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Aina (Sarah Forbes Bonetta, later Davies) (1843–1880)

Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

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The story of Aina (Sarah Forbes Bonetta) is one of displacement and reveals how she was fetishised in both Africa and England. Born a princess into a west-African Yoruba dynasty, she was captured as a child during a slave hunt war in which her parents were killed by Ghezo of Dahomey (1848), the most notorious slave trading monarch in West Africa during the early nineteenth century. She was discharged by the king to Captain Frederick Forbes, who was sent to West Africa to persuade the king to abandon slavery. He bargained to save the child, convincing the king to send her as a 'gift' to Queen Victoria. On the journey to England, she was baptised 'Sarah' and given the name of Captain Forbes and his ship 'Bonetta'. This stripped her of her original name 'Aina' and symbolically, of her west-African identity.

National Portrait Gallery, London



Aina (Sarah Forbes Bonetta, later Davies) (1843–1880)




albumen print


H 8.3 x W 5.6 cm

Accession number

NPG Ax61380

Acquisition method

purchased, 1904

Work type



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National Portrait Gallery, London

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