King of Quoja, Sierra Leone, late 17th cent.

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Image Reference

D. O. Dapper, Description de l'Afrique . . . Traduite du Flamand (Amsterdam,1686; 1st ed., 1668), p. 265. (Copy in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University)

"The King of Quoja has absolute power in his kingdom. . . . When this prince sends for an important person among his subjects and this person refuses to come, he sends his shield . . . . The messengers [carrying the shield] are two drummers who do not cease to beat their drums . . . until the person summoned follows them. When they are near the King, they prostrate themselves on the ground, and throw dust/dirt on their faces, and render him the shield, and confess themselves unworthy of carrying it . . ." (Dapper, p. 265; our translation). In an informed discussion of Dapper as an historical source, Adam Jones writes "there is virtually no evidence" that Dapper "took much interest in what sort of visual material was to accompany his text," and that it was the publisher, Van Meurs, "who probably did all the engraving himself." With respect to the plates, in particular, Jones concludes: "For those interested in seventeenth-century black Africa rather than in the history of European perceptions, few of the plates showing human beings and artefacts are of any value . . . . [and] originated solely from Van Meurs' imagination . . . .[although] they have been used as historical evidence in modern works" (Decompiling Dapper: A Preliminary Search for Evidence (History in Africa [1990], vol. 17, pp. 187-190).