Leave Shinte — Manioc Gardens — Mode of preparing the poisonous kind — Its general Use — Presents of Food — Punctiliousness of the Balonda — Their Idols and Superstition — Dress of the Balonda — Villages beyond Lonaje — Cazembe — Our Guides and the Makololo — Night Rains — Inquiries for English cotton Goods — Intemese’s Fiction — Visit from an old Man — Theft — Industry of our Guide — Loss of Pontoon — Plains covered with Water — Affection of the Balonda for their Mothers — A Night on an Island — The Grass on the Plains — Source of the Rivers — Loan of the Roofs of Huts — A Halt — Fertility of the Country through which the Lokalueje flows — Omnivorous Fish — Natives’ Mode of catching them — The Village of a Half-brother of Katema, his Speech and Present — Our Guide’s Perversity — Mozenkwa’s pleasant Home and Family — Clear Water of the flooded Rivers — A Messenger from Katema — Quendende’s Village: his Kindness — Crop of Wool — Meet People from the Town of Matiamvo — Fireside Talk — Matiamvo’s Character and Conduct — Presentation at Katema’s Court: his Present, good Sense, and Appearance — Interview on the following Day — Cattle — A Feast and a Makololo Dance — Arrest of a Fugitive — Dignified old Courtier — Katema’s lax Government — Cold Wind from the North — Canaries and other singing Birds — Spiders, their Nests and Webs — Lake Dilolo — Tradition — Sagacity of Ants.
26TH. Leaving Shinte, with eight of his men to aid in carrying our luggage, we passed, in a northerly direction, down the lovely valley on which the town stands, then went a little to the west through pretty open forest, and slept at a village of Balonda. In the morning we had a fine range of green hills, called Saloisho, on our right, and were informed that they were rather thickly inhabited by the people of Shinte, who worked in iron, the ore of which abounds in these hills.
The country through which we passed possessed the same general character of flatness and forest that we noticed before. The soil is dark, with a tinge of red — in some places it might be called red — and appeared very fertile. Every valley contained villages of twenty or thirty huts, with gardens of manioc, which here is looked upon as the staff of life. Very little labor is required for its cultivation. The earth is drawn up into oblong beds, about three feet broad and one in height, and in these are planted pieces of the manioc stalk, at four feet apart. A crop of beans or ground-nuts is sown between them, and when these are reaped the land around the manioc is cleared of weeds. In from ten to eighteen months after planting, according to the quality of the soil, the roots are fit for food. There is no necessity for reaping soon, as the roots do not become bitter and dry until after three years. When a woman takes up the roots, she thrusts a piece or two of the upper stalks into the hole she has made, draws back the soil, and a new crop is thereby begun. The plant grows to a height of six feet, and every part of it is useful: the leaves may be cooked as a vegetable. The roots are from three to four inches in diameter, and from twelve to eighteen inches long.
There are two varieties of the manioc or cassava — one sweet and wholesome, the other bitter and containing poison, but much more speedy in its growth than the former. This last property causes its perpetuation. When we reached the village of Kapende, on the banks of the rivulet Lonaje, we were presented with so much of the poisonous kind that we were obliged to leave it. To get rid of the poison, the people place it four days in a pool of water. It then becomes partially decomposed, and is taken out, stripped of its skin, and exposed to the sun. When dried, it is easily pounded into a fine white meal, closely resembling starch, which has either a little of the peculiar taste arising from decomposition, or no more flavor than starch. When intended to be used as food, this meal is stirred into boiling water: they put in as much as can be moistened, one man holding the vessel and the other stirring the porridge with all his might. This is the common mess of the country. Though hungry, we could just manage to swallow it with the aid of a little honey, which I shared with my men as long as it lasted. It is very unsavory (Scottice: wersh); and no matter how much one may eat, two hours afterward he is as hungry as ever. When less meal is employed, the mess is exactly like a basin of starch in the hands of a laundress; and if the starch were made from diseased potatoes, some idea might be formed of the Balonda porridge, which hunger alone forced us to eat. Santuru forbade his nobles to eat it, as it caused coughing and expectoration.
