African King Receiving Visitors, Sierra Leone, late 17th cent.

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Image Reference

Pieter van der Aa, La Galerie Agréable du Monde (Leide, 1729); taken from D. O. Dapper, Description de l'Afrique . . . Traduite du Flamand (Amsterdam,1686; 1st ed., 1668), p. 266 (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-34002)

Titled, "reception d'un ambassadeur chez le roi de Kquoia . . . en Guinee; shows court scene, retainers and others. Kquoia or Kquoja (and variant spellings) was a Vai-speaking kingdom in what is today Sierra Leone. "When the ambassador of a foreign prince wants an audience with the King, he lets the King know as soon as he enters the King's territory. If the King wishes to grant him this favor, he sends word for the Ambassador to wait in the first village to which he comes, until all is ready to receive him in the place where the King holds his court. . . . The place where ambassadors are received by the King is open on all sides, and the prince holds himself very solemnly in the midst of the archers of his palace guard, listening to the compliments which they pay him (Dapper, p. 266; 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).