Schomburgk, Hans Hermann (1880-1967)

Hans Schomburgk in 1913.

Hans Hermann Schomburgk was a German big game hunter, writer and film-maker, who travelled widely in sub-Saharan Africa, notably in Togo, Liberia and Angola, over a long period, from before the First World War until the mid-1950s.

Most of his films appear to have concerned hunting or wildlife, or were “ethnodramas” filmed on location in Africa. However, Schomburgk also made the film mostly commonly referred to as Im Deutschen Sudanshot in northern Togo in 1913-1914 and first released in 1916. Although this film also featured a sequence about the capture of a pygmy hippopotamus (actually filmed during an earlier expedition to Liberia), most of the footage is dedicated to the daily life and activities of the Kotokoli, Tyokossi, Bassari and Konkomba indigenous groups. With a running time variously computed at being between 65 and 76 minutes, it is a candidate for the longest expedition film of ethnographic interest made in the period prior to the First World War.

Schomburgk with Meg Gehrts, the ‘leading lady’ of his ethnodramas and future wife, at the time of their expedition to northern Togo in 1913-1914.

Alongside the more ethnographic footage, Schomburgk also shot a number of short ethnodramas during the course of his 1913-1914 expedition to Togo. These starred the German actress Meg Gehrts (1891-1966), who later wrote an interesting (if somewhat irritating) memoir about the experience. Schomburgk and Gehrts later married, but it was a short-lived union, lasting only from 1922 to 1925.

Text: Gehrts 1915/1996.

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