The Last of the Nuba

The Last of the Nuba is the English-language title of German film director Leni Riefenstahl's 1973 Die Nuba, an illustrations book published a year later in the United States. The book was an international bestseller and was followed-up by the 1976 book Die Nuba von Kau.[1][2] It was the subject of a famous critique by Susan Sontag in claiming that it adhered to a fascist aesthetic.

The Last of the Nuba
AuthorLeni Riefenstahl
Original titleDie Nuba
IllustratorLeni Riefenstahl
CountryUnited States, Germany
LanguageEnglish (translated), German
PublisherList (Germany)
US- Harper and Row (1973), St. Martin's Press (1995)
Publication date
Published in English
1974 and 1995
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
779/.99626/4 20
LC ClassDT133.N78 R5313 1995
Followed by'Die Nuba von Kau 


Between 1962 and 1977, Riefenstahl had been photographing people of the Nuba tribes on several visits. She was the first white female photographer who had obtained a special permission by the Sudanese government to do her research in the remote Nuba mountains of Sudan. She studied the Nuba's way of life and recorded it on film and in pictures.[3] Together with George Rodger's earlier photo essay on the Nuba and Latuka tribes, published in 1951 in National Geographic magazine,[4] Riefenstahl's photographic documents are of anthropological, ethnological, and cultural-historical importance in relation to traditional life in the Nuba mountains of these times.


Eudora Welty reviewed the collection positively for the New York Times.[5]

Shortly after its 1974 release in America, the American-Jewish critic Susan Sontag scrutinized the "fascist aesthetics" of the works in her widely read essay "Fascinating Fascism". Writing in the New York Review of Books in 1975, she stated: "The fascist dramaturgy centers on the orgiastic transactions between mighty forces and their puppets". She continued "Its choreography alternates between ceaseless motion and a congealed, static, 'virile' posing. Sontag wrote that the collection was the "final, necessary step in Riefenstahl's rehabilitation. It is the final rewrite of the past; or, for her partisans, the definitive confirmation that she was always a beauty-freak rather than a horrid propagandist."[6]

In her native Germany, the Art Director's Club of Germany awarded Riefenstahl a gold medal for the best photographic achievement of 1975.[7]

See also


  1. 'As pretty as a swastika' The Guardian. 12 May 2007
  2. Leni Riefenstahl (obituary) The Times. 10 September 2003
  3. "Leni Riefenstahl: THE NUBA 1/13". Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  4. Schuman, Aaron. "'Lost' early color photographs of Sudanese tribes published". CNN. Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  5. Africa And Paris And Russia The New York Times. 1 December 1974
  6. Sontag, Susan (February 6, 1975). "Fascinating Fascism". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  7. Leni Riefenstahl interviewed by Kevin Brownlow Taschen
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