Free Woman of Color, Senegal, 1780s

Description

Caption, Signar ou femme de coleur du Sènègal; woman shown in elaborate dress, house in background. Villeneuve writes that women of color and free black women assume the Portuguese title of signare or niara; they live voluntarily with European men in a sort of marriage and view themselves as the legitimate spouses of these men, remaining faithful, and giving the father's name to the children who result from this union. He provides a detailed description of their clothing, adding that gold earrings, necklaces, and bracelets form part of their ensemble (vol. 1, pp. 68-69). 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. 2, facing p. 31.

Source

Renè Claude Geoffroy de Villeneuve, L'Afrique, ou histoire, moeurs, usages et coutumes des africains: le Sènègal (Paris, 1814), vol. 1, facing p. 69. (Copy in Special Collections, University of Virginia Library)

Creator

de Villeneuve, Renè Claude Geoffroy

Language

French

Rights

Image is in the public domain. Metadata is available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International.

Identifier

VILE-69

Spatial Coverage

Africa--Western Savanna

Citation

"Free Woman of Color, Senegal, 1780s", Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed October 16, 2021, http://slaveryimages.org/s/slaveryimages/item/1695
Caption, Signar ou femme de coleur du Sènègal; woman shown in elaborate dress, house in background. Villeneuve writes that women of color and free black women assume the Portuguese title of signare or niara; they live voluntarily with European men in a sort of marriage and view themselves as the legitimate spouses of these men, remaining faithful, and giving the father's name to the children who result from this union. He provides a detailed description of their clothing, adding that gold earrings, necklaces, and bracelets form part of their ensemble (vol. 1, pp. 68-69).  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. 2, facing p. 31.
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