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Central African Expedition

Identifier: Film Collection no. 145

Scope and Contents

Filmed during AMNH Central African Expedition, 1948. The film material taken on the AMNH Central African Expedition, 1947-1948, is unedited, raw footage. The five-month-long expedition, led by James Lippitt Clark, AMNH director of preparation and installation, is well-documented in field notes and reports. It is not reflected in the film that the expedition moved haphazardly back and forth among the countries visited: Kenya, Uganda, Belgian Congo (now Zaire), and French Equatorial Africa (now Chad, Gabon, Congo, and the Central African Republic). Because the material is so random, it is described here by subject matter. A control file in the AMNH Film Archives correlates this material to shot-by-shot descriptions of the film. The material was filmed by Murl Deusing, who also worked on the Walt Disney nature films of the 1950s. Views of the following birds are included: weaverbirds (nest building); white-backed vultures and Ruppell's vultures (gliding on air currents and feeding); ostriches (running); rory bustards (feeding); crowned cranes (feeding and long shot of courtship display); ground hornbills (feeding); flamingoes; hawks; kites; hammerheads; cattle egrets; pelicans; cormorants; anhingas; white storks (European birds wintering in Africa); marabou storks (feeding); and geese. Because the material is poorly organized and unedited, bird footage from other films in the Archives would better serve the researcher. The footage of mammals includes several scenes filmed at the Government Elephant Training Center in Cangara Na Bodia, Belgian Congo (now Zaire), where young elephants are domesticated and trained: the elephants are corralled, fed and bathed; one juvenile elephant is laid down with great difficulty and given topical medication. There are also many scenes of a wide variety of animals grazing in the plains. Other mammals seen are: hippopotamuses, defassa waterbucks, impalas, Ankole cattle, hyenas, L'Hoest's monkeys, Thomson's gazelles, wildebeests, zebras, topis (some aggressive behavior), goats, cape eland, colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, kob, blackbacked and sidestriped jackals, giraffes, warthogs, Cape buffaloes, bat-eared foxes, lions, black rhinoceroses, oryx, hartebeests, southern reedbucks, and dikdiks. The African peoples included in the film are Masai, Nandi, Mbuti (i.e. Bambuti), Zande, N'Sakkara, with some unidentified people in Zaire and some others who apear to be Mangbetu. Among the Masai in Kajiado, Kenya, moran (warriors) participate in mock fights with shields and spears. Activities such as bleeding cattle, milking cows and tending goats in a small enclosure are seen, as well as close-ups of individuals and views of children, dung-plastered dwellings and an entire manuatta (homestead). Also in Kenya, Nandi harvest maize and thatch a barn roof. In the Ituri Forest and in nearby Beni, Belgian Congo (now Zaire), Mbuti (i.e. Bambuti) make bark cloth, prepare arrows, carry nets and spears, smoke, dance, cook, and shoot bows and arrows. Their leaf-covered beehive dwellings, mothers with babies, and close-ups of individuals are also seen. People of an unidentified tribe fish with huge cone-shaped nets at Stanley Falls (Boyoma Falls) in the Congo River near Stanleyville (Kisangani); one man wears a feather headdress, leather armlets, cloth breechclout, and a necklace made from big cats' teeth. Mangbetu (probaby) people with elongated heads (formed by binding the heads of infants to create a long narrow skull) in the Belgian Congo (now Zaire) are also seen. The next section of the film depicts peoples of what is now the Central African Republic and was then part of French Equatorial Africa. Natives of the village of Birao use a huge mortar and pestle; also seen are their cone on cylinder houses, some with animal paintings on the stucco walls, and personal adornment including beaded hairdresses (close-ups), nose and ear ornaments, cicatrices, and coin necklaces. Zande people near Zamio process cassava from root to flour (close-ups), use mortar and pestle; and Zande men weave mats (close-ups) and Zande women wear leaves and cloth pelvic aprons. N'Sakkara people of Bangassou thatch a roof, carve a wooden bowl, play bao or a similar board game, strip reeds for weaving, make a storage basket, play with a hoop, make mats, plaster a house, use mortar and pestle, grind grain into flour between two stones, make jewelry, work wood with a lathe, and winnow and grind termites for food. Neal Albert Weber, the expedition's entomologist, conducted extensive research in the field; footage of his study of ants and termites comprise a large part of this film. Weber himself appears in the film sucking up ants and termites with a hose, collecting others with a funnel, and "cooking" them with his fireless cooker. There is also footage of various types of ant nests, bivouacs (large knots of ants clinging to one another), siafu or driver ants (nesting sites, individuals, close-ups, and long shots of marching columns, and large larva sacs), termites (with wings and without) and termite queens, termite nests (on the ground, in thorn trees, opened and unopened gauls or carton nests), stalkeyed flies, cassava grasshoppers (molting, copulating), a scarab beetle, and close-ups of a tree snail and of millipedes. A turtle, a python, and a gold and green frog are also seen.


  • 1947-1948


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Not available through interlibrary loan. Contact AMNH Library Special Collections for terms of access.


1 Film Reel (500 minutes) : silent, color ; 16 mm.

1 Videocassette (U-Matic (500 minutes)) : silent, color ; 3/4 in.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

3/4 in., U-Matic, viewing copy


Original format: 16 mm. color reversal; incomplete.



Murl Deusing, photographer.

Central African Expedition, 1947-1948
Iris Lee
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
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New York NY 10024 USA
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