SOAS University of London

Ruhleben 1914-1918: African Diaspora and Arab Civilians Interned in Germany

The Baron
Curated by Sonia Grant at Penstroke Publishing

Date: 11 January 2019Time: 10:30 AM

Finishes: 23 March 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: Exhibition Rooms

Type of Event: Exhibition

Identified as British subjects, African diaspora and Arab male civilians who happened to be in Germany at the outbreak of the First World War, are highlighted in an exhibition depicting their experiences of being rounded up and interned at a makeshift camp, Ruhleben (a disused racecourse un-fit for human habitation), 10 kilometres outside Berlin.

The exhibition brings together rare images, biographical sketches and their own accounts, wherever it was possible, to present a nuanced appraisal of their internment, repatriation and beyond.

The internees, among whom were an approximate contingent of 300, comprising merchant seamen primarily from Sierra Leone and the Aden Protectorate; an assortment of West Indians (musicians, entertainers and artisans); and other minorities, persevered in a largely indifferent 5,000-strong enclave— “Little Britain”—effectively, an outpost of Empire that replicated its social and racial strictures.

Obscured for a century, first-hand accounts were, invariably, those of the white internees’, some of whom casually betrayed paternalistic or Eurocentric worldviews and, all-too-often, considered the ‘men of colour’ in disparaging terms—games of cricket notwithstanding.

Despite enduring privation and discrimination, ultimately, their collective narrative represents triumph over tragedy and, Ruhleben, the exhibition, invariably, rescues a marginalized group of men otherwise lost to history.

Curated by Sonia Grant at Penstroke Publishing www.penstrokepublishing.com