. As one satisfied patron noted when a film came to an end, “this is the kind of Jack we want.”[107] Although whites were often dismayed by films that portrayed holdups and murders, descriptions of film shows suggest that audiences viewed and appropriated elements of these in isolation from the narrative or plot. In a protest to the Northern Rhodesian Department of Information during the mid-1950s, one employer charged that showing cowboy action films was “nothing less than criminal folly.” The concern was well placed in the sense that audiences focused on the scenes of stagecoach holdups and various murders in isolation, paying little attention to the fact that the heroes eventually brought the villains to justice: “With two thirds of the cast galloping all over the place at breakneck speed . . . , I can promise you,” this critic wrote, “that the plot was not understood by the audience. I have taken the trouble to make quite sure of this fact by questioning the one more intelligent individual, a bricklayer, who did attend. What was understood, was the fact that the film portrayed utter lawlessness and indiscriminate use of revolvers and rifles.”[108] But it is equally clear from audience response that these scenes conveyed general styles of masculine bravado, rather than literal models of behavior.[109]

Fight scenes drew especially favorable responses, with one man describing how he liked “to see cowboys run after one another on horses, and the fighting. Jack beats his friends skillfully, and it pleases me to see him plant blows on other men’s faces.” Another liked “best the cowboy films, because they teach us how to fight others and how to win lovers.” A young, educated man explained that he felt “as if I am fighting. I always want to see how strong Jack is and whether he can be knocked out early. But I expect the hero, Jack, to beat everyone and to win every time.”[110] Such reactions often perplexed whites. To a researcher in the 1950s, the connection that a group of teenagers made between the appearance of Superman with his cape and a Roman official in a toga in a movie about the Crucifixion demonstrated an inability on the part of African viewers to understand the representational nature of film.[111] But to audiences who watched films as a disconnected series of scenes, with close attention paid to styles of clothing and action, such comparisons made perfect sense. Similarly, such an appreciation of movies as intrinsically disconnected from the linear and the real partly explains the apparent overwhelming preference of African audiences for black and white films when color films were initially introduced.[112] The first color movies shown tended to be locally made and didactic, but the preference apparently went beyond that to an assertion that color films were not “natural-looking.” The conjunction of the use of color and the introduction of local settings also took films in the direction of the mundane, where plainly they did not belong. The anthropologist Hortense Powdermaker reported a deep reluctance among schoolchildren and some adults to accept that films were staged, and claimed that audiences reacted with irritation when an actor, shot dead in a previous film, turned up alive in another.[113] But the very conventions of naming the hero Jack and analyzing and comparing the stock sequences argues for a fine appreciation of films as fantasy.

Audiences invariably responded insistently and angrily to the occasional attempts of paternalistic officials to vary programs and broaden local film taste.[114] In 1953, the white managers at the Luanshya municipal residential compound experimented with a showing of Cry, the Beloved Country (1951). Shown on a program that included a Superman movie, the film drew a very large audience. The screening was preceded by a synopsis in a local language, Chibemba, and three educated African men were asked to mingle with patrons and collect reactions. The audience engaged with the film in typical fashion, making general comments and holding open discussion, rather than sitting in the reverential silence that Europeans expected for serious movies. People in the audience continually complained about the film and demanded “cowboys.” Uproarious laughter greeted the scene in which the wealthy white landowner Mr. Jarvis is informed of the murder of his son, and audience members were “visibly delighted when Mrs. Jarvis was grief-stricken at the news of the death of her son.” The appearance of the murderer’s father, Reverend Kumalo, elicited loud and derisive comments like “church,” “Christianity,” and “we want cowboys.”[115] Such seemingly callous responses might be represented in part as “oppositional” statements. Certainly, the reaction to Kumalo conveyed some of the resentment that working-class African men felt toward the church leaders and other “respectable” men in their community; but it is unlikely that antipathy to white domination, however bitter, would translate into derision of the emotional grief of a white mother and father over the loss of their son. Unable or unwilling to comprehend the dialogue, audience members largely ignored character development and plot, and probably in this case reacted to extreme facial expressions. They experienced or “read” the film as they would have the cowboy movie they had anticipated seeing—as a series of action scenes. In a slow-moving and rather pretentious film like Cry, the Beloved Country, there was little “action,” and audiences reacted viscerally to the few scenes that stood out. As the report of the showing makes clear, a substantial proportion of the audience demonstrated their boredom simply by walking out.[116]

The world of films, and especially cowboy films, spilled out into the popular culture of Northern Rhodesian urban communities and followed filmgoers into the streets and their homes and eventually back to their rural home villages. When members of the audience got back to their rooms or houses or met friends at work or at other social occasions, films were often the subject of discussion.[117] As in Ghana, youths talked over the films in the days that followed, paying particular attention to the styles of dress and fighting techniques that were central to the appeal of westerns. Oral recollections reveal the same flow of Hollywood imagery into Cape Town’s District Six community. There, people waiting in line for tickets could be overheard sprinkling their conversation with terms like “pardner” and “howdee,” and motifs drawn from films often surfaced in the costumes of the annual New Year carnivals.[118] Certainly, in rural areas of Northern Rhodesia, the mobile cinemas left a great many images in their wake for audiences to savor and rehearse before the van returned, even if many of the residents had in fact spent considerable time in towns and would have been somewhat familiar with film shows.[119]

A film show in a remote rural area was, of course, much more of a special event, since mobile cinemas did not reach a given village or town much more often than once or twice a year in the 1940s or once a month in the 1950s. The entertainment began with the arrival of the van, and crowds began to assemble in the afternoon to watch and assist in setting up the projector and screen, eventually numbering from one hundred to three thousand people. Before the film show itself, members of the mobile cinema staff gave educational talks illustrated with film strips on topics like malaria eradication; they tuned in the national radio station and piped it out to the crowd on loudspeakers; and they sold various books and newspapers.[120]

