Courtesy of London Stereoscopic Company ©Hulton Archive/Getty Images

LONDON, 1891

Katie Manye (1873 – 1956), later known as Katie Makanya, came to England in 1891, as one of the youngest members of the African Choir. She dedicated her life to medicine, nursing, and the well-being of black South Africans, working under the English doctor and missionary James McCord. In 1995 her memoir was published by McCord’s daughter, Margaret McCord, as ‘The Calling of Katie Makanya’. Written as an oral testimony that spans from the late nineteenth century into the apartheid years, the biography includes her travels to England, Katie’s introduction to Queen Victoria, and her return to South Africa in 1893.

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