Herbert Ward was born in London in 1863. From an early age he harboured a fascination for exploration and travel, becoming a sculptor, writer and anthropologist. He grew up in a time when society had gained renewed interest in voyaging to undiscovered places, not to conquer, as their predecessors had, but to explore and gain knowledge.
In 1887, aged 24, Ward’s obsession finally took him to Central Africa. He supported himself by working for various trading companies managing the transport of goods and supplies to and from European posts along the length of the Congo River. In 1888, he joined Henry Morton Stanley's Emin Pasha Relief Expedition, serving the two-year expedition in a similar capacity.
Ward journeyed extensively through Africa and his love of the native people and their customs inspired him to produce work of rare beauty. He learned their customs and languages and drew inspiration from their way of life.