Baskets and Cooking Vessel, 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. 23).

Ink wash and watercolor. Shown are two baskets for serving food and a “cooking vessel of leaves.” What the artist describes as a “cooking vessel of leaves” may be in fact what the explorer Mary Kingsley observed in the mid-1890s in the area of Equatorial Africa/Gabon, among the Fan/Fang and other “up river tribes.” Manioc, she wrote, is “the staple food, the bread equivalent, all along the coast.. . . . The meal, when beaten up, is used for thickening broths, and rolled up into bolsters about a foot long and two inches in diameter, and then wrapped in plantain leaves, and tied round with tie-tie and boiled, or more properly speaking steamed, for a lot of the rolls are arranged in a brass skillet. . . . A small quantity of water is poured over the rolls of plantain, a plantain leaf is tucked in over the top tightly, so as to prevent the steam from escaping, and the whole affair is poised on the three cooking-stones over a wood fire.” Finally, she stresses, “Plantain leaves will stand an amazing lot in the way of fire” (Travels in West Africa [London, 1897], pp. 208-209, 228). American missionaries reported a similar dish using plantain leaves among the Mpongwe of coastal Gabon (Erskine Clarke, By the Rivers of Water [Basic Books, New York, 2013], p. 227.) See other images "UVA" on this site. For background to this and other UVA images, see image reference UVA01.