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The Morden African Expedition

Identifier: Film Collection no. 221

Scope and Contents

Filmed during the Morden Expedition to Africa and Asia, 1922-1924. When William James Morden decided to organize his 1922-1924 expedition to East Africa (Kenya, Uganda and the Sudan) he hired professional cinematographer Herford Tynes Cowling to accompany him and film the local people. The result is this film that captures an ethnographic cross-section of a small part of East Africa. Not all of the peoples depicted could be positively identified, despite extensive research and consultation with authorities on African ethnology. The places the expedition is known to have visited are Guaso Nyiro, Masai Mara, Sambe Island, Lake Victoria, Lake Albert, the Budongo Forest and the Upper Nile. Portraits of Kikuyu men and women allow close examination of their clothing, jewelry, and other adornments. A group of men dressed in their more elaborate official regalia sport leather banded tunics, sword sheaths of ostrich feathers, and bows with arrows in quivers. Masai women eat what might be the narcotic leaf kief as their manner of dress is studied in detail. Masai men tend their cattle, which have been branded with the tribal mark. The Luo ride bulls, brandishing spears and buffalo hide shields, in a ceremony that is probably in commemoration of a death. The men wear leopard skins, ostrich feather headdresses, straw hats, hippopotamus tooth jewelry, colobus monkey fur, cowrie shells, and body paint. In a Kamba village young people dance to the beat of drums as others practice archery. Both men and women wear cloth wrap skirts and varied ornaments. The people of what appears to be an Acoli village perform routine chores, such as pounding with a mortar and pestle. The native expedition staff encircles an old native in military dress as they dance. Finally, the villagers congregate around the campfire and a dance ensues.


  • 1922-1924

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

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


1 Film Reel (52 minutes) : silent, black and white ; 16 mm.

1 Videocassette (U-Matic (52 minutes)) : silent, black and white ; 3/4 in.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

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


Original format: 16 mm. print; incomplete.



Herford Tynes Cowling, photographer.

The Morden African Expedition, 1922-1924
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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