This film is held by the BFI (ID: 12121).


The training of students at the Tanganyika Veterinary Department, Mpwapwa.

The film opens with a line of African men in uniform who have been selected for a course in which they will learn 'the future of animal husbandry'. A European man addresses them on a step before demonstrating a dissection. The African students sit at their desks as the European man draws on a blackboard. The microscope is demonstrated using the tip of a human hair. The film then addresses different diseases. First, mange. A European with his African students inspects a creature and then prepares a treatment which is rubbed in. Second, tsetse-fly disease. An African student catches a fly with a net, which is then shown in close-up to the camera. Thermometer readings and samples are taken from the cows, which are treated by an injection. Third, rinderpest, which is highlighted by a close-up on the face of a cow. This is prevented by inoculation, as the film shows 'how rinderpest serum is made' and then packed and distributed to all parts of the territory. The final disease shown is East Coast fever, and the 'cause' is presented in close-up before the cows are led through for 'dipping' as a form of prevention.

A title introduces 'Veterinary Training of African Natives. Part II' which examines three economic products. First, it shows the establishment of a 'native creamery to make clarified butter'. The process is shown - under European supervision - while the separated milk is given to a family in a local village. Second, 'shade-dried hides' are held up by Africans and inspected by a European. Third, the spreading of manure, which is shown to increase crops. The film then shows the locals learning to 'break in oxen' and different forms of animal breeding, involving the African donkey, and then a zebra. Shots of land and cattle follow - 'the planting of star grass can improve pasture' - before the film concludes by graphically displaying the 'humane' castration of bulls.



After producing sixteen films during 1935 and 1936, it appeared that by August 1936 production on the Bantu Educational Film Experiment might have to be shut down due to a lack of funding. However, on 8 August 1936, the director Leslie Notcutt received a telegram from the Tanganyika Government offering a loan of £750, and filming immediately resumed. Notcutt visited Morogoro and Mpwapwa, the headquarters respectively of the Tanganyika Agricultural and Veterinary Departments, and asked the acting director of the Veterinary Department to suggest subjects for instructional films. Between 19 August and the end of September, five films were completed, including Preserving Eggs – in which a ‘native veterinary instructor’ teaches the local character the ‘secret of preserving’ – and then The Veterinary Training of African Natives, which was the twentieth film made by the experiment and was listed by Notcutt and Latham as ‘Native Veterinary Assistants’ (Notcutt and Latham, 1937, 130, 56).

The Annual Report for Agriculture in Tanganyika in 1935 explained that ‘it is proposed to introduce a special course of training at the Veterinary Laboratory, Mpwapwa, in 1936 for training native veterinary assistants’ (Department of Agriculture Annual Report 1935, 167). The candidates were drawn from the existing staff and the central schools, and a government commission on higher education in East Africa recognised the ‘urgent need’ to strengthen the staff of the veterinary course to ensure that the research officers were not spending their entire time teaching (Higher Education in East Africa, 1937, 103). The aforementioned agricultural report further stated that by 1936 ‘over two hundred and fifty rinderpest scouts, native veterinary assistants and native veterinary guards are employed in the Veterinary Department’ (Department of Agriculture Annual Report 1935, 167).

Aside from a brief film on the preparation of hides (No. 4), the Bantu Educational Film Experiment had not attempted any veterinary subjects until now. Latham and Notcutt admitted that by filming this general training – which at five reels was significantly longer than most of their productions – they could cover a wide range of subjects. From this they argued that by studying ‘audience reactions we should be able to find out for future guidance those [subjects] which were of particular interest’. However, this second set of films was not shown as widely as the earlier productions and The Veterinary Training of African Natives was not included in the titles shown on a tour of the Tanga district early in 1937. Latham and Notcutt acknowledged in 1937 that this film has ‘not yet been shown often enough to obtain any useful information as to results’ (Notcutt and Latham, 1937, 57, 58).

