Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Herero Kapitän in the Coat of the Kaiser's Guard

In June, 1894, a succession dispute over the Herero chieftaincy of Okahandja turned violent.  Samuel Maharero, son of the dead chieftain Maharero Tjiamuaha, had a weaker claim under the laws of Herero inheritance than his other rivals.  Samuel and his followers were driven out of Okahandja and took refuge on a hilltop at Osona, about a dozen miles to the South.  There they ran up a German flag and waited for military aid from the colonial authorities who had backed Samuel as Herero paramount chief.  When the soldiers arrived from Windhuk, they were greeted by Samuel's cousin and veld-cornet Assa Riarua, wearing "a uniform of the German Kaiser's French Guard regiment (Jan-Bart Gewald 1999:57)."

Assa Riarua's appearance must indeed have been very striking in the Prussian cuirassier uniform of the elite Imperial Body Guard.  The regular uniform was almost cream colored white wool piped with red.  It had a red stand up collar, facings and cuffs that for the enlisted men were trimmed with white tape and for the officers in heavy silver bullion.  It is not known how Assa came by the uniform, whether it was an enlisted man's or officer's, nor whether it was complete or only included the coat.  Perhaps it was sold to him by a German trader.  The men who served in the Kaiser's guard were all at least six feet tall, and judging from a contemporary photograph taken of Assa in the late 1890s the coat would have been large for him.

A decade later during the German-Herero war, Assa fought in a German uniform and carried a sword.  By that time, his old cuirassier koller may have seen better days, but since we have a description of him wearing it in the 1890s I've decided to paint a mounted figure of Assa in the coat of the Kaiser's bodyguard.

The full uniform, it would have included the gilt helmet of the Guard du Corps, possibly

even surmounted by its ceremonial eagle with outstretched wings instead of a spike.  That seems a stretch, both from an historical point of view and as a practical matter to find a suitable figure to represent an African wearing this uniform.  There is better documentation, though, for a spiked cork sun helmet such as the Schutztruppe wore before 1896.  There is even an image from 1904 of a "Bambuse" - a German officer's native orderly - standing at a railroad siding and wearing what is probably the Schutztruppe tropical helmet authorized in 1891.  I have selected a figure to use for Assa Riarua who is wearing one as well.

I'm very fond of the sculpting that Paul Hicks has done for Empress Miniatures and its Anglo-Zulu War line, and  have used his Natal Native Horse figures (sans the spears in their shoulder quivers) for mounted Hereros.  For Assa Riarua, though, I wanted something special and selected one of two figures in a set of Mounted Natal Carbineers.

The cuffs of this figure are pointed, but a little green stuff helped to modify it satisfactorily.  I painted up Assa Riarua in the koller and trousers of an enlisted soldier in the Garde du Corps, mixing Vallejo Sand Yellow and White to get the color of his proud but well worn off white wool uniform.  I painted the old 1891 Schutztruppe spiked pith helmet with Vallejo New Wood for the darker colors, working up through German Ochre Orange with a touch of Dark Sand.  I'm pleased with the finished product, which unfortunately I had to photograph inside with the flash rather than in natural light, but the end result is a proud Herero commander in one of the most unusual uniforms ever to grace a colonial Africa gaming table.

No comments:

Post a Comment