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Fish and Fetish
A Lecture by Mary Kingsley
Adapted and performed by Betsey Means
Directed by Eileen Vorbach

"The fascination of the African point of view is sure
to linger in your mind as the malaria in your body."

About Mary Kingsley
In the long list of African explorers one remarkable woman stands out: Mary Henrietta Kingsley (1862-1900) who set sail for Equatorial Africa in 1893. She had two objectives:

• to bring back specimens of fish for the British Museum
• to collect information on African religion

Kingsley undertook two voyages, one from July to December 1893 and the other from December 1894 to November 1895. She had no financial support beyond her private means, which were modest. She traveled light, refused to be carried, swam across marshlands, learned to handle a canoe single-handed, slept under the stars and ate whatever was locally available. Her one luxury was tea.

By the time she returned to England in 1895 the articles she had published in the press had already made her famous and her readers were eager for more. She wrote a first book of 750 pages, published in 1897: Travels in West Africa. An instant success, the book was reprinted four times in its first year. It was followed by a second volume, West African Studies (1899). Her writings are primarily ethnographic, and she was quickly acknowledged as an authority on the African world.

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