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Mabruki "Cupid" (19th Century)

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A freed East African slave who served with the Royal Navy and in the merchant marine
Known for

'Cupid' Officers servant on board HMS 'Dryad'.
View full size image'Cupid' Officers servant on board HMS Dryad. © NMM


Mabruki's story is typical of many East Africans that were captured and enslaved by merchants and captains involved in the Indian Ocean slave trade.

The Royal Navy was active in the western Indian Ocean, intercepting slave dhows and releasing the captured Africans at Aden, Zanzibar and in India. Separated from their families, many of these freed Africans sought employment on merchant ships and some, like Mabruki, served with the Royal Navy.

Port Connection

Upper Deck of HMS Flying Fish.
View full size imageUpper Deck of HMS Flying Fish. © NMM


Many former East African slaves freed by the Royal Navy were later employed in the British merchant navy by the Peninsula & Oriental (P&O) or British India Steam Navigation Company (BISNC). 


Interesting Facts

SS Indus, P&O passenger liner, 20 July 1882
View full size imageThe Indus, P&O passenger liner, 20 July 1882. © NMM
In 1881 there were 22 East Africans in the port of London on the P&O Indian Mail Service ship, Indus. Another eight East Africans were aboard four other ships (the Pelhim, the Elora and the Pekin). There were seven East Africans aboard the P&O ship Java at the Royal Victoria Docks in 1891.

There were over 70 East Africans on board eight Royal Navy vessels, mainly in the Indian Ocean on census night 1881.

Life Story
Around 1850 Born in the Kingdom of Bunyoro in present day Northwest Uganda.
1868 Mabruki is placed on a dhow for shipment to Zanzibar, Arabia or Madagascar. The dhow is intercepted by the Royal Navy ship HMS 'Daphne'.
1869 Mabruk is transferred to the Royal Navy ship HMS 'Dryad' and is known as 'Cupid'.
1870 Mabruki is in Mauritius as the Captains Servant on HMS 'Dryad'.
1891 An East African man by the name of Mabruki aged about 40, visits the port of London on board the P&O vessel 'Java'.

Find out more
StoriesThe Swahili community and maritime London
Over the last four centuries thousands of people born in Africa have come to the port of London
StoriesLondon and the transatlantic slave trade
London played a central role in Britain's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade
Fact fileIgnatius Sancho
A freed slave and talented composer and poet
Fact fileOlaudah Equiano
The slave who bought his freedom and fought the slave trade
National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory Greenwich New Opportunities Fund  
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