River scenery engraving
[NLS reference: MS.42433]
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This is the proof engraving entitled 'River Scenery on the West Coast', with annotations of David Livingstone and Murray. It was included in Livingstone's book 'Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa', 1857.
In the sketch, you can see Livingstone sitting in front of the boat looking through binoculars.
Understanding who is telling the story
Pay attention to how Livinstone is sitting. Now, notice how the Africans in the boat are positioned. What does this tell us about the relationship to each other? Who is in charge? Are they tense or relaxed?
Now examine the rest of the sketch. Think about whose perspective we are seeing this scene from. Is it from the African’s or from one of Livingstone's companions? What message do you think we’re supposed to get from it?
Understanding a new landscape
Now have a close look at the trees and the river. What sort of landscape does it appear to be? Is it realistic or idealistic? Is it welcoming and serene or scary and foreboding? Do you think it’s the type of place a 19th century European would want to visit?
Try to imagine being a traveller here, imagine the sounds, the smells. Compare the African scene in this picture with images you might find elsewhere on the web about Africa.