A backstory for your knowledge store:
The signares, the women with the long, cone-shaped hats in the video, ran European trade contact with Senegal in 1800s; mixed race women (Wolof and French), they were the most powerful class of women in global commerce, operating through marriage, consensual relationships, tribal ties, intelligence and their own firms. They had no armies, but they ruled! Concentrated in St. Louis (also a slave trading center), their influence is still a force in modern Senegal–the color pictures show how they preserved traditional dress as a harbinger of privilege and power.
The signare portraits are identified in research by name and are actually of some of the world’s most powerful 19th century women, including a French governor’s wife (the first image). The dance scenes are from an annual spring ball. The engravings were made from paintings done by Parisian artists who accompanied expeditions to document for the French government and private backers the success and strength of French policy. The survival of this culture and the preservation of their role, is an undertold and overlooked success story of women of color, esp. of African descent. (That’s why I included their images.)
The jitterbug photo shows a 1936 Mississippi couple in a juke joint doing the same steps as the women at the engraving of the annual Dance Fouible! (Coloring images was done by women and added value to engravings, that’s why I ran two images of the ball.)
The other images create a fantasy of community to show how we all share and pursue connections and happiness, no matter the times or situations or life’s stations; also in the tradition of the eras’ Paris artists and their cafe scenes, streetscapes, and images of domestic life.