Consistent with the noncommercial, educational mission of the mobile cinema, the main program did not include “unsuitable” westerns or other adventure movies. But the staff was careful to alternate “entertainment” films with more didactic ones. The program usually began with “one or two amusing films, followed by an instructional film. The next film is usually something else of particular interest, not necessarily comedy. It might be a short film on game or a ‘musical’ with catchy tunes.” If ten reels were shown, half would be solely for entertainment, three “really educational,” and the remaining two general interest films and regionally oriented newsreels.[121] By the 1950s, rural audiences had become substantially more sophisticated in their film tastes, as the mobile cinema program expanded and more people spent time in the urban areas. Local, “respectable” men and women shared the distaste of the mobile cinema staff for cowboy films, regarding them as a dangerous influence; but younger people who had visited the towns were increasingly caught up in cowboy craze that had taken root in the Copperbelt, even though westerns were still not usually shown by the mobile cinema that served remote rural areas.[122]

African audiences often disturbed European officials by the ways they used material from films to make judgments about the outside world, the nature of imperialism, and the character of European culture. Seemingly innocuous footage of healthy cattle in Southern Rhodesia, for example, inspired commentary from Northern Rhodesian moviegoers in the 1950s on racial segregation and the inferiority of the diet of Africans in comparison to whites. A Northern Rhodesian newsreel showing the dedication of a home for the aged elicited comments in the crowd that these had to be for whites: “do you think they can build houses for Africans like that?”[123] Depictions of whites engaged in manual labor invariably inspired sarcastic, critical commentary.[124] Although the white settlers who actively promoted censorship often advanced the shibboleth of black sexuality to defend the need to subject films to close scrutiny, colonial officials were much more concerned—and quite correctly so—that scenes of half-dressed and philandering white women would become the evidence for critical judgments on white morality.[125] Scenes of kissing or scantily clad women were more offensive than sexually provocative. A discussion of a scene of courtship in a European café led one man to ask, “are these proper ladies or are they clowns?” Another responded, “It is the behavior of white ladies. They are not ashamed.” Men and women swimming together was denounced: “I do not like it. It encourages immorality.” But at the same time, movie patrons paid careful and detailed attention to a distinctively modern style of dancing that might be reproduced later at a local party.[126]

As the cowboy phenomenon makes plain, film made its most distinctive impact on local youth culture. During the 1930s and 1940s, when primary schooling was not yet entrenched in urban areas, young boys often were at loose ends. They roamed around in gangs, whose leaders gave themselves names like “Jeke,” after the cowboy hero, and “Popeye.” Among the main occupations of these gangs were “cowboy games” where rivals pretended to shoot each other. By the early 1950s, all children were expected to attend school, and many more organized activities had become available.[127] But filmgoing was still very popular, and that popularity was reflected in the styles of dress of school-age boys as well as young men.[128] “Respectable” Africans along with whites generally found these styles reprehensible, associating them in their minds with insolent attitudes if not outright criminality.[129] In the industrial areas of South Africa, local hoodlums often appropriated the names of film stars or notorious characters from westerns or gangster movies.[130] In 1947, a prominent member of the Northern Rhodesian African Representative Council demanded to know in debate whether the government was aware that “the films shown to African children in bioscopes at present are harmful to their characters?”[131] In Dar es Salaam, it was claimed that “the cult of cowboy clothes is the safety-valve of the dangerous mob element.”[132] Fear of the spread of such behavior certainly motivated many of the paternalistic believers in educational cinema. Indeed, it was almost an article of faith that if good films could be effective tools of education and development, bad ones would produce the juvenile delinquents that many saw as a growing Copperbelt problem.[133] What whites and others in positions of authority feared, of course, was that African town-dwellers would appropriate immoral and criminal behavior from cowboy and gangster movies. Official files on film censorship contain a report from the late 1940s that appeared to justify such fears. A group of six young African men, convicted of robbing and beating a man in the mining town of Mufulira, claimed in their defense that they had seen similar acts in films and wanted to copy them. Whether or not exposure to cowboy movies inspired criminal activities, these young hoodlums were resourceful enough to play on stereotypes by rationalizing their actions in terms of film allusions. It is possible, too, that they hoped paternalistic officials might go easy on unsophisticated youths who were believed to be highly susceptible to the power of film imagery.[134]

For young crooks, as for the mass of Copperbelt youth, film offered a repertoire of images, characters, and behaviors that could be drawn on to define and navigate modern urban life. Descriptions of audience behavior draw attention not only to the enthusiasm that filmgoers showed for fights and other action sequences but also to the close attention the people paid to the material content of films. Notwithstanding the efforts of the Colonial Film Unit, audiences showed little patience for films that depicted rural life and the potential for the development of agriculture. Movies represented an escape from the harsh realities of urban life, especially in an increasingly repressive South Africa; despite the exotic locales of gunfighter epics, film also provided a kind of guide to urban modernity and sophistication. Published memoirs of urban black South Africans reveal the powerful and romantic appeal of Hollywood products, yet it is clear as well that audiences drew the characters into urban southern Africa, weaving their own practices of witchcraft and kinship politics into discussions of the meanings of particular sequences. As one filmgoer from the Copperbelt noted, “the cowboy has medicines to make him invisible . . . Cowboys show respect. And Jack is also the son of a big man.”[135]

Those men and women who regarded themselves as mature often dismissed the bioscope as a trivial pastime appropriate only to children. One Copperbelt woman in her thirties defined films as a distinctly urban phenomenon only appealing to those who had been raised in the city: “Cinema shows and radio are there to entertain youth. We people of old age cannot attend such things where small boys go. Our form of entertainment is beer . . . How can I develop the habit of going to cinema now? The people who enjoy it are those who have been born here.”[136] In the urban areas of central and southern Africa, the divide between those who self-consciously remained oriented toward their rural homes and those who took up a distinctively modern worldview surfaced visibly in leisure activities: people who conceived of themselves as “modern” participated in church activities and organized sports and were bioscope enthusiasts, while those who rejected modernity dismissed such pastimes and generally preferred to spend their leisure time in informal socializing and drinking.[137]

