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Papers of Phoebe Somers


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Sketchbooks and sketches of travels in and inhabitants of various, mainly African locations, 1953-1972.


  • Creation: 1953-1972


17 vols., 18 ff.

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS. Afr. s. 2162].

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Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Afr. s. 2162

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 4287

Biographical / Historical

Phoebe Somers (d 1995) was raised in Hove and trained at Brighton College of Art. For 18 years she was in charge of the art department of Berkhamsted Girls' Grammar School before moving to East Africa, where she worked [c1952-1963?], first in Kenya High School, Nairobi, then in Government-run African secondary schools in Tanzania, inspecting a number of primary schools in both territories. During this and her subsequent period in Africa, she learnt fluent Swahili and travelled widely, initially through East Africa, then through East and Central Africa, including the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, during a four month tour in 1962, the Commonwealth countries of Southern Africa in 1965, and Kenya again in 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1976. A series of paintings recording her East African impressions was exhibited at the Commonwealth Institute, 1957.

She also spent a period in England, sitting for 7 years on the Cambridge O-level Art Marking Board and accepting a lectureship at the Commonwealth Institute. She was then appointed to start an art department at a teacher training college on Mount Kenya, and began her second residence in Africa. On her final return to England she gave talks on national and local radio and undertook a series of articles, with sketches, on inhabitants of her native Sussex.

Other Finding Aids

The library holds a card index of all manuscript collections in its reading room. MSS. Afr. s. 2162 and 2061 are listed as 831 and 937 in Manuscript Collections in Rhodes House Library Oxford, Accessions 1978-1994 (Oxford; Bodleian Library; 1996).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were purchased from Miss Somers in November 1989

Related Materials

Memorandum on service in Kenya and Tanganyika as an art teacher, 1952-1963 (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1755 (138)).

Letters home, articles, photographs and drawings relating to work in the Education Service in Tanganyika and Kenya, 1953-1967 (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 2061); eleven boxes and one envelope of colour transparencies taken during period as an art teacher in East Africa (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 2236), bought from Miss Somers in March 1995; typed extract from a letter and original letter, 1968, from Hugh Trappes-Lomax, St. Lawrence's Teacher Training College, Igoji, Kenya to Miss Somers concerning his marriage, with a photograph of the bride and groom (ref. MSS. Afr. t. 58), donated by Miss Somers on 1st June 1990; carbon copies of typescripts of broadcasts by the donor on African educational themes, 1960s, with a photograph of the donor, 1952 (ref. MSS. Afr. t. 58), donated by Miss Somers in March 1991; paintings and drawings by Miss Somers from her period as an art teacher in East Africa (ref. MSS. Afr. t. 58), purchased from her in March 1995.

Papers of Phoebe Somers
Paul Davidson
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom