Tippu Tip the Zanzibari slave and ivory trader, explorer and diplomat around 1890

Tippu Tip Slavetrader explorer and diplomat
  • Description

Original large 1890ish photo of the famous Tippu Tip / Tippu Tib (Muhammed el Murjebi also Hemed bin Mohammed) the Zanzibari slave and ivory trader, soldier, explorer, plantation owner, writer  and diplomat. The photo was taken by Coutinho brothers.  In the slide-show you also find two  postcards: Tippu Tib  by "Gomes and son" published  1929 (rare) Second postcard has the title "Well Known Arab Chief (Liwali)"  by P & P works (photographer  K. Pop)  Nairobi and Mombassa. around 1907 (Rare) For more information on Tippu Tip see below and in the slavery section of our website. Size 20 by 15 cm.

 Antique photo Tippu Tip Zanzibar

The influential life of Tippu Tip

Tippu Tip lived between 1837-1905. His close business partner was Tharia Topan. His real name is Hamad bin Muḥammad bin Jumah bin Rajab bin Muḥammad bin Sa‘īd al Merjebi . His mother, Bint Habib bin Bushir, was a Muscat Arab of the ruling class. His father and paternal grandfather were coastal Swahili who had taken part in the earliest trading expeditions to the interior. He was famously known by the natives of East Africa as Tippu Tib possibly after the sounds that his many guns made. However Tippu Tib is mostly  interpreted as "He who Blinks"

He was the biggest slave and ivory dealer in East Africa. Later he  became a plantation owner and governor, who worked for a succession of sultans of Zanzibar. He led many trading expeditions into Central Africa, involving the slave trade and ivory trade. He constructed profitable trading posts that reached deep into Central Africa. He Also made big contributions to the European expeditions of Livingstone and Stanley. He called The Belgian King Leopold II his new Sultan. He helped and guided several famous western explorers including Livingstone and Stanley into the interior of East Africa. He therefore features in the works of Livingstone and Stanley. Even the British and the German commander von Wismann made keenly use of his influence in East Africa. After 1884 he lived in Singitini (in the Arab part of Kinsingani) and was Governor of Kisingani. Between 1884 and 1887, El Murgebi claimed the Eastern Congo for himself and for the Sultan of Zanzibar, Bargash bin Said el Busaidi. In spite of his position as protector of Zanzibar's interests in Congo, he managed to maintain good relations with the Europeans. When, in August 1886, fighting broke out between the Swahili and the representatives of King Leopold II of Belgium at Stanley Falls, El Murgebi went to the Belgian consul at Zanzibar to assure him of his "good intentions" Although he was still a force in Central African politics, he could see by 1886 that power in the region was shifting.

In early 1887, Stanley arrived in Zanzibar and proposed that Tippu Tip be made governor of the Stanley Falls District in the Congo Free State. Both Leopold and Sultan Barghash bin Said agreed and on February 24, 1887, Hamed bin Mohammed el Murgebi accepted. In 1890 he returned to Zanzibar because of a legal trial against him initiated by the explorer Stanley because of the failed Rescue Emin Pacha expedition. The court in Zanzibar completely cleared Tippu Tip from the accusations by Stanly (in fact the expedition failed due to organizational problems and and conflicts of (western) characters, another minor detail was that Emin Pacha did not want to be rescued....) Tippu Tip  had built himself a trading empire that he then translated into clove plantations on Zanzibar. Abdul Sheriff reported that when he left for his twelve years of "empire building" on the mainland, he had no plantations of his own. However, by 1895, he had acquired "seven plantations and 10,000 slaves and had become one of the riches Africans of his time.

In December 1891 and March 1892 Tippu Tip sold 3800 male slaves and 800 women to the Congo free state. They were to be  freed but had to work as rail-road labourers and soldiers.

Tippu Tip wrote his memoirs in Swahili. These memoirs were translated and published by the German Heinrich Brode: first in a scientific magazine (parallel Swahili German) later it was published in German as a book.

In 1905 the newspaper Times mentioned the death of the notorious slaver Tippu Tip, but no mention was made of the huge contribution Tippu Tip made to the expeditions of Livingstone and Stanley. Nor his extremely important diplomatic contributions....

Another image of this  photo is illustrated on page 130 of reference 19 that describes the Winterton Africana collection (Album 62 item 1) The Coutinho brothers established one of the first commercial photographic enterprises on the island of Zanzibar, some time in the 1870s. Probably of Portuguese origin, little is known of their lives. On the back a blue stamp "Coutinho Brothers Photographers Zanzibar" and in pencil written Tippu Tip.

Book Tippu Tip Brode

First German edition of Tippu Tip's autobiography translated from Swahili into German by Heinrich Brode

References : Tippu Tip´s life  is described and referenced in an endless list of books reflecting his importance to the history of Eastern Africa:
  1. Tippu Tip H. Brode , Maisha  ya Hamed bin Muhammed El Murjebi, in Mitteilungen des Seminars für orientalische Sprachen  Abteilung III,Jahrgang V: p 175-277 und VI p1-55 1902/1903.
  2. Tippu Tip Lebensbild eines zentralafrikanischen Despoten - Nach seinen eigenen Angaben dargestellt" translated by  Dr. Heinrich Brode from Swahili into German and published by Wilhelm Baensch Berlin 1905
  3. Brode, Heinrich. Tippoo Tib: The Story of His Career in Zanzibar & Central Africa. Translated by H. Havelock with preface by Sir Charles Elliot. London: Arnold, 1907
  4. Leda Ferrant, Tippu Tip and the East African Slave Trade , St Martin´s press New York  1975
  5. Heinrich Brode, Tippu Tip: The Story of his career in Zanzibar and Central Africa, The Gallery Publications, Zanzibar 2000
  6. David Livingstone, Missionary Travels and Researches , 1857
  7. David Livingstone The Last Journals 1874
  8. Stanley How I found Livingstone
  9. Stanley through the dark continent 1879
  10. Stanley The Congo and the founding of the free state
  11. Stanley In darkest Afrika
  12. Stanley My Kalulu, Prince, King and Slave
  13. W.H. Ingrams Zanzibar Its History and People
  14. F.B. Pearce Zanzibar, The Island metropolis of Eastern Africa 
  15. Christiane Bird, The Sultan´s Shadow One family´s Rule at the crossroads of East and West, Random House New York 2010
  16. Bennett, Norman Robert. Arab vs. European: Diplomacy and war in Nineteenth-Century Est Central Africa. New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1986. Sheriff, Abdul. Slaves, Spices & Ivory in Zanzibar: Integration of an East African Commercial Empire into the World Economy, 1770-1873. London, Nairobi, Tanzania, Athens,OH: James Currey, Heinemann Kenya, Tanzania Publishing House, Ohio University Press, 1987
  17. Wikipedia Tippu Tip
  18. Abyssinia to zanzibar 1850S -1950S Catalogue of the photographic archive of the Winterton Africanan Collection published by Allsworth rare books London Item 62 no1.