In the last, bitter years of colonial rule in Northern Rhodesia, some Africans and their liberal white allies directly challenged the censorship of films on racial lines, as part of a broader assault on the color bar.[138] Some of the younger and better educated town residents, in particular, found the bioscope unappealing and were eager to see more sophisticated and varied movies in more sedate surroundings.[139] In 1957, the chairman of the interracial Capricorn Africa Society drew attention “to the fact that large numbers of educated Africans are profoundly dissatisfied with the programs being shown on the African locations. They wish to see the films that Europeans, Indians and Coloureds are seeing but the decisions of the Board are preventing them from doing so.”[140] When the board chose to ban for African viewing newsreels that depicted the resistance of Hungarians to the Soviet invasion and the demonstrations that followed in various European cities, the controversy reached the floor of the British House of Commons. There, a government spokesman vigorously defended censorship with the assertion that “Africans were more likely to be impressed by moving pictures.”[141]

The opening of a multi-racial cinema in 1957 in Lusaka provided an opportunity for Africans to see a wider range of films in the more genteel atmosphere of an indoor theater, but the continued application of censorship rules meant that educated African patrons still risked being turned away at the door if a particular film had not been passed for African audiences.[142] For this small but highly influential group, the humiliation of being forbidden to see films that had been approved for viewing by whites, including children, was a stark reminder of the continued ascendancy of racial hierarchy and made a mockery of promises of “racial partnership” and non-racialism.[143] Yet, as late as 1960, on the eve of the legislated desegregation of public facilities in Northern Rhodesia, Roman Catholic bishops still vigorously defended racial censorship: “Material reasons like uniformity of treatment, economy, convenience and such ought not be allowed to weigh against the need to safeguard from evils of the moral order of the African people, the vast majority of whom have . . . primitive ideas of morality affecting public order and decency.”[144]

This tenacious devotion among whites in Northern Rhodesia to the specter of film’s power over Africans reveals not only a deeply entrenched racial order but an unquestioning confidence as well in the powerful force of the medium of film as an instrument of cultural subversion. The claims advanced in colonial Northern Rhodesia and across colonial Africa that movies, and popular culture generally, undermined traditional authority and custom belongs to a powerful intellectual tradition of modern imperialism enshrined in administrative terms by the British in the form of the doctrine of indirect rule and more broadly in the ideal of trusteeship.[145] The strong attraction of African audiences to a vision of Europe and North America inscribed in Hollywood westerns and other action movies subverted cherished colonial notions of Africa as Britain’s “Wild West.”[146] This colonial antipathy to the global consumerism of urban Africans, decried as evidence of dangerous “detribalization” or “westernization,” has survived in postcolonial discourse in the context of debates over cultural imperialism. Ranging across the ideological and disciplinary spectra, scholars and critics lament the disruption of societies, characterized variously as traditional or backward, and in particular stress the role of mass media in projecting the ideological messages of international capitalism and demand for global consumer commodities at the expense of traditional values and practices.[147]

Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart’s influential study of Disney cartoons in the Third World, How to Read Donald Duck, drew on dependency theory to argue that such hugely popular but seemingly innocent media products in fact have extended American global hegemony by conveying to unsophisticated readers principles that bolster capitalist values and thus restrict the emergence of genuine consciousness.[148] In their confident analysis of the meanings of mass-media products and assumptions of the power of those products to persuade, Dorfman and Mattelart and other critics of global information flows not only share common ground with liberal critics of global cultural homogenization but also betray a perverse intellectual debt to alarmist imperial rantings against the nefarious influence of Hollywood films. In each case, “Third World” peoples or audiences are assumed to lack the sophistication to resist popular media images or to engage them critically.

The moviegoing experiences of Africans in Northern Rhodesia challenge such assumptions, suggesting that the meanings of films and other pieces of mass media are elusive and contested, and that audiences continually appropriate and re-appropriate such media and subject them to various and fluid readings. The cowboys who populated westerns emerged from screens on the Copperbelt as characters rooted as much in urban Northern Rhodesian communities as in the American West, and the ways that audiences drew on and referred to film images varied as widely as confident official and scholarly pronouncements on their meaning. Seemingly bizarre audience responses to a film like Cry, the Beloved Country made perfect sense in terms of local expectations for film shows and constructions of film character behavior. Certainly, highly politicized informal audience commentaries on film depictions of life in African colonies demonstrated a keen appreciation on the part of African moviegoers of the manipulative power of film. Although very little research has directly addressed the global appeal of popular media, the work that has been done, especially that exploring the seemingly inexplicable universal popularity of the American television program “Dallas” (1978–91) and its supposed glorification of wealth, has suggested how “naïve and improbable is the simple notion of an immediate ideological effect arising from exposure to the imperialist text.”[149] Like movie patrons in colonial Northern Rhodesia, viewers of “Dallas” sometimes drew on the program to criticize American excess, or saw in the program a guide to style, or simply responded to the basic morality plays that drove the series. But reliance on immediate reactions in controlled circumstances very much limits the validity of this kind of audience research, no matter how stimulating the findings.[150] The Copperbelt audiences who filled the seats of noisy outdoor cinemas analyzed and debated the elements of films while they watched them, adopted and modified film modes of dress, speech, and behavior, and then took those sensibilities back to the theaters in a process that was difficult to capture at the time and now, in the age of video, resembles in popular memory a kind of quaint nostalgic relic. Yet, as the fragmentary evidence of audience response suggests, moviegoers sought in films not only entertainment and sources of style but also an opportunity to engage and critique the colonial order they inhabited and to appropriate and synthesize notions of modernity that they believed would facilitate urban life.

