This film is part of Free

Savage South Africa - Savage Attack and Repulse

Members of a South African performance troupe arrive for an Earl's Court date

Non-Fiction 1899 1 mins Silent


This striking film re-stages an episode from the Matabele wars between African natives and British infantry. It was re-enacted from performances by the visiting Savage South African troupe, put together by Frank Fillis and brought to England for a run at the Empress Theatre in Earl's Court from April 1899. It's one of two surviving films to record the visit: alongside the British Mutoscope and Biograph company's Landing of Savage South Africa at Southampton.

This exotic Empire spectacle caused quite a stir and no little controversy, much of it essentially racist (concerns about the visitors' risk to British morality, in particular women). Others challenged the ethics of the enterprise, among them the Times, which queried "the action of the organizers in bringing over a large number of natives to be stared at and to take their chance of being demoralized in such strange and unedifying surroundings". The show arrived in Britain in April 1899; some six months later Britain would be at war, for the second time, with the South African Boers.