The Martin Rikli Photograph Collection includes approximately 800 original images by Swiss documentary filmmaker Dr. Martin Rikli (1898-1969), taken on a voyage to and during his stay in Ethiopia during a German diplomatic and propaganda mission in the 1930s. The collection documents defensive military preparations in Addis Ababa, the capital, prior to and during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia (also known as the Second Italo–Abyssinian War). Included are three photo albums, each entitled Abessinien 1935-1936, along with a fourth album of Rikli's handwritten contextual “Notes for Photograph Collection” (Anmerkungen Zur Lichtbildsammlung). These albums are accompanied by Rikli’s April 4, 1936 letter describing the situation in the capital, as well as a few miscellaneous items. The collection is particularly useful for research on mid-Twentieth Century Ethiopia, Ethiopian institutions such as the Coptic church, palace events and daily activities in the royal court, the European presence in Addis Ababa, military and diplomatic history, documentary photography, and visual history.
Rikli was educated in Switzerland and Germany, where he completed his dissertation in 1923 exploring the chemistry of photographic film. He captured many unusual images using exotic films and innovative techniques for educational purposes and contributed to the development of motion picture cameras, “most notably in the construction of the lightweight Kinamo, which revolutionized documentary filmmaking” (see: Buckland, Michael K. 2008. “The Kinamo movie camera, Emanuel Goldberg and Joris Ivens.” Film History 20(1): 49-58. available in Project Muse). By the mid-1920s, he was employed by Zeiss Ikon and made movies in his spare time. In 1927, he travelled with a group to German East Africa (present day Tanzania). His documentary of the expedition and the plight of German settlers gained wide acclaim the following year as a work of nationalistic patriotism. Over the following 15 years he created dozens of films while working for the German Ufa (UniversumFilmAktiengesellschaft) movie studio in their cultural film department (many of which were widely distributed in US cinemas). In 1929, he traveled to North Africa to film a documentary on Italian colonization efforts in Tunisia, Libya and Tripoli.
Rikli wrote several books based on his work and travel, promoting German political interests as a war correspondent, and as a Nazi documentary filmmaker. His work focused on the successes of the German and Italian fascist states, supported the Japanese invasion of China and promoted German advancements in technology and science. He was widely recognized as a leading propaganda correspondent and remained a supporter of the Nazi party throughout World War II. In 1944, he anticipated the German defeat and returned to Switzerland, where he continued to create films especially for instructional purposes. He won a prize for his short film “Houles Célestes” at the 1949 Venice Film Festival. He died in Zurich on April 7, 1969.
For more information on the complete manuscript collection, see the finding aid. >>
Works in this collection are intended to be used in tandem with the literature, maps, art, and historical documents held in the Africa General Collections.
- Abessinien 1935-1936, volume 1
- Abessinien 1935-1936, volume 2
- Abessinien 1935-1936, volume 3
- Anmerkungen Zur Lichtbildsammlung (Notes for Photograph Collection)
For further research (related materials):
- Rikli filmography (based on searches of the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung and Deutsch Filminstitut websites)
- “Documentary filmmaker Martin Rikli & the German film industry, 1923-1945:A brief annotated bibliography.” Compiled by Dan Reboussin, 2005
Related manuscripts/archival materials:
- Photographs of an Italian Military Doctor in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Italian Somaliland [Collection not digitized].
- Post Cards of Ethiopian Royalty and Clergy and online materials
- A Guide to the Propaganda Post Cards Depicting the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, and online materials
- A Guide to the G. Pucci's Photograph Album Relating to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Libya, and online materials
Related materials available elsewhere include:
- Brandt, HansJürgen. 1983. “Porträt Martin Rikli.” Filmfaust 36 (Oct/Nov):4555. Biographical article on his career and films.
- Landau, Paul Stuart and Deborah D. Kaspin. 2002. Images and empires visuality in colonial and postcolonial Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press. (ebook access limited to UF users).
- "Kampf um Norwegen - Feldzug 1940" (English: Battle for Norway - 1940 campaign) is a 81 minute-long German documentary directed by Martin Rikli and Dr. Werner Buhre by orders of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht. Produced in 1940, the movie follows the Invasion of Denmark and Norway in the spring of that year. For unknown reasons, the film was never shown in Germany. It was considered lost in its entirety until it surfaced at an Internet auction in 2005.
- Deutsches Filminstitut biography of Rikli
- German language Wikipedia entry for Rikli
- Internet Movie Database (IMDB) entry for Rikli