Hammock Transportation (Liberia?), 1840s-1850s

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This record was last updated on 27 Jun 2017

Image Reference

Drawings of Western Africa (University of Virginia Library, Special Collections, MSS 14357, no. 17).

Watercolor and ink. Captioned “Conveyance for One,” the artist does not identify the area or date the painting. It shows a European man (probably an American Protestant missionary) being carried in a hammock litter by two men, one smoking a pipe and carrying a spear, the other carrying a spear and an axe (a type common in Liberia and other areas of West Africa) and wearing a necklace, probably a protective amulet—characteristic of many West African peoples. A woman follows behind. She holds a spear and wears earrings and ankle bracelets and carries a baby on her back in what appears to be a small chair attached to a harness. A drum is also shown. The Grebo/Glebo, indigenous people of Liberia, traditionally carried their babies on their backs in a “small hamper” with a seat at the bottom; they later adopted the more common African practice of tying the baby to the mother’s back with a cloth. An early photograph of Liberia that shows a European being carried in a hammock is in Sir Harry Johnston, Liberia (1906), vol. 1, p. 486. Other sources: Anon. Traditional History and Folklore of the Glebo Tribe (Bureau of Folkways/Folklore, Liberia, 1965), p. 119; George Schwab, Tribes of the Liberian Hinterland (Peabody Museum, Harvard University, 1947), fig. 45a. See other image references “UVA” on this site. For background to this and other UVA images, see image reference UVA01.