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 successful 1976 book Die Nuba von Kau.
From 1962 until 1977 Riefenstahl had been living as the first white woman with a special permission issued by the Sudanese government in the remote valleys of the central Sudan among the Nuba tribe. She studied their way of life and recorded it on film and in pictures. These picture documents hold a unique anthropological, ethnological, and cultural-historical importance due to the circumstances through which the Nuba's historical way of life is approaching its irreversible end, primarily through the advance of civilization.
The book performed well both critically and commercially. It is generally accepted that Riefenstahl's photography of the Nuban tribe rehabilitated her career as an artist.
Newsweek called the book "the year's most compelling picture book in any category" one that is "deeply romantic – but never romanticized" and is "monumentally moving". Eudora Welty continued this praise in the New York Times citing its "absorbing beauty" and "cumulative power". Jonas Mekas wrote that her photographs "can cut through your heart" and declared "She is a monument. She is a mountain. She is a genius."
Although 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 "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 writes 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" and that it was "certainly the most ravishing book of photographs published anywhere in recent years."
The Art Director's Club of Germany awarded Leni a gold medal for the best photographic achievement of 1975.
The photographs were republished along with those of The People of Kau and Vanishing Africa in the 2002 book, Africa by Leni Riefenstahl. The collection garnered positive reviews;
"A big, black Mercedez-Benz of a book.... Ideology aside, the pictures are hard to resist, combining all the voyeuristic pleasures of National Geographic-style anthropology with an unequivocal appreciation of the innate grace and symmetry of the human form... Riefenstahl`s photographs preserve a mythic vision of this Eden before the fall, a romantic lost world, captured in images as powerfully seductive as the artist herself." V Magazine
"A magnificent collection and a fitting celebration of this formidable artist's 100th birthday." The Times Higher Education Supplement
"an imposing collection". Newsweek
Together with her other published photographs of the Nuba, several photographs from the book were showcased in the 1993 documentary, The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl. For the first time, Riefenstahl's extensive footage of the Nuba was also shown to the public in the film.