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"Clothing Style, Bambara Woman, Senegal, 1850s"

Image Reference:Boilat15

Source: P. David Boilat, Esquisses Sengelaises (Paris, 1853), plate 24 (Special Collections, University of Virginia Library)

Comments: This portrait, the author writes (p. 31), is of a woman named Sira, who requested him to draw her. She is sitting on a woven grass mat and is wearing an elaborate silk gown, her holiday dress. An ornate kerchief or head-tie of Madras cloth is tied around her head, and her jewelry consists of large gold earrings, and several bracelets and anklets, in addition to a long necklace which ends in little straw rings that have been made with great care. She is also shown with cicatrisation/scarification marks are on her cheeks. Boilat made his drawings from life; his 24 plates are explained in an accompanying text.

About the Author: Born in Senegal of a French father and a bi-racial mother (“metisse signare”), Boilat left Senegal at around the age of 13, was educated in France and became ordained as a Catholic priest. He returned to Senegal in 1842, lived there for ten years as an educator and, after returning to France, completed his Esquisses Senegalaises; he also authored the first comprehensive grammar of the Wolof language. He died in France in 1901, at the age of 84. (We thank Kandioura Drame for these biographical details.)

Click here for more of his work.

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