Our chief guide, Intemese, sent orders to all the villages around our route that Shinte’s friends must have abundance of provisions. Our progress was impeded by the time requisite for communicating the chief’s desire and consequent preparation of meal. We received far more food from Shinte’s people than from himself. Kapende, for instance, presented two large baskets of meal, three of manioc roots steeped and dried in the sun and ready to be converted into flour, three fowls, and seven eggs, with three smoke-dried fishes; and others gave with similar liberality. I gave to the head men small bunches of my stock of beads, with an apology that we were now on our way to the market for these goods. The present was always politely received.
We had an opportunity of observing that our guides had much more etiquette than any of the tribes farther south. They gave us food, but would not partake of it when we had cooked it, nor would they eat their own food in our presence. When it was cooked they retired into a thicket and ate their porridge; then all stood up, and clapped their hands, and praised Intemese for it. The Makololo, who are accustomed to the most free and easy manners, held out handfuls of what they had cooked to any of the Balonda near, but they refused to taste. They are very punctilious in their manners to each other. Each hut has its own fire, and when it goes out they make it afresh for themselves rather than take it from a neighbor. I believe much of this arises from superstitious fears. In the deep, dark forests near each village, as already mentioned, you see idols intended to represent the human head or a lion, or a crooked stick smeared with medicine, or simply a small pot of medicine in a little shed, or miniature huts with little mounds of earth in them. But in the darker recesses we meet with human faces cut in the bark of trees, the outlines of which, with the beards, closely resemble those seen on Egyptian monuments. Frequent cuts are made on the trees along all the paths, and offerings of small pieces of manioc roots or ears of maize are placed on branches. There are also to be seen every few miles heaps of sticks, which are treated in cairn fashion, by every one throwing a small branch to the heap in passing; or a few sticks are placed on the path, and each passer-by turns from his course, and forms a sudden bend in the road to one side. It seems as if their minds were ever in doubt and dread in these gloomy recesses of the forest, and that they were striving to propitiate, by their offerings, some superior beings residing there.
The dress of the Balonda men consists of the softened skins of small animals, as the jackal or wild cat, hung before and behind from a girdle round the loins. The dress of the women is of a nondescript character; but they were not immodest. They stood before us as perfectly unconscious of any indecorum as we could be with our clothes on. But, while ignorant of their own deficiency, they could not maintain their gravity at the sight of the nudity of my men behind. Much to the annoyance of my companions, the young girls laughed outright whenever their backs were turned to them.
After crossing the Lonaje, we came to some pretty villages, embowered, as the negro villages usually are, in bananas, shrubs, and manioc, and near the banks of the Leeba we formed our encampment in a nest of serpents, one of which bit one of our men, but the wound was harmless. The people of the surrounding villages presented us with large quantities of food, in obedience to the mandate of Shinte, without expecting any equivalent. One village had lately been transferred hither from the country of Matiamvo. They, of course, continue to acknowledge him as paramount chief; but the frequent instances which occur of people changing from one part of the country to another, show that the great chiefs possess only a limited power. The only peculiarity we observed in these people is the habit of plaiting the beard into a three-fold cord.
The town of the Balonda chief Cazembe was pointed out to us as lying to the N.E. and by E. from the town of Shinte, and great numbers of people in this quarter have gone thither for the purpose of purchasing copper anklets, made at Cazembe’s, and report the distance to be about five days’ journey. I made inquiries of some of the oldest inhabitants of the villages at which we were staying respecting the visit of Pereira and Lacerda to that town. An old gray-headed man replied that they had often heard of white men before, but never had seen one, and added that one had come to Cazembe when our informant was young, and returned again without entering this part of the country. The people of Cazembe are Balonda or Baloi, and his country has been termed Londa, Lunda, or Lui, by the Portuguese.
It was always difficult to get our guides to move away from a place. With the authority of the chief, they felt as comfortable as king’s messengers could, and were not disposed to forego the pleasure of living at free quarters. My Makololo friends were but ill drilled as yet; and since they had never left their own country before, except for purposes of plunder, they did not take readily to the peaceful system we now meant to follow. They either spoke too imperiously to strangers, or, when reproved for that, were disposed to follow the dictation of every one we met. When Intemese, our guide, refused to stir toward the Leeba on the 31st of January, they would make no effort to induce him to go; but, having ordered them to get ready, Intemese saw the preparations, and soon followed the example. It took us about four hours to cross the Leeba, which is considerably smaller here than where we left it — indeed, only about a hundred yards wide. It has the same dark mossy hue. The villagers lent us canoes to effect our passage; and, having gone to a village about two miles beyond the river, I had the satisfaction of getting observations for both longitude and latitude — for the former, the distance between Saturn and the Moon, and for the latter a meridian altitude of Canopus. Long. 22° 57’ E., lat. 12° 6’ 6” S.
