Uncovered and Displayed – The Slave Market by Jean-Francois Portaels

The Slave Market by Jean Francois Portaels
The Slave Market by Jean Francois Portaels

Amongst the rich colors, with the warmth of the textiles covering the shoulders of the four men sitting crossed-legged on the floor in the corner of a tent, and the subtle scent of tobacco emanating from the hookah, a young woman is unveiled. She is adorned with the largest precious stones and the most expensive fabrics sold in the city. A golden turban enhanced with tassels click and clink as she turns her head, adding to the melody of the avi, the zither and the darbuka sounds; charming the passers-by in the market. The tone of the conversation suddenly became serious as the trader facing the three men grabs the wrist of the girl while boasting about her beauty and many talents.

Concern and stoicism can be read on each of the trio’s faces. They stopped in this market to buy jewellery and fabrics, but have been enticed to consider the possibility of owning some of the village’s most intriguing splendors. As they deal and negotiate her destiny, the girl keeps her head tilted to the ground. She is used to being uncovered and displayed to strangers. She is foreign and has been promised food and a roof to sleep under if she were willing to belong to a family, a tribe, or a single person. The stern atmosphere contrasts with the merry and sunny ambiance coming in from the market. This girl, despite her obvious charms, won’t be sold to this group of men. They decided to pass, and focus their trade on non-human merchandise. Already in the possession of too many servants and girls of an otherworldly beauty, they continue their route in search of rare, coveted, and outstanding treasures.


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