Rejoice Abutsa

Black Cotton (1927)

Black Cotton is a documentary that combines the anthropological and capitalist uses of colonial cinema to track the methods of cotton farming in Nigeria. Shot in Northern Nigeria and intended for British audiences, Black Cotton studies’ the fields where raw cotton is produced – it tracks the labor of native Nigerians, highlighting improvement in extreme labor practices as civilization – it also shows the diverse ways that these raw materials are transformed into items for sale.

To British colonialists, the film testified that the Northern colony was becoming prosperous and that by the transformation of cotton into other uses, British colonialism was “civilizing” the natives in the colony. The Colonial Film Archive shows that Black Cotton was used across East Africa to test the “levels of comprehension” among native school students.  British colonial reports specify one essay from these tests, claiming that a student wrote that the film was proof that Nigerians were fast becoming “civilized”.

Director: The Colonial Film Unit
Year: 1927
Genre: Documentary