Courtesy of London Stereoscopic Company ©Hulton Archive/Getty Images

LONDON, 1891

Eleanor Xiniwe (née Ndwanya) was a member of the African Choir, and wife of Paul Xiniwe, the most senior member of The African Choir. Upon her return to South Africa, they opened the Temperance Hotel – the first hotel for black Africans – in 1894 in King Williams Town in the Cape Province. The couple had five children and were one of the most established families in the Cape, part of an educated social group actively engaged in national politics, and social change.

The African Choir was a group of fourteen young men and women, and two children, from South Africa, then under British rule. The choir toured Britain between 1891 and 1893, ostensibly to raise funds to build a technical college on the Cape Coast to support the expanding black labour force. They performed to great acclaim and large audiences at Crystal Palace, for members of the British aristocracy and leading political figures, and most notably for Queen Victoria at Osborne House, Isle of Wight. Their stage repertoire was divided into two halves: one comprised Christian hymns sung in English together with popular operatic arias and choruses; the other traditional African hymns. The choir appeared in traditional African dress, and in contemporary Victorian dress in response.


London Stereoscopic Company
Silver-Gelation Dry Half-Plate, approx 4 ¾ x 6 ½
Courtesy ©Hulton Archive/Getty Images