One of South Africa's most celebrated sculptors, Anton van Wouw was born near Utrecht in the Netherlands and grew up in Rotterdam. He studied there at the Academie van Beeldende Kunsten, as well as serving an apprenticeship in the studio of Joseph Grave, where he learnt painting and drawing. In 1889, aged 28, he emigrated to South Africa, settling first in Pretoria, but moving to Doornfontein, Johannesburg, in 1907.
Usually modelling from life van Wouw concentrated on portraying the indigenous people of his adopted country, and his work is best remembered not only for its anatomical accuracy, but also for the keen perceptiveness in rendering the precise moods of his subjects. Housed in the Van Wouw Museum, the sculptor's final home and studio, examples of his best-known bronzes include The Bushman Hunter (1902), The Daggasmoker, Shangaan, The Skapu Player and Zulu, the present work (all modelled in 1907), as well as popular later works, including King Khama (1925) and The Thinker (1935). Most of the sculptor's early models were cast in bronze by the reputable Roman foundry of Nisini.