For the most part, gay men in the far distant past didn't use words like "lover" or phrases like "he is my boyfriend." Rather, signs of intimacy or a relationship were more subtle.
Yes, it is unflattering in its depiction of African people. Yes, it is a caricature. Yes, it is a stereotype. Yes, it is undoubtedly RACIST! The postcard is from the 1930s. It dates back to a time when Europe disregarded ethnic and tribal boundaries and divided Africa up into colonies where land and people were exploited.
More adult oriented postcards from the era that were distributed privately among like minded individuals were more risqué than the above card. In their depictions of same-sex behaviour, typically shown were African males with huge sexual appendages dominating willing European males----a preferred iconography largely still in existence today. (Side Note: In gay mainstream and general mainstream media, there is a phobia of showing men of African descent romantically involved with one another; and, few are willing to challenge the phobia).
The postcard above is evidently different in what it shows. The card is non-erotic. All the subjects in the card are African. In the midst of largely heterosexual couplings, one gay couple is featured prominently holding hands as they lovingly look at one another without so much as a disapproving glance from the straight couples. Outside the way the Africans are drawn with buffoonish facial features, the postcard is supposed to comically depict a “sentimental” slice of daily African life within some unknown colony. Same-sex relationships in Africa is nothing new, as anthropological and ethnographic observations predating European colonialism reveal. There once was a time when same-sex behaviour was accepted as part of the larger arc of human expression and not frowned upon. Same-sex behaviour could be accepted and even valued in Africa’s many ethnic tribes. Under the intellectual and Judo-Christian influences of a Europe claiming to have only the best interest of the people always in mind, much of this acceptance and valuation disappeared. One of the myriad reasons used for colonial domination was the so-called immorality of the land’s people----e.g. evidence of homosexuality.
After the colonial powers left, much of Africa chose to keep foreign customs or laws morally frowning on or criminalizing same-sex desiring folk. Observed and oral histories that were evidence of a tolerance or an outright full embracing of same-sex desiring behaviour, became largely denied and forgotten, to be replaced by the intolerable homophobia that make for today’s headline news around the world in a now “free” Africa. Source