Burial and Mourners (Corisco Island, Equatorial Guinea?), mid-19th cent

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This record was last updated on 09 Sep 2015

Image Reference

Drawings of Western Africa (University of Virginia Library, Special Collections, MSS 14357, no. 13).

Ink, watercolor and crayon. An unusual depiction of Africans transporting a corpse for burial. Captioned “Burial,” the scene appears to be an artistic construction and composite scene, not a specific event, that shows five men with cutlasses running into the forest, perhaps at what was considered the edge of the village. Two are carrying the corpse, which appears to be wrapped, or rolled up, in a fiber mat affixed to a pole. One of the men (on the left) appears to be digging a grave with his cutlass; another (right) is carrying an earthenware jug, presumably to be interred with the burial or containing a libation to be poured on the grave. On the right, a settlement of rectangular houses arranged in a row, and a group of mourners expressing their grief. An unidentifiable banner or flag which appears in other images by this artist (UVA10, 25) flies from a pole. Some of the elements in this scene seem to resemble practices reported for peoples of Corisco Island and neighboring areas by a nineteenth-century American Presbyterian missionary (Robert H. Nassau, Fetichism in West Africa [London, 1904], pp. 217-224). This is one of 22 works displayed on this website of West African coastal scenes -- out of a total of 32 -- held by University of Virginia Library. None of the works is dated or signed, and they seem to have been done by at least two different persons (perhaps associated with missionary activities in West Africa and/or the American Colonization Society). See also other image references “UVA” on this website.