The process of decolonization that culminated in 1964 in an independent Zambia swept aside any open assertion of racial discrimination and merged race-based claims of the impact of movies into broader debates about the effect of popular culture on children. In postcolonial Zambia, the introduction of television and more recently the proliferation of small video dens and individually owned videocassette recorders has effectively pushed the bioscope—formal film showings—to the margins of entertainment. The current popularity of martial arts and other contemporary action movies has overshadowed the deep affection for the cowboy genre exhibited by several generations of viewers in the industrial towns of the Copperbelt and elsewhere in east, central, and southern Africa. But if the encounter of African audiences with film during the 1940s and 1950s lacked the complexity of the diverse and fragmented circulation of media that is characteristic of Zambia and the rest of southern Africa today, it is apparent that the critical process through which audiences consume visual media developed on a diet of horse operas.[151] As Hortense Powdermaker observed of Copperbelt film shows in the 1950s, “whatever was seen was commented on, interpreted, criticized. Questions were asked.”[152]

Charles Ambler is head of the Graduate School and a professor of history at the University of Texas at El Paso. He received his PhD at Yale University in modern African history. The author of Kenyan Communities in the Age of Imperialism (1988) and co-editor of Liquor and Labor in Southern Africa (1992), Ambler has published essays on the social history of colonial Kenya and Zambia and is a contributor to The Oxford History of the British Empire (1999). Amidst administration duties, he is currently working on a book on the alcohol question in British Africa and a study, with Emmanuel Akyeampong, of the history of African leisure.


This article was originally presented at the Commonwealth Fund Conference “Hollywood and Its Spectators,” London, February 1998. Revised versions were discussed at seminars at the African Studies programs at Harvard University and Yale University. The research was conducted while I was a research fellow at the University of Zambia and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and was supported by grants from the University of Texas at El Paso and the National Endowment for the Humanities. I am grateful for comments from Kenton Clymer, Scott Michaelsen, and Emmanuel Akyeampong.

1 The British colony of Northern Rhodesia became Zambia at independence in 1964. During the 1950s, Northern Rhodesia was linked with Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi) in a Central African Federation dominated by white settler interests.

2 H. Franklin, “The Central African Screen,” Colonial Cinema 8 (December 1950): 85. “Jack” was supposedly a tribute to the actor Jack Holt. Also see “The Cinema in Northern Rhodesia,” Colonial Cinema 2 (June 1944): 22.

3 R. J. Allanson to Director, Department of Information, Lusaka, January 27, 1956, National Archives of Zambia (hereafter, NAZ), Sec. 5/16, I, no. 88.

4 According to a 1956 survey, in Dar es Salaam “there has grown up, as elsewhere in East Africa, the cult of the cowboy . . . The young man . . . soon acquires the idioms of tough speech, the slouch, the walk of the ‘dangerous’ man of the films; the ever-popular Western films teach him.” J. A. K. Leslie, A Survey of Dar es Salaam (London, 1963), 112; and see Rob Nixon, Homelands, Harlem and Hollywood: South African Culture and the World Beyond (New York, 1994), 31–35.

5 For an introduction to the large literature on the history of the Copperbelt, see Jane L. Parpart, Labor and Capital on the African Copperbelt (Philadelphia, 1983).

6 Already by the early 1930s, twice-weekly film shows at the Roan Antelope Compound in Luanshya drew an average attendance of more than a thousand. Charles W. Coulter, “The Sociological Problem,” in Modern Industry and the African, J. Merle Davis, ed. (London, 1933), 72.

7 Hortense Powdermaker, Copper Town: Changing Africa; The Human Situation on the Rhodesian Copperbelt (New York, 1962), 227. In the District Six neighborhood of Cape Town, movies were “unquestionably the most popular form of paid entertainment in the inter-war years.” Bill Nasson, “‘She Preferred Living in a Cave with Harry the Snake-catcher’: Towards an Oral History of Popular Leisure and Class Expression in District Six, Cape Town, c. 1920s–1950s,” in Holding Their Ground: Class, Locality and Culture in Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century South Africa, Philip Bonner, Isabel Hofmeyr, Deborah James, and Tom Lodge, eds. (Johannesburg, 1989), 286.

8 The globalized power of the media and its role in transmitting American culture is probably more assumed than it is studied. For an exception, see Peter Manuel, Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North India (Chicago, 1993), esp. 2–18. In practice, the study of media “development” in Africa has been shaped by assumptions associated with modernization theory. See, for example, Graham Mytton, Mass Communication in Africa (London, 1983), 4–18; and Robert L. Stevenson, Communication, Development, and the Third World: The Global Politics of Information (New York, 1988). For critical evaluation of debates about media globalism, see John Tomlinson, Cultural Imperialism: A Critical Introduction (Baltimore, 1991), 34–67; and Jonathan Friedman, Cultural Identity and Global Process (London, 1994), 195–232.

9 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 259.

10 NAZ, Sec. 2/1121, “Censorship of Films for Natives, 1932–48,” and subsequent files.

11 Response to Mr. R. J. Allanson, February 28, 1956, NAZ, Sec. 5/16, no. 88.

12 Alan O’Shea, “What a Day for a Daydream: Modernity, Cinema and the Popular Imagination in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Modern Times: Reflections on a Century of English Modernity, Mica Nava and O’Shea, eds. (London, 1996), 243–45.

13 See, for example, Herbert Blumer, Movies and Conduct (New York, 1933). The tendency to look for sources of violence and antisocial behavior in the media is noted in a recent analysis in the New York Times, “Rampage Killers: A Statistical Portrait,” April 8, 2000.

14 Franklin, “Central African Screen,” 87.

15 NAZ, Sec. 2/1121, “Censorship of Films for Natives, 1932–48,” and subsequent files.

16 Although not centrally concerned with film, Debra Spitulnik, “Anthropology and Mass Media,” Annual Review of Anthropology 22 (1993): 293–315, provides an effective introduction to some of the theoretical assumptions shaping media studies on Africa.