In their report on the film, Notcutt and Latham drew attention to ‘an experiment in this film which appears to have been successful’. The experiment in question concerns the use of microscopic views to illustrate the causes of the diseases. Notcutt and Latham followed established colonial rhetoric in writing that ‘as no ordinary native has any idea of what a microscope is, and can do, it is useless to show a highly magnified view of some object on the screen’. The film seeks to overcome this by ‘showing one of the pupils being instructed in the use of the microscope’. ‘Our own native assistants, when we tested out the film on them’ wrote Notcutt and Latham, ‘said they were clear that what they had seen was an insect in the blood too small to see with their eyes. It would thus seem that this method was successful’ (Notcutt and Latham, 1937, 58). 



The scene in which an African student looks through a microscope and then views a close-up of a human hair – emphasised by Notcutt and Latham in their writing – is significant for a number of reasons. First, in seeking to instruct the audience in the use of the microscope, the filmmakers endorse the popular claims of earlier filmmakers in Africa such as Julian Huxley and especially William Sellers, who promoted the need for different film languagse for European and African audiences. The scene seeks to ‘educate’ the African viewers not only in the veterinary practices displayed on screen, but also in ‘reading’ a film. Secondly, the scene highlights the modern, scientific developments introduced into Africa by the British. Notcutt and Latham wrote in their work of ‘progress vs. African methods’ and this division is very clearly shown here as an African student laughs and shakes his head incredulously as he inspects the microscope (Burns, 2002, 27).

‘Progress’ as depicted here is associated with the Europeans, with the efficacy of science – seen perhaps most clearly in the repeated scenes of a European supervising African students – and with social ideals, as the African students ‘are taught to prevent cruelty to animals’. This sense of European progress is also shown in the cross-breeding programmes depicted. The film shows the ‘ordinary African donkey’, which is crossed with a ‘strong Catalonian’ so that it can now be ridden by a European and is able to pull carts. An intertitle explains that ‘the ordinary African donkey cannot do this’ showing ‘cross-breeding to improve the African donkey and yet retain its hardness’. This clearly serves as an analogy for the European influence within Africa – seeking to improve and develop the African while claiming to preserve a traditional African identity.

Mike Ssali argues that these films act as ‘an agent of social control’ serving to integrate the African into a capitalist system (Ssali, 1988, 46). Certainly in The Veterinary Training of African Natives, the Africans adopt European methods – thus accepting the primacy of these methods – and the economic benefits of this modern farming are also promoted. The second half of the film outlines three ‘economic products’ derived from the animals and in particular shows the economic exchanges between the veterinary assistants who produce the clarified butter and separated milk, and the locals. This serves not only to show the economic possibilities of these modern methods, but also to highlight the ongoing process of westernisation within colonial Africa. This is represented within this scene as a European directs the uniformed African students, who in turn address the traditionally-dressed rural locals.

The formal structure of this film – identifying four different diseases and then outlining preventative measures or potential cures – clearly indicates the instructional function of this film for its intended African audiences. Lengthy shots – for example a close-up of an infected cow’s face or the process of animal castration – display the processes to the audience, but this film also serves as a source of inspiration. The film depicts modern, literate, uniformed Africans aspiring to follow their European teachers, and in turn this film aims to encourage other locals to aspire to the modern life embraced, and exemplified, by these veterinary assistants.

Tom Rice (July 2008)


Works Cited

Burns, J. M., Flickering Shadows: Cinema and Identity in Colonial Zimbabwe (Ohio: Ohio University Research in International Studies, 2002).

Higher Education in East Africa. Report of the Commission Appointed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1937).

Notcutt, L.A. and G.C. Latham, The African and the Cinema : An Account of the Work of the Bantu Educational Cinema Experiment during the Period March 1935 to May 1937 (London: Edinburgh House Press, 1937).

Ssali, Mike Hilary, ‘The Development and Role of an African Film Industry in East Africa, with Special Reference to Tanzania, 1922-1984’, PHD Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 1988.

Tanganyika Territory, Department of Agriculture Annual Report 1935 (1936).

See also:

Reynolds, Glenn, ‘The Bantu Educational Kinema Experiment and the Struggle for Hegemony in British East and Central Africa, 1935-1937’, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 29:1, March 2009, 57-78. 




Technical Data

Running Time:
19 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
16mm Film
700 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Great Britain
Production Company





Production Organisations