The Victoria Falls 1900-1940: Landscape, tourism and the geographical imagination
McGregor, J. (2003) The Victoria Falls 1900-1940: Landscape, tourism and the geographical imagination. Journal of Southern African Studies, 29 (3). pp. 717-737. ISSN 0305-7070
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1080/0305707032000094992
This article is about the politics of landscape ideas, and the relationship between landscape, identity and memory. It explores these themes through the history of the Victoria Falls, and the tourist resort that developed around the waterfall after 1900. Drawing on oral and archival sources, including popular natural history writing and tourist guides, it investigates African and European ideas about the waterfall, and the ways that these interacted and changed in the course of colonial appropriations of the Falls area. The tourist experience of the resort and the landscape ideas promoted through it were linked to Edwardian notions of Britishness and empire, ideas of whiteness and settler identities that transcended new colonial borders, and to the subject identities accommodated or excluded. Cultures of colonial authority did not develop by simply overriding local ideas, they involved fusions, exchanges and selective appropriations of them. The two main African groups I am concerned with here are the Leya, who lived in small groups around the Falls under a number of separate chiefs, and the powerful Lozi rulers, to whom they paid tribute in the nineteenth century. The article highlights colonial authorities' celebration of aspects of the Lozi aristocracy's relationship with the river, and their exclusion of the Leya people who had a longer and closer relationship with the waterfall. It also touches on the politics of recent attempts to reverse this exclusion, and the controversial rewriting of history this has involved.
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