28MM DARKEST AFRICA GALLERY

Since completing my Egyptian archeological dig in June, I’ve been working on my 28mm Victorian era Darkest Africa collection. The gallery is a series of random vignettes with no overarching theme other than I love the figures and needed a stage for their display. Let me say from the outset that this is Hollywood Africa not historic Africa. If I were to sort through the inspirational motivations for this collection, they would probably be the wonderful Darkest Africa figures from Foundry, the Cornel Wilde movie “Naked Prey” filmed in the mid-1960s on location in Rhodesia/now Zimbabwe, the Disneyland Jungle Cruise (I rode it for the first time in 1955 and have loved it ever since), and the great figure painting and information I have seen and received on Lead Adventure Forum (particularly the work of Dylan aka Plynkes on LAF). The only book I have spent any time with for this project is Safari, A Chronicle of Adventure by Bartle Bull. In order to aid in the flow of the gallery there are a couple of recurring elements: the safari as it progresses through herds of animals and the lone hunter on a donkey supported by his two loyal porters.

This is the second time I have used two 5 ft. x 7 ft. tables for a gallery, but this time it was done more to facilitate ease of photography than because the scenic features demanded that much space. Since this will be a series of vignettes, using two tables rather than one has allowed me to set up a new vignette on one table while my daughter photographed a different one on the second table. Without the use of both tables, there would have been a lot of wasted time and this process can eat up a great deal of time under the best of circumstances.

I began putting this collection together about a decade ago. The Foundry Pirates and Darkest Africa figures were what initially drew me into the world of 25mm/28mm. While I still love the 15s for my military collections, the larger scale is what I have selected for my worlds of Pulp/Adventure/Victorian Gothic... and that division of labor between the scales has worked out very well for me.

Since this gallery has no central theme beyond being an African adventure, as indicated above it will be presented as a series of vignettes intended as display vehicles for my figures and terrain features. Consequently, I will not be offering any storyline or theme as part of this write up. Instead I will concentrate on presenting a listing of the figures and materials used in the gallery.

The greatest number of figures in this gallery are by Foundry from their Darkest Africa collection, but other Foundry figures are included as well. There are also figures from Old Glory, Eureka, West Wind, Brigade, Copplestone Castings, DeeZee, Mega Minis (the dead zebra), Hinterland, Reaper, Pulp Figures (the man with the butterfly net) and at least one Clix (The Tracker and a couple snakes). Except for the two dead lions, the lion leaping, the chimps, the dead zebra, baboons, tropical birds, the flamingos and vultures, the animals are all toys I purchased for between 10 cents and a dollar at the swap meet over the last decade. The flamingos are Yard Flamingos by Gut Bustin’ Games. I picked them up on Amazon.com. The dead elephant is simply a modified swap meet toy. I think the collection includes upwards of 200 animals. 

The boats are by John Jenkins (the two sidewheelers/Lilly and Minnie), Miniature Building Authority (two steam river launches/only one used in this gallery), a small African Queen-style river launch by Brigade (nice boat but didn’t make it into the gallery), and the sternwheeler by Lemax (Miranda/forgot to make the decal name in time for the layout, but it will happen). The two dugout canoes are by Frontline Wargaming.

There are two African villages. The pygmy village is composed of five huts by Frontline Wargaming and two raised huts or granaries that are modifications of Carl’s Jr kids’ meal toys. The larger native village is composed of eight huts by Old Glory (their Cannibal Village from the Pirate line of figures) and two granaries by Monolith Designs from their Aztec collection (I thought they looked good). I got the idea for the color patterns on these huts from the work of Bill Witthans. The multiple drums set on a rock base is by Monolith Designs as are several of the statues, the stone throne, and ovens. Three of the statues are items I picked up cheap during a family trip to Hawaii a couple years ago.

