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The Morden African Expedition

Identifier: Film Collection no. 223

Scope and Contents

Filmed during the AMNH Morden African Expedition, 1953. The five reels of film taken during the Morden African Expedition of 1953 each represent one leg of the trip and is treated individually. In addition to co-leaders William James Morden and Irene Morden, collectors Walter Moesch and Lili Braun were also members of the expedition. Windhoek to Etosha Pan Etosha Pan is the largest salt pan in Africa and is located in South-West Africa (now Namibia) in the center of Etosha National Park, an animal reserve. On the way to Etosha Pan the expedition team stops at Okaukuejo, a camp-like complex of European and native huts, where Herero people mill about. Upon reaching their destination the staff hunts in the bush with German shepherds, rooting out small creatures. Among the animals seen are: lions, giraffes, zebras, weaverbirds, wildebeests, marabou storks, and vultures. Windhoek to Runtu Making its way from Windhock to Runtu in SouthWest Africa (now Namibia), the expedition team stops to film a lengthy sequence of the Sambyu people and their village. Portraits of the women reveal elaborate hairstyles, decorated with shells, beads, and other adornments. Both native and western styles of dress are common. The staff purchases an assortment of ethnographic specimens and packs them for transport. The animals appearing here are: ostriches, wildebeests, pigeons, zebu cattle, and spring hares.Kaokoveld Kaokoveld and Etosha Pan, the areas of exploration on this reel of Morden film, are both in the arid northwest part of South-West Africa (now Namibia). On the Hottentot (i.e. Khoi) Reserve the staff finds four Strandlopers (i.e. San), who are related to the Bushmen and who, according to the Mordens, were the last of their kind. Their minimal possessions include beehive huts of sticks, leaves, and bark, an animal skin mat, a medicine bag, a pail, and a wooden dish. The Hottentot women of the reserve perform a dance in long, colorful western dresses as the men play pipes in accompaniment. Moving on, the staff encounters the Ovahimbas, a south-western Bantu Hereros tribe of a pastoral nature. Their hairstyles, clothing, and jewelry are all closely examined and compared. The animals seen are: zebu cattle, donkeys, goats, elephants, giraffes, oryxes, lions, ostriches, and springbucks. Runtu to the Congo From Runtu, South-West Africa (now Namibia), the Mordens and their staff went to Bechuanaland (now Botswana), Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe and Zambia), Angola and Elisabethville (now Lubumbashi), filming numerous sights and people along the way, including a group of Bushmen, a waterwheel, and an irrigation system. The expedition travels through beautiful countrysides and over white sands to reach Ruacana Falls, Angola, where staff portraits are taken. The streets of an unidentified city, probably Elisabethville, end the reel. Congo This last reel of the Morden African Expedition of 1953 chronicles the trip from Elisabethville (now Lubumbashi) to Bukavu and back again. Though picturesque many of the people and sights encountered cannot be identified. Barges ferry trucks across a body of water which, because of the enormous papyrus surrounding it, is probably located in the swamplands just north of Bukavu. Slippery roads slow the expedition trucks down and, at one point, the staff must reinforce a bridge before attempting to cross it. Around Bukavu, natives and westerners mingle, bartering for small carved objects and local wares, some of which are purchased by the expedition staff.


  • 1953

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

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


5 Film Reels (187 minutes) : silent, color ; 16 mm.

3 Videocassettes (U-Matic (187 minutes)) : silent, color ; 3/4 in.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

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


Original format: 16 mm. color reversal original; incomplete.



William James Morden, Mr. Knobel, and Mr. Kels, photographers.

The Morden African Expedition, 1953
Iris Lee
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Script of description
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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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