17 A partial exception is Nixon, Homelands, Harlem and Hollywood. The key criticial work on African film is Manthia Diawara, African Cinema: Politics and Culture (Bloomington, Ind., 1992). See also Imruh Bakari and Mbye B. Cham, eds., African Experiences of Cinema (London, 1996). Few locally produced films have reached large audiences. As one scholar’s title recently lamented, “African Films Are Foreigners in Their Own Countries.” Emmanuel Sama, in Bakari and Cham, 148–56.

18 Robert Stam and Louise Spence, “Colonialism, Racism and Representation: An Introduction,” Screen 24 (1983): 4–20.

19 For example, Douglas Gomery’s recent book includes only one brief section on audiences, where he addresses the controversy that erupted over silence policies in new theaters in central Washington, D.C., in the late 1980s. The discussion includes no reference to the age, gender, or racial make-up of those audiences. Gomery, Shared Pleasures: A History of Movie Presentation in the United States (Madison, Wis., 1992), 117–18.

20 Thus Steven J. Ross, Working-Class Hollywood: Silent Film and the Shaping of Class in America (Princeton, N.J., 1998), draws attention to a forgotten genre of overtly political silent films, while showing how technological change encouraged the domination of mainstream Hollywood films. See also Lizabeth Cohen, Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919–1939 (Cambridge, 1990), 100–57.

21 Peter Davis, In Darkest Hollywood: Exploring the Jungles of Cinema’s South Africa (Athens, Ohio, 1996); and Kenneth M. Cameron, Africa on Film: Beyond Black and White (New York, 1994). Also see Matthew Bernstein and Gaylyn Studlar, eds., Visions of the East: Orientalism in Film (New Brunswick, N.J., 1997).

22 Jacquelyn Kilpatrick, Celluloid Indians: Native Americans and Film (Lincoln, Neb., 1999).

23 Cynthia Erb raises some of the critical theoretical issues in Tracking King Kong: A Hollywood Icon in World Culture (Detroit, 1998) but does not move beyond close interpretive readings of various versions of the story.

24 Stam and Spence, “Colonialism, Racism and Representation,” 4–20. For example, Norman K. Denzin, The Cinematic Society: The Voyeur’s Gaze (Thousand Oaks, Calif., 1995), turns out not to be about the position of audiences regarding cinematic images but is instead an account of the representation of voyeurs in specific films.

25 Raymond Williams criticized such textual determinism, apparently with little impact. See Philip Corrigan, “Film Entertainment as Ideology and Pleasure: A Preliminary Approach to a History of Audiences,” in British Cinema History, James Curran and Vincent Porter, eds. (Totowa, N.J., 1983), 24. Also see Shaun Moores, Interpreting Audiences: The Ethnography of Media Consumption (London, 1993), 6; Miriam Hansen, Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film (Cambridge, Mass., 1991), 3–7; and David Bordwell, Narration in Fiction Film (Madison, Wis., 1985), esp. 29.

26 This critique might be extended to the scholarship on the representation of history in film. See Robert A. Rosenstone, ed., Revisioning History: Film and the Construction of a New Past (Princeton, N.J., 1995); and Tony Barta, ed., Screening the Past: Film and the Representation of History (Westport, Conn., 1998).

27 Rosaleen Smyth, “The British Colonial Film Unit and Sub-Saharan Africa, 1939–1945,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 8 (1988): 285–98; Smyth, “Movies and Mandarins: The Official Film and British Colonial Africa,” in Curran and Porter, British Cinema History, 129–43; Smyth, “The Development of British Colonial Film Policy, 1927–1939, with Special Reference to East and Central Africa,” Journal of African History 20 (1979): 437–50; Smyth, “The Central African Film Unit’s Images of Empire, 1948–1963,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 3 (1983): 131–47; Smyth, “The Feature Film in Tanzania,” African Affairs 88 (July 1989): 389–96.

28 A partial exception is Megan Vaughan, “‘Seeing Is Believing’: Colonial Health Education Films and the Question of Identity,” in Vaughan, Curing Their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness (Oxford, 1991), 180–99.

29 “Films for the Colonies,” Corona 1 (June 1949): 20. Even the officials charged with organizing film shows for circulation in rural areas acknowledged the need to include some “suitable” commercial entertainment films to make the propaganda palatable. W. Sellers, “Mobile Cinema Shows in Africa,” Colonial Cinema 9 (September 1950): 77–78.

30 Surprisingly, the growing literature on the social and cultural history of southern African urban communities, including studies of sports, drinking, and popular theater and music, largely ignores the bioscope, which novels and memoirs make clear formed a vibrant element of town life. See, for example, Ezekiel [Es’kia] Mphahlele, Down Second Avenue (London, 1959), and Afrika My Music: An Autobiography, 1957–1983 (Johannesburg, 1984); Modikwe Dikobe, The Marabi Dance (London, 1973); and Godfrey Moloi, My Life: Volume One (Johannesburg, 1987). The social historian Bill Nasson suggests some of the possibilities in “‘She Preferred Living in a Cave,'” 285–309, esp. 287–95.

31 Judith Mayne, Cinema and Spectatorship (London, 1993), 8–9, 17, 65. Also see Hansen, Babel and Babylon, 3–5.

32 Linda Williams, ed., Viewing Positions: Ways of Seeing Film (New Brunswick, N.J., 1995). But see the essays in the section on “Black Spectatorship,” in Black American Cinema, Manthia Diawara, ed. (New York, 1993), 211–302. Some of the work on early film audiences in North America and Europe has focused attention on perspectives of working-class and immigrant audiences. See Judith Thissen, “Jewish Immigrant Audiences in New York City (1907–1914),” in American Movie Audiences: From the Turn of the Century to the Early Sound Era, Melvyn Stokes and Richard Maltby, eds. (Bloomington, Ind., 1999), 15–28; and Roy Rosenzweig, Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870–1920 (Cambridge, 1983), 191–221.

33 For example, E. Ann Kaplan, “Film and History: Spectatorship, Transference, and Race,” in History and Histories within the Human Sciences, Ralph Cohen and Michael S. Roth, eds. (Charlottesville, Va., 1995), 179–208. Also see Stuart Hall, “Cultural Identity and Cinematic Representation,” Framework 36 (1989): 68–81.