The jungle bar and trading post are by Miniature Building Authority… two of the nicest pieces they have made in my opinion. In terms of work done on those buildings, all I did was to tidy up the paint jobs that came on them. The colors were great but the original painting was a little sloppy. I also made a removable hollow pile of bags that can slip over the stack of tires on the trading post deck. I did that because I didn’t want to remove the tires completely, but I didn’t think they looked appropriate for the Victorian period. Nearby those buildings are two huts that are also by Miniature Building Authority. I am sure they would be more appropriate to the Pacific Islands, but I like them so here they are. The jungle bar and trading post are both made to be entered either from the land or water side, thus one side of each building has steps and the other has a wharf area. I placed these two buildings along a river and added additional scratch-built wharf areas. These scratch-built wharves are located between the two buildings and at both ends thus extending the trading post/bar frontage by an additional 18 inches. The scratch-built wharf that sits at the outer end of the trading post is a slightly modified version of the other two thus allowing the inclusion of Kobblestone Miniatures’ treadmill crane. The scratch-built wharves are made from Evergreen plastic… V-groove for the decking and tubes for the posts. I wrapped each post with floral wire to offer a rope effect similar to that which is present on the MBA trading post and jungle bar wharves. The camp tents are by MBA and an unknown manufacturer… unknown because they were purchased at a flea market sale and came in a baggie with no identification.

The tree for Tarzan, Jane and Boy is a broken toy I purchased at the swap meet for $1 or $2. It was actually in great shape in terms of what my project required although unknown pieces were clearly missing. It had two cave openings in the front which I covered with yellow gray Milliput and “sculpted” in the shape of foliage (I hope). I then repainted the whole thing. I am really happy with the way it came out, and it gives the collection a rather unique terrain piece.

The fortress is by Hudson and Allen. It’s their desert fort, and I admit to having had my eye on it for years but lacked an excuse for buying it. When I began this project nearly six months ago, one of the first things I did was re-watch “Naked Prey.” In the opening scenes of that movie I found my excuse for buying the fortress because the safari led by Cornel Wilde is departing from a fortress very much like the one I wanted from Hudson and Allen. The Hudson and Allen fortress came pre-painted but it didn’t suit me so I repainted it. And for reasons I don’t really understand, the Hudson and Allen fort does not come with a main gate. It has a small entrance opening but no gate. I wanted a nice big gate for my fort so I scratch built an exterior and interior gate from Evergreen plastic which I think look pretty good.

In my Egyptian archeological dig, I borrowed an idea from Hammers who posts really wonderful stuff from time to time on Lead Adventure Forum. He is a great talent with a wonderful imagination. For one of the LAF Painters’ League contests he posted a vignette of a campsite in Africa with cages containing small African animals, tropical birds and snakes. It is wonderful, and while I could not match his creative talent, I could not resist adding such a collection of cages to my collection as well. Hammers was also the source of the idea to include flamingos in the gallery (taken from his “Chicken Race On The Arumbaya”). My great thanks always to Hammers for sharing the products of his wonderful and creative mind.

As always the ground cover is an indoor-outdoor carpet I purchased for this purpose three decades ago. The river is cut from 2 ft. x 4 ft. plastic made to use as covering for ceiling lighting. I’ve simply cut it to size and sprayed it with a couple of shades of blue… the water features in these galleries always seem to be something I get around to doing at the very end when I’m tired and consequently I keep them pretty simple. The removable riverbank is made from the same plastic edged with Milliput to give it an irregular edge. I liked the outcome of this riverbank so much that I went back and made a version of it for my Egyptian collection. Most of the tall grass plants are by Ashland. They come in one-foot square mats and can be pretty expensive, but fortunately, Michael’s Arts and Crafts has regular 40%- and 50%-off sales, and I get them when those sales come around. The trees are simply taken from the large storehouse of trees I have gathered over the years.

As I said earlier, my daughter did the photography as she has on all my galleries. She is a professional artist in the film industry and has a great eye. While this gallery is not as complex as my other 25mm/28mm collections have been, I nonetheless have taken a great pleasure in collecting, constructing, and painting this collection because it is one of the first groups of figures in this scale to really catch my attention, and it was a great joy to assemble and paint. Hope you enjoy it, too.