Women Washing Themselves, Senegal, 1780s

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This record was last updated on 26 Aug 2010

Image Reference

René Claude Geoffroy de Villeneuve, L'Afrique, ou histoire, moeurs, usages et coutumes des africains: le Sénégal (Paris, 1814), vol. 4, facing p. 119. (Copy in Special Collections, University of Virginia Library)

Caption, "negresses se lavants" (women washing themselves); two women, one carries infant on her back. Soon after giving birth, Villeneuve writes, a woman washes herself and her child in cold water, after which she places the child on a mat and covers it with a loincloth. From the 12th or 15th day, a woman will carry the child on her back, keeping it there almost all day long (pp. 118-119). Villeneuve lived in the Senegal region for about two years in the mid-to-late 1780s. The engravings in his book, he writes, were made from drawings that were mostly done on the spot during his African residence (vol. 1, pp. v-vi). The same illustration appears in color in the English translation of Villeneuve; see Frederic Shoberl (ed.), Africa; containing a description of the manners and customs, with some historical particulars of the Moors of the Zahara . . . (London, 1821), vol. 3, facing p. 81.