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All the postal cards shown here are from the collection of Dutch artist Ad Willemen.

Ad Willemen is especially interested in all images depicting scenes from former French colony 'République Afrique occidentale française', now the Republic of Mali. Willemen will pass on all pictures and information relating to this former French colonial territory to the 'Musée Nationale de Mali' / The National Museum of Mali at Bamako.

If you have such pictures or information, please contact Willemen.

Ethnographic curiosities

10 postcards from the collection of Ad Willemen

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Bantu woman

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Bedouin girls

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Detail Bedouin girls

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Moorish woman

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Swahili woman

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Arab woman

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Detail Arab woman

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Egypt detail

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Moorish woman 2

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Moorish woman 2 detail

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Bedouin girl

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Bedouin girl detail

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Arab dancer

During the last decades of the 19th century and the first ones of the 20th, scientific interest in the description of the human body was recognized as a serious and respectable subject. Modern and revolutionary techniques of the printing press enabled scientists to reproduce the human form in pictures, black and white or colour.

The publications - inter alia by such well respected scientists as doctors Ploss and Bartels - initially have been restricted to scientists, but of course a never flawing popular demand for nudity was exploited by commercial publishers, in this case the producers of postal cards.

It is exactly this ambivalent concept, a crossing between ethnography and commerce - that makes these post cards interesting to both collector and public of the first days of the 21st century.

Mostly the erotic undertones are unmistakebly present, but at the same time these pictures contain an invaluable amount of information about the ethnic and cultural society they represented in the past.