Mmadi Make

Mmadi Make
Angelo Soliman in 1750

Mmadi Make (also known as Angelo Soliman)[1] (born c. 1721, probably in present-day North-Eastern Nigeria/Northern Cameroon[2] [3] [4] ,Africa; He died 21 November 1796 in Vienna). He was taken to Europe as a slave and became the first valet and royal tutor of Aloys I, Prince of Liechtenstein.


Mmadi Make (also known as Angelo Soliman[5] was born probably in present-day North-Eastern Nigeria/Northern Cameroon,[6] [7] belonging to the Kanuri[8][9] [10] ethnic group. He was taken captive as a child arriving in Marseilles as a slave, eventually transferring to the household of a marchioness in Messina who oversaw his education. Out of affection for another servant in household, Angelina, he adopted the name of Angelo and chose to celebrate his birthday at his baptimal day, September 11. His original name, Mmadi Make, is linked to a princely class in the Sokoto State in modern Nigeria. After repeated requests, he was given as a gift, in 1734, to Prince Georg Christian, Fürst von Lobkowitz, the imperial governor of Sicily, becoming the Prince's valet and traveling companion. He accompanied the Prince in military campaigns throughout Europe, reportedly saving the Prince's live in one occasion, a pivotal event, responsible for his social ascension. After the death of Prince Lobkowicz, Soliman was taken into the Vienna household of Joseph Wenzel I, Prince of Liechtenstein, eventually rising to chief servant. Later, Soliman became royal tutor of the heir to the Prince, Aloys I.[11][12]

Soliman was a cultured man, highly regarded in the intellectual circles of Vienna, counted as a valued friend by Austrian Emperor Joseph II and Count Franz Moritz von Lacy. He joined the Masonic lodge "True Harmony" in 1783, whose membership included many of Vienna's influential artists and scholars of the time, among them Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Josef Haydn. The lodge records indicate Soliman met Mozart on several occasions. It is plausible that the character of Bassa Selim in the opera "The Abduction from the Seraglio" be based on Soliman.[13] Eventually becoming the Grand Master of that lodge, Soliman helped change its ritual to include scholarly elements. This new Masonic direction rapidly influenced Freemasonic practice throughout Europe.[14]

During his lifetime he was a model for the assimilation and perfectibility of Africans, after his death he became a specimen of the ›African race‹. Wigger and Klein distinguish four aspects of Soliman – the ›noble‹ moor, the ›royal‹ moor, the ›physiognomic‹ moor and the ›stuffed‹ moor. The first two designations refer to the time before his death. The ›noble‹ moor, depicts Soliman as a former court moor whose movement up the social scale due to the marriage with an aristocratic woman enabled his emancipation. Soliman became a member of the freemasons and was almost considered equal to his fellow masons. Nonetheless, this reputation was confronted with a convolution of race and class elements. The ›royal‹ moor considers Soliman in the context of the symbolisms of moors at European courts as signs of power and wealth but moreover as dependent persons who were carrying the signs of their inferiority on their skin. Bereaved of indications to his origin and his culture he was merely an »exotic-oriental sign of his lord's standing« who was not allowed to live a self-determined existence.[15]

In this his fate was lurking beneath the cover of social inclusion throughout his life. Though he led a civic life, his ascribed exotic was never lost, instead, over the course of his life, it was transformed into a racial characteristic. The elements for Soliman as the ›physiognomic moor‹ were laid out during his lifetime framed by theories and assumptions on the African race. He did not escape the taxonomical view focussing on typical racial characteristics, i.e. hair, lips, skin and nose. Neither his social standing nor his membership in the freemasons could prevent the scientific valorisation of him after his death and his eventual transformation into the ›stuffed moor‹.

Instead of a receiving a decent burial he was – upon the request of the director of the imperial natural history collection – skinned, stuffed and made an object of exhibition in this collection. [16][17][18] Between stuffed animals and vested with ostrich feathers and glass beads, he was transformed from a reputable member of the intellectual Viennese society into an exotic curiosum. By bereaving Soliman of the insignia of his lifetime achievement, the scientists turned him into, what they thought to be, an exemplary African ›savage‹.


  1. ^​soliman_​angelo.htm
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  5. ^​soliman_​angelo.htm
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  11. ^ Geschichte der Afrikanistik in Österreich: Angelo Soliman (English Translation)
  12. ^ Angelo Soliman und seine Freunde im Adel und in der geistigen Elite (in German)
  13. ^ Virtuelles Learning Center | Mozarthaus Vienna
  14. ^ Steele, Tom (2007). Knowledge is power!: The rise and fall of European popular educational movements, 1848-1939. Peter Lang. pp. 35. ISBN 9783039105632. 
  15. ^ Iris Wigger, Katrin Katrin (2009). ›Bruder Mohr‹. Angelo Soliman und der Rassismus der Aufklärung. In: Entfremdete Körper. Rassismus als Leichenschändung. Ed. Wulf D. Hund. Bielefeld: Transcript. pp. 81–115. ISBN 978-3-8376-1151-9.  [1]
  16. ^
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  18. ^ Seipel, W. (1996). Mummies and Ethics in the Museum. In: Human Mummies. Ed. Konrad Spindler et. al.. Wien: Springer. pp. 3–7. ISBN 3-211-82659-9.  These circumstances are omitted in the early biographical notes by the Abbé Henri Grégoire – for an English translation see: Biographical Account of the Negro Angelo Soliman. In: The Monthly Repository, Vol. XI, No. CXXVII, 1816, pp. 373 - 376 [2].

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