34 For example, Carol J. Clover, Men, Women and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film (Princeton, N.J., 1992); and Barbara Creed, The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis (London, 1993). The issues raised by these scholars have not yet made their way into studies of filmgoing in Africa. The special issue of Matatu 19 (1997) devoted to “Women and African Cinema” includes no article that explores the female film audience or interprets spectatorship in gendered terms.

35 For the role of imported videos in local cultures, see Minou Fuglesang, Veils and Videos: Female Youth Culture on the Kenyan Coast (Stockholm, 1994); and Brian Larkin, “Indian Films and Nigerian Lovers: Media and the Creation of Parallel Modernities,” Africa 67 (1997): 406–40. Most of the work on video concentrates on local production and distribution and on the analysis of video film content. The most important studies are Onookome Okome and Jonathan Haynes, Cinema and Social Change in West Africa (Jos, Nigeria, 1995); and Jonathan Haynes, ed., Nigerian Video Films (Jos, 1997).

36 Martin Allor, “Relocating the Site of the Audience,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 5 (1988): 217–33, traces the development of theoretical approaches to the relationship between medium and audience.

37 According to Leo Charney and Vanessa R. Schwartz, “Cinema, as it developed in the late nineteenth century, became the fullest expression and combination of modernity’s attributes.” “Introduction,” Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life, Charney and Schwartz, eds. (Berkeley, Calif., 1995), 1; also, 1–3. For a stimulating analysis of ideas of “the modern,” see Nestor Garcia Canclini, Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for Entering and Leaving Modernity (Minneapolis, 1995 [Spanish edition, 1989]). The reception of film images was linked as well to the development of a mass-consumption economy. See Timothy Burke, Lifebuoy Men, Lux Women: Commodification, Consumption, and Cleanliness in Modern Zimbabwe (Durham, N.C., 1996).

38 F. Spearpoint, Compound Manager, Roan Antelope Mine, Luanshya, to General Manager, October 2, 1935, “Films for Compound Bioscope,” RACM WMA/94, 204.2, Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines, Archives, Ndola (hereafter, ZCCM); and “Film in Northern Rhodesia,” Colonial Cinema 11 (December 1953): 81.

39 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 255.

40 Commissioner, Northern Rhodesia Civil Police, to Chief Secretary, August 22, 1932, NAZ, Sec. 2/1121, no. 1; and “Cinema in Northern Rhodesia,” Colonial Cinema 2 (June 1944): 22. The Copperbelt became the site of intensive social scientific research carried on by scholars affiliated with the Rhodes Livingstone Institute, including A. L. Epstein, J. C. Mitchell, J. A. Barnes, and Gordon Wilson. See Epstein, Urbanization and Kinship: The Domestic Domain on the Copperbelt of Zambia, 1950–1956 (London, 1981).

41 Spearpoint, “Films for Compound Bioscope.”

42 “The Colonial Film Unit,” Colonial Cinema 5 (June 1947): 27–31; and African Film Library Purchasing Committee, List of Films Purchased, 1942, NAZ, Sec. 2/1122, 84/1.

43 Note for Finance Committee, May 29, 1945, NAZ, Sec. 2/1121 (5), no. 245; and “Cinema in Northern Rhodesia,” 22.

44 “Cinema in Northern Rhodesia,” 22.

45 Colonial Cinema 6 (September 1948): 56–57.

46 Extract, January 6, 1956, ZCCM, RACM WMA/94, 204.2 (2).

47 “Film in Northern Rhodesia,” 82. For discussion of the development of clubs generally, see Charles Ambler, “Alcohol and the Control of Labor on the Copperbelt,” in Liquor and Labor in Southern Africa, Jonathan Crush and Ambler, eds. (Athens, Ohio, 1992), 352.

48 District Commissioner Mufulira to Provincial Commissioner, Ndola, December 23, 1954, NAZ, Sec. 5/16 (3), no. 53/1. Frederick Cooper connects these local policies to broad questions of labor and decolonization in Decolonization and African Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa (Cambridge, 1996), 336–48.

49 Extract from Central African Post, November 5, 1956, NAZ, Sec. 5/16, no. 107A; Rev. George Shaw (Member, Film Censorship Board), February 23, 1960, and J. V. Savanhu (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Race Affairs), March 18, 1960, in Enclosed File, “Film Censorship: Evidence Submitted to Federal Working Party, 1960,” NAZ, Sec. 5/15, 16.

50 See Tom Gunning, “An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and the (In)Credulous Spectator” [1989], rpt. in L. Williams, Viewing Positions, 114–33, 115.

51 Gunning, “Aesthetic of Astonishment,” 129.

52 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 258.

53 “Cinema in Northern Rhodesia,” 22.

54 Harry Franklin (former Director, Northern Rhodesia Information Service), February 12, 1960, “Film Censorship: Evidence Submitted to Federal Working Party,” NAZ, Sec. 5/15, 16. Vanessa Schwartz argues in a study of early film audiences in Paris that “cinema’s spectators brought to the cinematic experience modes of viewing which were cultivated in a variety of cultural activities and practices.” “Cinematic Spectatorship before the Apparatus: The Public Taste for Reality in ‘Fin-de-Siècle’ Paris,” in Charney and Schwartz, Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life, 298.

55 Franklin, February 12, 1960, “Film Censorship: Evidence Submitted to Federal Working Party,” NAZ, Sec. 5/15, 16.

56 J. V. Savanhu, March 18, 1960, “Film Censorship: Evidence Submitted to Federal Working Party,” NAZ, Sec. 5/15, 16.

57 African Film Library Purchasing Committee, List of Films Purchased, 1942, NAZ, Sec. 2/1122, no. 84/1; and extract from Northern News, May 9, 1957, NAZ, Sec. 5/16, no. 170.

