Kazimierz Nowak (1897-1937)

The story of Kazimierz Nowak is little known, but it deserves to be told. Born and raised in Poland, he was a keen traveller, writer, photographer and cyclist.

Following a number of successful cycling adventures in Europe, Nowak decided to travel to Africa. On the way he believed he would be able to make money – money to support his family – by submitting reports and photographs to Polish and German newspapers.

In November 1931, Nowak set out from Tripoli, Libya, in the direction of South Africa. His only companion was his trusty seven-year-old bicycle.

He followed the Nile to the Great Lakes, trading with native tribes as he went. Because of his anti-colonial beliefs he was often met with derision by his fellow Europeans. In fact, the only thing he could rely on from them was a fresh supply of bicycle tyres.

Nearly three years after leaving Tripoli Nowak finally reached the tip of South Africa: Cape Agulhas. For most people, this would have marked the end of the adventure. Nowak, however, decided to turn round and travel across the great continent once more.

Nowak reached Aligers in November 1936. In doing so, he became the first man in history to travel the length of Africa – and back again – alone.

On his 25,000-mile journey Nowak took more than 10,000 photos. Today, these photos provide us with a fascinating glimpse of a time when Africa was – to European eyes at least – shrouded in mystery and danger.

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