These were the only opportunities I had of ascertaining my whereabouts in this part of Londa. Again and again did I take out the instruments, and, just as all was right, the stars would be suddenly obscured by clouds. I had never observed so great an amount of cloudiness in any part of the south country; and as for the rains, I believe that years at Kolobeng would not have made my little tent so rotten and thin as one month had done in Londa. I never observed in the south the heavy night and early morning rains we had in this country. They often continued all night, then became heavier about an hour before dawn. Or if fair during the night, as day drew nigh, an extremely heavy, still, pouring rain set in without warning. Five out of every six days we had this pouring rain, at or near break of day, for months together; and it soon beat my tent so thin, that a mist fell through on my face and made every thing damp. The rains were occasionally, but not always, accompanied with very loud thunder.
FEBRUARY 1ST. This day we had a fine view of two hills called Piri (Peeri), meaning “two”, on the side of the river we had left. The country there is named Mokwankwa. And there Intemese informed us one of Shinte’s children was born, when he was in his progress southward from the country of Matiamvo. This part of the country would thus seem not to have been inhabited by the people of Shinte at any very remote period. He told me himself that he had come into his present country by command of Matiamvo.
Here we were surprised to hear English cotton cloth much more eagerly inquired after than beads and ornaments. They are more in need of clothing than the Bechuana tribes living adjacent to the Kalahari Desert, who have plenty of skins for the purpose. Animals of all kinds are rare here, and a very small piece of calico is of great value.
In the midst of the heavy rain, which continued all the morning, Intemese sent to say he was laid up with pains in the stomach, and must not be disturbed; but when it cleared up, about eleven, I saw our friend walking off to the village, and talking with a very loud voice. On reproaching him for telling an untruth, he turned it off with a laugh by saying he really had a complaint in his stomach, which I might cure by slaughtering one of the oxen and allowing him to eat beef. He was evidently reveling in the abundance of good food the chief’s orders brought us; and he did not feel the shame I did when I gave a few beads only in return for large baskets of meal.
A very old man visited us here with a present of maize: like the others, he had never before seen a white man, and, when conversing with him, some of the young men remarked that they were the true ancients, for they had now seen more wonderful things than their forefathers.
One of Intemese’s men stole a fowl given me by a lady of the village. When charged with the theft, every one of Intemese’s party vociferated his innocence and indignation at being suspected, continuing their loud asseverations and gesticulations for some minutes. One of my men, Loyanke, went off to the village, brought the lady who had presented the fowl to identify it, and then pointed to the hut in which it was hidden. The Balonda collected round him, evincing great wrath; but Loyanke seized his battle-axe in the proper manner for striking, and, placing himself on a little hillock, soon made them moderate their tones. Intemese then called on me to send one of my people to search the huts if I suspected his people. The man sent soon found it, and brought it out, to the confusion of Intemese and the laughter of our party. This incident is mentioned to show that the greater superstition which exists here does not lead to the practice of the virtues. We never met an instance like this of theft from a white man among the Makololo, though they complain of the Makalaka as addicted to pilfering. The honesty of the Bakwains has been already noticed. Probably the estimation in which I was held as a public benefactor, in which character I was not yet known to the Balonda, may account for the sacredness with which my property was always treated before. But other incidents which happened subsequently showed, as well as this, that idolaters are not so virtuous as those who have no idols.
As the people on the banks of the Leeba were the last of Shinte’s tribe over which Intemese had power, he was naturally anxious to remain as long as possible. He was not idle, but made a large wooden mortar and pestle for his wife during our journey. He also carved many wooden spoons and a bowl; then commenced a basket; but as what he considered good living was any thing but agreeable to us, who had been accustomed to milk and maize, we went forward on the 2d without him. He soon followed, but left our pontoon, saying it would be brought by the head man of the village. This was a great loss, as we afterward found; it remained at this village more than a year, and when we returned a mouse had eaten a hole in it.
