Clothing Styles, Senegambia, 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. 234. (Copy in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University)

Shows various types of clothing found among men and women in the Wolof kingdom of Zenega: "Their clothes are robes of . . . cotton. Women ordinarily wear two of these robes, one of which encircles the body and the other is thrown over the head; but the men attach theirs as a sort of cape which covers half of the body and hangs down to the heels. The most important/wealthiest wear a white blouse/shirt which hangs down to their knees and which has very wide sleeves; over this they have another piece of clothing which is a type of brief/trouser but so thick that they can hardly move in them" (Dapper, p. 234; 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).