58 Louis Nell, “The Mobile Cinema in Northern Rhodesia,” Colonial Cinema 6 (June 1948): 44.

59 H. Stelling, Chingola to Committee for Local Government, March 16, 1955, NAZ, Sec. 5/16 (3), no. 69/1.

60 Sellers, “Mobile Cinema Shows in Africa,” 80.

61 These concerns, of course, resemble fears inspired by immigrant, working-class, and youth audiences in the United States and Europe. See Rosenzweig, Eight Hours for What We Will, 191–215. Recent public debates about theater location and selection of films in contemporary American cities reveal the persistence of assumptions about the effects of movies on racially and age-defined audiences. New York Times, December 28, 1998, and January 31, 1999.

62 District Commissioner Kitwe to Provincial Commissioner, November 25, 1937, NAZ, Sec. 2/1121 (2), no. 54/1.

63 Letter from Interested Citizens, February 8, 1960, “Film Censorship: Evidence Submitted to Federal Working Party,” NAZ, Sec. 5/15, 16; and Memorandum on Native Film Censorship, December 12, 1947, Sec. 2/1121 (7), no. 348.

64 J. D. Cave, Native Welfare Officer (and Film Censorship Board member), to District Commissioner Kitwe, August 7, 1940, NAZ, Sec. 1/1121 (3), no. 130/4.

65 Smyth, “British Colonial Film Unit”; “Movies and Mandarins”; and “Development of British Colonial Film Policy.” Also see Thomas August, The Selling of the Empire: British and French Imperialist Propaganda, 1890–1940 (Westport, Conn., 1985), 101–02.

66 J. Merle Davis, “The Problem for Missions,” in Davis, Modern Industry and the African, 323.

67 Smyth, “British Colonial Film Unit”; Smyth, “Movies and Mandarins”; and L. A. Notcutt and G. C. Latham, eds., The African and the Cinema: An Account of the Work of the Bantu Educational Cinema Experiment during the Period March 1935 to May 1937 (Edinburgh, 1937).

68 “Films for African Audiences,” Colonial Cinema 1 (June 1944): 1–2.

69 Colonial Cinema 1 (May 1943): 1.

70 Colonial Cinema 1 (December 1942): 3.

71 “Films for African Audiences,” 1–2.

72 See Corrigan, “Film Entertainment as Ideology,” 29.

73 Acting Chief Secretary to Government Secretary, Mafeking, March 8, 1946, NAZ, Sec. 2/1121 (6), no. 297.

74 Minutes of a Meeting of the Native Film Censorship Board, August 31, 1951, NAZ, Sec. 5/16, no. 12A.

75 Memorandum on Film Censorship, n.d. [1956], NAZ, Sec. 5/16, no. 121.

76 Memorandum on Film Censorship, no. 121.

77 Mr. Shaw, Lusaka, July 28, 1959, “Film Censorship: Evidence Submitted to Federal Working Party,” NAZ, Sec. 5/15.

78 District Commissioner Kitwe to J. D. Cave, Native Welfare Officer, August 6, 1940, NAZ, Sec. 2/1121 (3), no. 130/3.

79 Cave to Kitwe, Nkana, August 7, 1940, NAZ, Sec. 2/1121, no. 130/2.

80 Censorship Board, Lusaka, minute, June 20, 1945, NAZ, Sec. 2/1121, no. 246.

81 General Notice 596 of 1945, September 16, 1945, NAZ, Sec. 2/1121, no. 269.

82 Notably, Great Britain, Report of the Commission Appointed to Enquire into the Disturbances in the Copperbelt [Russell Commission] (Lusaka, 1935).

83 H. A. Fosbrooke, Rhodes Livingstone Institute to Governor Arthur Benson, March 5, 1957, NAZ, Sec. 5/16, no. 147.

84 Similarly, the director of information argued in clear racial terms for banning the movie Huckleberry Finn. Director of Information to Chief Secretary, December 8, 1940, NAZ, Sec. 2/1125, no. 19.

85 R. J. Allanson to Director, Department of Information, Lusaka, January 27, 1956, NAZ, Sec. 5/16, no. 88.

86 “Guiding Principles for the Use of Native Film Censorship Board,” n.d., NAZ, Sec. 5/16, no. 121.

87 Rev. George Shaw, February 23, 1960, “Film Censorship: Evidence Submitted to Federal Working Party,” NAZ, Sec. 5/15, 16.

88 Allanson to Director, January 27, 1956.

89 Quoted in P. Davis, In Darkest Hollywood, 23.

90 New York Times, December 7, 1997.

91 Emmanuel Akyeampong, personal communication with the author, January 1998.

92 Interview by the author, Mrs. W., Kamwala, Lusaka, July 5, 1988.

93 “Cinema in Northern Rhodesia,” 22.

94 Capt. A. G. Dickson, “Effective Propaganda,” Colonial Cinema 3 (December 1945): 82–85.

95 Roan Antelope Mine Welfare Office, Annual Report, 1952–1953, September 26, 1953, ZCCM, RACM 1.3.1C.

96 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 255–56.

97 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 337–38.

98 George Fenin and William K. Everson, The Western, from Silents to the Seventies, rev. edn. (New York, 1977), 31–42, 199.

99 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 258.

100 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 228–29.

101 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 256; also see Michael O’Shea, Missionaries and Miners: A History of the Beginnings of the Catholic Church in Zambia with Particular Reference to the Copperbelt (Ndola, Zambia, 1986), 246.

102 J.H.G., “My First Visit to the Cinema,” Colonial Cinema 8 (September 1950): 60–61.

103 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 256–58.

104 Lawrence W. Levine, “The Folklore of Industrial Society: Popular Culture and Its Audiences,” AHR 97 (October 1992): 1396.

105 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 261; “Cinema in Northern Rhodesia,” 22; and Franklin, “Central African Screen,” 85.

106 M. O’Shea, Missionaries and Miners, 245–46; and Powdermaker, Copper Town, 259.

107 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 258.

