A Man Dressed as a Woman in Zanzibar


Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

Photographer unknown
Albumen print
Zanzibar, c. 1900

A woman (man), wearing a check dress, patterned shawl, leggings, turban with chinstrap, chunky bracelets, anklets and a necklace.

This puzzling image of a young man dressed as an elite Zanzibari woman might be a joke played by the studio, or the trace of a costume party. It also brings to mind Swahili stories of the possibilities of transformation through dress. Sultani Majinuni, Sultan Darai, and Kisa cha Kihindi all feature tales of mistaken identity effected with a change of clothes—of slaves dressing as sultans, and a man who, when dressed as a woman, was disinherited.

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  • Title: A Man Dressed as a Woman in Zanzibar
  • Date Created: 1900
  • Location: Zanzibar, Tanzinia
  • Type: Photograph, Portrait
  • Publisher: Winterton Collection of East African Photographs, Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies, Northwestern University, Evanston
  • External Link: Original Record
  • Medium: Albumin Print


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