Courtesy of London Stereoscopic Company ©Hulton Archive/Getty Images

LONDON, 1891

Frances Gqoba was one of seven female members of The African Choir – 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. Little else is known about her life.


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