the pursuit of fish and fetish

Mary Kingsley (1862 – 1900) was an English writer and explorer. She was the daughter  of doctor, traveller and writer George Kingsley and the niece of novelists Charles Kingsley and Henry Kingsley.

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Dr. Kingsley died in February 1892 and Mrs. Kingsley followed a few months later. Freed from family responsibilities and with a small inheritance, Mary was able to travel as she had always dreamed, her reason for going being “the pursuit of fish and fetish“. 

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As Kingsley set off on her first trip to Africa she was referred to a new “French book of phrases in common use in Dahomey.” The opening sentence of the book was “Help, I am drowning.”, followed by “Get up, you lazy scamps!” This was shortly followed by the question “Why has not this man been buried?” and its expected answer “It is fetish that has killed him, and he must lie here exposed with nothing on him until only the bones remain.”

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Mary landed in Sierra Leone on 17 August 1893 and pressed on into Angola . She lived with local people who taught her necessary skills for surviving in the African jungles, and often went into dangerous areas alone. She longed to study ‘cannibal’ peoples and their traditional religious practices, commonly referred to as fetishes during the Victorian Era. 

While in Gabon, Mary Kingsley travelled by canoe up the Ogooué River where she collected specimens of previously unknown fish, three of which were later named after her. After meeting the Fang people and travelling through uncharted Fang territory, she climbed 13,760 ft Mount Cameroon by a route not previously attempted by any other European. Her adventures also included a crocodile attacking her canoe and being caught in a tornado.

more tornado images here

Once when staying in a Fang hut, a violent smell alerted her to a bag suspended from the roof. Emptying the contents into her hat, she found a human hand, three big toes, four eyes, two ears and other portions of the human frame. She showed no squeamishness, saying “I learnt that the Fang will eat their fellow friendly tribesfolk, yet they like to keep a little something belonging to them as a memento.”

you can purchase this cannibal hat here

She travelled in West Africa wearing the same clothes that she habitually wore in England: long, black, trailing skirts, tight waists, high collars, and a small fur cap. These same clothes saved her life when she fell into a game pit, the many petticoats protecting her from being impaled on the stakes below. Later that same day, returning to her moored canoe, she found a hippopotamus standing over it and “scratched him behind the ear with my umbrella until we parted on good terms.”

mouth of a hippo found here

When she returned home in November 1895 Kingsley was greeted by journalists who were eager to interview her. Reports in the papers portrayed her as a “New Woman”, an image which she did not embrace. She distanced herself from any feminist movement claims, arguing that she had never worn trousers during her expedition.

Women in trousers found here

Mary Kingsley upset the Church of England when she criticised missionaries for attempting to change the people of Africa. She defended aspects of African life that had shocked many English people, including polygamy. For example explaining the “seething mass of infamy, degradation and destruction going on among the Coast native… as the natural consequence of the breaking down of an ordered polygamy into a disordered monogamy“.

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Here she describes the process of bartering with natives with a certain sense of humour. “All my trader stuff was by now exhausted, and I had to start selling my own belongings, and for the first time in my life I felt the want of a big outfit. My own clothes I certainly did insist on having more for, pointing out that they were rare and curious. A dozen white ladies’ blouses sold well. I cannot say they looked well when worn by a brawny warrior in conjunction with nothing else but red paint and a bunch of leopard tails, particularly when the warrior failed to tie the strings at the back. But I did not hint at this, and I quite realize that a pair of stockings can be made to go further than we make them by using one at a time and putting the top part over the head and letting the rest of the garment float on the breeze.”

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Published in: on February 26, 2012 at 9:41 pm  Comments (56)  
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this is your captain speaking…..

The story of the bogus “Captain of Kopenick” made nearly all of Germany rock with laughter.

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Between 1864 and 1891, Wilhelm Voigt was sentenced to prison for a total of 25 years for thefts and forgery. The longest sentence was a conviction for 15 years for theft. He was released on 12 February 1906.

Voigt then hoboed from place to place until he went to live with his sister in Rixdorf near Berlin but police expelled him as undesirable, based solely on the fact that he was a former prisoner. Officially he left for Hamburg, although he remained in Berlin as an unregistered resident.

Rixdorf

On 16 October 1906 Voigt was ready for his next caper. Previously he had purchased parts of used captain’s uniforms from different shops and tested their effect on soldiers.  Voigt took the uniform out of baggage storage, put it on and went to the local army barracks, hailed four grenadiers and a sergeant and told them to come with him. Indoctrinated to obey officers without question, they followed. He dismissed the commanding sergeant to report to his superiors and later commandeered 6 more soldiers from a shooting range. Then he took a train to Köpenick, east of Berlin, occupied the local city hall with his soldiers and told them to cover all exits. He told the local police to “care for law and order” and to “prevent calls to Berlin for one hour” at the local post office.