108 Allanson to Director, January 27, 1956, italics in original.

109 See Yvonne Tasker, “Dumb Movies for Dumb People: Masculinity, the Body, and the Voice in Contemporary Action Cinema,” in Screening the Male: Exploring Masculinities in Hollywood Cinema, Steven Cohan and Ina Rae Hark, eds. (London, 1993), 230–44.

110 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 260–61.

111 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 264.

112 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 260. In contrast, George Pearson, director of the Colonial Film Unit, claimed it was evident that “coloured films help tremendously in getting a story across to Colonial peoples . . . We know from the reactions of the audiences there that these films are greatly appreciated.” Quoted in David R. Giltrow, “Young Tanzanians and the Cinema: A Study of the Effects of Selected Basic Motion Picture Elements and Population Characteristics on Filmic Comprehension of Tanzanian Adolescent Primary School Children” (PhD dissertation, Syracuse University, 1973), 17. Giltrow’s own study showed audience preference for color but no real difference in didactic terms, p. 15.

113 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 263–64. In the 1960s, Tanzanian schoolchildren who had rarely attended films had little trouble identifying objects and actions represented on screen. Giltrow, “Young Tanzanians and the Cinema,” 132.

114 Roan Antelope Mine Welfare Office, Annual Report, 1952–1953.

115 Welfare Officer, Luanshya Municipal Board to Chairman, African Film Censorship Board, November 6, 1953, NAZ, Sec. 5/16, no. 44/1.

116 South African black intellectuals had criticized the book on which the movie was based for its negative view of urban life and the “religiosity, deference, and the urban incompetence” of the central character, Reverend Kumalo. Nixon, Homelands, Harlem and Hollywood, 27.

117 J.H.G., “My First Visit to the Cinema,” 61.

118 Nasson, “‘She Preferred Living in a Cave,'” 289.

119 Tony Lawman, “Information Research: An Experiment in Northern Rhodesia,” Colonial Cinema 10 (September 1952): 59–61.

120 Colonial Cinema 4 (September 1946): 64–65; and Nell, “Mobile Cinema in Northern Rhodesia,” 43–46.

121 Nell, “Mobile Cinema in Northern Rhodesia,” 45.

122 Lawman, “Information Research,” 56–61.

123 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 257.

124 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 269.

125 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 168, 267; Rev. George Shaw, February 23, 1960, “Film Censorship: Evidence Submitted to Federal Working Party,” NAZ, Sec. 5/15; and Lawman, “Information Research,” 59.

126 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 267.

127 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 196–97.

128 Franklin, “Central African Screen,” 85; “Cinema in Northern Rhodesia,” 22; and Allanson to Director, January 27, 1956.

129 Lawman, “Information Research,” 56–61.

130 Nixon, Homelands, Harlem and Hollywood, 12, 31–35; and Don Mattera, Sophiatown: Coming of Age in South Africa (1987; Boston, 1989), 75.

131 Nelson Namulango, African Representative Council Debates, July 1, 1948, excerpted in NAZ, Sec. 2/1121, no. 346.

132 Leslie, Survey of Dar es Salaam, 112–13.

133 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 198.

134 Extract from Mufulira Monthly Police Report, 1947, Rex vs. John Kandu and Five Other Africans, NAZ, Sec. 2/1121, no. 346/1. In the end, however, each received a punishment of twelve strokes.

135 Film spectators quoted in Powdermaker, Copper Town, 263; also see 256–59. Among a number of memoirs, see, for example, Bloke Modisane, Blame Me on History (1963; New York, 1986), which refers repeatedly to the allure of cinema and its importance in constructing elements of cosmopolitanism.

136 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 298.

137 Philip Mayer, Townsmen or Tribesmen: Conservatism and the Process of Urbanization in a South African City (Cape Town, 1961), esp. 111–17.

138 Film censorship had a parallel in the regulations that restricted African consumption of European-type alcohol. Africans were forbidden to consume spirits until late in the colonial period. See Michael O. West, “‘Equal Rights for All Civilized Men’: Elite Africans and the Quest for ‘European’ Liquor in Colonial Zimbabwe, 1924–1961,” International Review of Social History 37 (1992): 376–97.

139 A few private clubs sponsored by mining companies provided relatively privileged Africans the opportunities to see films not approved for African audiences. Memorandum on Film Censorship, Cinema Officer, n.d. [c. 1956], NZA, Sec. 5/16, no. 121.

140 Mr. Kemple, Chairman, Capricorn Africa Society, to Native Film Censorship Board, Lusaka, March 10, 1957, NAZ, Sec. 5/16.

141 Extract, Central African Post, May 10, 1957, NAZ, Sec. 5/16, no. 171a.

142 H. A. Fosbrooke to Governor, March 5, 1957, NAZ, Sec. 5/16.

143 Kemple to Native Film Censorship Board, March 10, 1957.

144 Northern Rhodesia Bishops Conference, Secretary General, March 9, 1960, “Film Censorship: Evidence Submitted to Federal Working Party,” NAZ, Sec. 5/15.

145 Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism (Princeton, N.J., 1996), 62–90.

146 Barbara Bush, Imperialism, Race and Resistance: Africa and Britain, 1919–1945 (London, 1999), 28–38.

147 Tomlinson, Cultural Imperialism, 1–33.

148 Ariel Dorfman and A. Mattelart, How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialism Ideology in the Disney Comic, David Kunzle, trans. ([1972]; New York, 1975). See also Dorfman, The Empire’s Old Clothes: What the Lone Ranger, Babar, and Other Innocent Heroes Do to Our Minds (New York, 1983). This critique is drawn from Tomlinson, Cultural Imperialism, 35–45.

149 Tomlinson, Cultural Imperialism, 47. Note especially Ien Ang, Watching Dallas: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination (London, 1985).

150 Tomlinson, Cultural Imperialism, 50–57.

151 Debra Spitulnik, “The Social Circulation of Media Discourse and the Mediation of Communities,” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 6 (1997): 161–87.

152 Powdermaker, Copper Town, 270.







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