Cemetery, Senegambia, 1780s


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This record was last updated on 25 Aug 2010

Image Reference
VILE-127

Source
René Claude Geoffroy de Villeneuve, L'Afrique, ou histoire, moeurs, usages et coutumes des africains: le Sénégal (Paris, 1814), vol. 4, facing p. 127. (Copy in Special Collections, University of Virginia Library)

Comments
Caption, "Tombeaux des Séreres" (Serer graves). Villeneuve writes that the Serer build a small house or hut whose interior resembles their own house; a bed is placed within it upon which the corpse is laid. The top of the burial hut is above ground level and is covered with earth to form a mound. They take care, he adds, to put at the foot of the deceased a pipe, some tobacco, a pottery vessel filled with water, and a half of a calabash containing couscous (pp. 126-127. He does not mention the mortar and pestles and bows and arrows visible in the illustration, but traditionally among the Serer these objects marked the graves of women and men, respectively (D. Gamble, The Wolof of Senegambia [London, 1957], p. 102). 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. 88.