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He had the treasurer von Wiltberg and mayor Georg Langerhans arrested, supposedly for suspicions of crooked bookkeeping, and confiscated 4002 marks and 37 pfennigs – with a receipt, of course (he signed it with his former jail director’s name). Then he commandeered two carriages and told the grenadiers to take the arrested men to the Neue Wache in Berlin for interrogation. He told the remaining guards to stand in their places for half an hour and then left for the train station. He later changed into civilian clothes and disappeared.

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Voigt was arrested on 26 October and on 1st December sentenced to four years in prison for forgery, impersonating an officer and wrongful imprisonment. However, much of the public opinion was on his side and Kaiser Wilhelm II pardoned him in 1908. There are some claims that even the Kaiser had been amused by the incident, referring to him as an amiable scoundrel, and being pleased with the authority and feelings of reverence that his military obviously commanded in the general population.

Wilhelm

The English were also amused, seeing it as provided confirmation of their stereotypes about Germans. In an October 1906 issue, the editors of The Illustrated London News would note gleefully:

For years the Kaiser has been instilling into his people reverence for the omnipotence of militarism, of which the holiest symbol is the German uniform. Offenses against this fetish have incurred condign punishment. Officers who have not considered themselves saluted in due form have drawn their swords with impunity on offending privates.

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trapped by a fetishist

It appears to me that more people in the arts have polygamous relationships than us ordinary folk. Or maybe no one writes about the ordinary folk who are having them

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Wonder Woman was created by Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston, who wrote the stories under the pseudonym Charles Moulton. Marston is also known as the inventor, or at least the most enthusiastic advocate, of the polygraph lie detector. Marston led a colorful and unconventional life. In his first of several popular psychology books, Emotions of Normal People, he discussed emotional states in terms of “elementary behaviour units” in the activities of dominance, compliance, submission and inducement.

One study in Marston’s book involves the “baby party,” a strange sorority ritual held at Jackson College. Freshman initiates were required to dress like babies, bound, prodded with sticks, and wrestled when they resisted. One of Marston’s theories was that America would become a matriarchy, and in many of his writings he espoused the view that women could and would use sexual enslavement to achieve dominance over men.  His ideas landed him the post of consulting psychologist for the women’s magazine Family Circle.

order your adult baby dresses here

His research assistant on that study, Olive Byrne, was also the woman who, as Olive Richard, conducted the seminal interview published in Family Circle. In fact, Olive moved in with Marston and his wife Elizabeth. William Marston fathered two children each by each woman, and the extended family lived together harmoniously.

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Artist Sir Stanley Spencer also had an unconventional love life.

“He viewed sexual union as a sacrament. A man raises a woman’s dress with the same passionate admiration and love as the priest raises the Host on the altar,’ he wrote.

Bardot

Stanley met his first wife, Hilda Carline in 1923 and they eventually married in 1925. Their first daughter, Shirin, was born the same year and their second, Unity, in 1930.

In 1933 a fellow artist, Patricia Preece, began to model for him, first in a conventional way – there is a portrait of her in striped jersey in front of his gramophone – and later wearing increasingly few clothes.

Patricia Preece – Self Portrait

Stanley quickly became infatuated. Hilda wrote to a friend: ‘She vamped him to a degree unbelievable except in cinemas. If he went to her house, she always received him half or a quarter dressed. He showered her with presents, from the lacy lingerie in which he painted her, to gifts of cash.

Carline divorced Spencer in 1937. A week later he married Patricia, knowing she, however, was a lesbian. She continued to live with her partner, and though she frequently posed nude for her husband, refused to consummate the marriage.

Patricia found herself trapped by a fetishist. As she said years later, he bought her ‘innumerable pairs of bright, beastly shoes with enormously high heels, in which he stared at my legs and feet with fascination‘. When Spencer’s bizarre relationship with Patricia finally fell apart (though she would never grant a divorce), he returned to visiting Hilda.

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Then there’s Australian actor Jack Thompson who spent 15 years in a ménage à trois with two sisters, Leona and Bunkie.

“Know how difficult it is living with the woman you love?” Thompson is fond of saying. “Try doubling it”. Though the living arrangement came to an end, Thompson has no regrets, “I wouldn’t have missed it for quids.”

Glenda Jackson & Jack Thompson 1975

Perhaps most famous of all were the complicated goings on of the Bloomsbury Set.

Duncan Grant had always been actively homosexual but a relationship blossomed with Vanessa Bell who was in a relationship with his friend, artist Roger Fry. Grant eventually moved in with Vanessa and her two sons by her husband Clive Bell. Then Grant’s new lover, David Garnett arrived.

Vanessa Bell aged 2

Relationships with Clive Bell remained amicable, and he too stayed with them for long periods fairly often – sometimes accompanied by his own mistress, Mary Hutchinson. Vanessa very much wanted a child by Duncan, and became pregnant in the spring of 1918. Although it is generally assumed that Duncan’s sexual relations with Vanessa ended in the months before Angelica was born, they continued to live together for more than 40 years.

Bloomsbury

Published in: on October 24, 2010 at 6:17 am  Comments (36)  
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