African Slave Trader, Angola, 1855

Click on the image to open a larger version in a new window.
previous image return to thumbnails next image

If you are interested in using this image, please consult Acknowledging the Website.

This record was last updated on 16 Jun 2016

Image Reference

National Maritime Museum, London (neg. D9666)

Caption, "Vabia, alias John Sawyer, Meluca [Mafuka] of Malembo [Malemba] and One of his Wives". The wife is holding an infant; the bearded Vabia is making a mat. Malemba/Malembo, north of the Congo river on the "Loango coast" of present-day Angola, became a major slave trading station of the KaKongo people by the 18th century. The Mafuka (Mafouk, Mafuk) was the offical charged with the overall management of the trade (see P. Martin, The External Trade of the Loango Coast, 1576-1870 [Oxford, 1972]). The NMM description of this image notes that "John Sawyer is employed making a mat & lamenting the decline of the slave trade. 25 June 1855." Also noted is that the British Foreign Office estimated that Malemba exported some 27,000 slaves between 1817 and 1843. However, by the date of this illustration the trade had declined considerably, impoverishing many of the officials who had profited from it. The NMM has a volume of watercolors, including the one show here, showing the "commission of the sloop Linnet to suppress slavery." The drawings were done by Henry Need in 1852-1856; see and D. Hamilton and R. Blyth, Representing Slavery: Art, Artifacts and Archives in the Collections of the National Maritime Museum (London, 2007), p. 242.