Saturday, 27 August 2016

Looking for a hammock: A guest blog

Long-standing collaborator to the Hoe Heette Christiaan website Lieve sent us an elaborate reaction in response to our questions on hammocks, well worth publishing in full. The original text was in Dutch and has been translated by us.

A hammock: some thoughts

Hammock: When one writes about a 'hammock' in the newspaper article, 'hangmat' in Dutch, one most likely meant this litterally, as in 'a hanging mat, ' i.e. a piece of textile with a carrying-stick. It is less likely that one meant a more solid structure in wood; one might have used a term like 'carrying chair' or 'litter' (Dutch: 'draagstoel'). So one most likely referred to a proper hammock rather than a palanquin.

Woven patterns: Textile gave the opportunity to work with beautiful weaving patterns (see photos for examples)a.

Awning or umbrella: Examples of hammocks and palanquins carrying African kings or other imporant people often had an awning or umbrella. As it concerned a 'costly' (Dutch: 'kostbaere') hammock here, destined as gift for a Dutch princess, it most likely had an awning or umbrella.

European colonial officials carried in hammocks, Ivory Coast. Postcard

Ivory Coast, Abengourou, the King in a hammock. Postcard.

“Un fils behanzin en hamac à Abomey”,  Bénin, ca. 1930-1950, Musée du Quai Branly (inv. PP0131863)

Sculpture in metal of a 'Person carried in a hammock', West-Africa, Bénin, Zou, Abomey
Musée du quai Branly, Paris (inv. 73.1963.0.940)

Examples of adorned hammocks

On the website of the Wereldmuseum Rotterdam we can find several examples of woven hammocks from Liberia and Sierra Leone, unfortunately without dates. They do give a clear example of the possible adornments.

Hammock, Liberia, Mande Region. Wereldmuseum Rotterdam.

Hammock, Liberia, Western Guinea Coastal Area. Wereldmuseum Rotterdam.

Hammock, Sierra Leone. Wereldmuseum Rotterdam.

On this statue one can also see how the hammock itself was decorated with motifs in the woven cloth:

Hammock bearers, anonymous artist, Congo, Lower Zaire River, ca. 1800 (Wereldmuseum Rotterdam).

The website of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris also gives several examples of woven hammocks. These are all dated nineteenth century. The bright, beautiful colours are remarkable. All examples are of cotton cloth.

Hammock, cotton, Bénin (Dahomey), 1891 (inv. 71.1891.22.88)

Hammock, Bénin (Dahomey), bef. 1891 (inv. 71.1891.22.56)

Hammock, cotton, Bénin (Dahomey), bef. 1899 (inv. 71.1923.1.76)

Hammock, cotton, Bénin (Dahomey), bef. 1880 (inv. 71.1931.21.15)

There are also examples of hammocks made from plant fibres, which are less colourful.

Hammock, plant fibre, Sierra Leone, undated (inv. 71.1901.53.27)

Or embellished with pompoms or fringe:

Hammock, cotton, Cameroon (inv. 75.15608.53)
Hammock, natural plant fibre, Burkina Faso (inv. 73.2012.0.771)

Hammocks in the Congo

There are also images available of hammocks from the Congo, with additional information about adornments of the carrying sticks and the style of carrying.

Giovanni Antonia Cavazzi da Montecuccolo (1621-1678) was a Portuguese missionary who made several voyages to Angola and parts of the Congo. For a discussion of the original manuscripts by Cavazzi see Cavazzi, Missione Evangelica: General introduction.

An example of a carved carrying stick:

Different methods of travel in Congo, ca. 1790.

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