German lushness in New Guinea

Colin Ross claims that the superiority of German to British colonization is instantaneously visible upon his arrival in the former territory of German New Guinea.

The weather is gloomy when the Rosses’ steamer approaches Rabaul, seat of the governor of German New Guinea until it fell to Australian forces in 1914. Still, the evidence of German colonial ingenuity is already clear to see for Ross in the vegetation of Rabaul, described as both lush and well-ordered: “As everywhere, the Germans started by planting trees and laying out avenues. Today, broad rows of high, shady trees traverse Rabaul, lined by pretty bungalows in flowered gardens.” [p. 224]

This characterization, which to Ross’s mind extends to former German East Africa, weds German colonial activity to the concept of Kulturboden (See: Kulturboden). German colonial prowess is reflected in the ability to shape the environment according to Germans’ cultural identity,  which has an edge on the British in comparable climates. “The difference is so large that, if woken from a dream and transported to a tropical town on a magic carpet, one would immediately be able to say whether it was an English or a former German one”, Ross claims, the last bit implying that a “former German” tropical town like Rabaul is still not really a British one, thanks to the German trees still standing there. [p. 224]

Ross ends the text on a conciliatory note. He cites the return of the Emdenschild (the name plate of a German battleship called Emde) by Australia to Germany in 1933 as an example of fair and friendly relations between Australia and Germany (see: A sign of reconciliation).

Joachim Schätz

Colin Ross. [Excerpt from] Landung in Rabaul. In: Haha Whenua - das Land, das ich gesucht. Mit Kind und Kegel durch die Südsee. 4. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1933; 223–5.

Topic: Colonialism
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30

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