African king forges weapons and utensils over a fire while another figure uses a bellows in seventeenth-century West Africa
Original Author: Father Giovanni Antonio Cavazzi da Montecuccolo
Created: ca. 1667
Medium: Watercolor

A West African King Forging Metal

Angola Mussuri, the legendary first king of Ndongo—a vassal state to the Kingdom of Kongo (present-day northern Angola)—displays blacksmithing skills as he forges metal into weapons and utensils in this watercolor image. At left, an African who appears to be a woman makes use of a bellows to stoke a fire. Royal councilors, at right, watch this demonstration of technology, while guarding a Christian crown. The crown may have been a fanciful addition by the artist, since the establishment of Ndongo in the sixteenth century predated the arrival of Christian missionaries.

This drawing was one of a series made by Father Giovanni Antonio Cavazzi da Montecuccolo, an Italian priest who served as a Capuchin missionary in Africa from 1654 to 1667, and again, from 1672 to 1677, spending much of his time in the Kingdom of Kongo. The priest’s watercolors are among the earliest representations of African life by a European.