We entered on an extensive plain beyond the Leeba, at least twenty miles broad, and covered with water, ankle deep in the shallowest parts. We deviated somewhat from our N.W. course by the direction of Intemese, and kept the hills Piri nearly on our right during a great part of the first day, in order to avoid the still more deeply flooded plains of Lobale (Luval?) on the west. These, according to Intemese, are at present impassable on account of being thigh deep. The plains are so perfectly level that rain-water, which this was, stands upon them for months together. They were not flooded by the Leeba, for that was still far within its banks. Here and there, dotted over the surface, are little islands, on which grow stunted date-bushes and scraggy trees. The plains themselves are covered with a thick sward of grass, which conceals the water, and makes the flats appear like great pale yellow-colored prairie-lands, with a clear horizon, except where interrupted here and there by trees. The clear rain-water must have stood some time among the grass, for great numbers of lotus-flowers were seen in full blow; and the runs of water tortoises and crabs were observed; other animals also, which prey on the fish that find their way to the plains.
The continual splashing of the oxen keeps the feet of the rider constantly wet, and my men complain of the perpetual moisture of the paths by which we have traveled in Londa as softening their horny soles. The only information we can glean is from Intemese, who points out the different localities as we pass along, and among the rest “Mokala a Mama”, his “mamma’s home”. It was interesting to hear this tall gray-headed man recall the memories of boyhood. All the Makalaka children cleave to the mother in cases of separation, or removal from one part of the country to another. This love for mothers does not argue superior morality in other respects, or else Intemese has forgotten any injunctions his mamma may have given him not to tell lies. The respect, however, with which he spoke of her was quite characteristic of his race. The Bechuanas, on the contrary, care nothing for their mothers, but cling to their fathers, especially if they have any expectation of becoming heirs to their cattle. Our Bakwain guide to the lake, Rachosi, told me that his mother lived in the country of Sebituane, but, though a good specimen of the Bechuanas, he laughed at the idea of going so far as from the Lake Ngami to the Chobe merely for the purpose of seeing her. Had he been one of the Makalaka, he never would have parted from her.
We made our beds on one of the islands, and were wretchedly supplied with firewood. The booths constructed by the men were but sorry shelter, for the rain poured down without intermission till midday. There is no drainage for the prodigious masses of water on these plains, except slow percolation into the different feeders of the Leeba, and into that river itself. The quantity of vegetation has prevented the country from becoming furrowed by many rivulets or “nullahs”. Were it not so remarkably flat, the drainage must have been effected by torrents, even in spite of the matted vegetation.
That these extensive plains are covered with grasses only, and the little islands with but scraggy trees, may be accounted for by the fact, observable every where in this country, that, where water stands for any length of time, trees can not live. The want of speedy drainage destroys them, and injures the growth of those that are planted on the islands, for they have no depth of earth not subjected to the souring influence of the stagnant water. The plains of Lobale, to the west of these, are said to be much more extensive than any we saw, and their vegetation possesses similar peculiarities. When the stagnant rain-water has all soaked in, as must happen during the months in which there is no rain, travelers are even put to straits for want of water. This is stated on native testimony; but I can very well believe that level plains, in which neither wells nor gullies are met with, may, after the dry season, present the opposite extreme to what we witnessed. Water, however, could always be got by digging, a proof of which we had on our return when brought to a stand on this very plain by severe fever: about twelve miles from the Kasai my men dug down a few feet, and found an abundant supply; and we saw on one of the islands the garden of a man who, in the dry season, had drunk water from a well in like manner. Plains like these can not be inhabited while the present system of cultivation lasts. The population is not yet so very large as to need them. They find garden-ground enough on the gentle slopes at the sides of the rivulets, and possess no cattle to eat off the millions of acres of fine hay we were now wading through. Any one who has visited the Cape Colony will understand me when I say that these immense crops resemble sown grasses more than the tufty vegetation of the south.
I would here request the particular attention of the reader to the phenomena these periodically deluged plains present, because they have a most important bearing on the physical geography of a very large portion of this country. The plains of Lobale, to the west of this, give rise to a great many streams, which unite, and form the deep, never-failing Chobe. Similar extensive flats give birth to the Loeti and Kasai, and, as we shall see further on, all the rivers of an extensive region owe their origin to oozing bogs, and not to fountains.
When released from our island by the rain ceasing, we marched on till we came to a ridge of dry inhabited land in the N.W. The inhabitants, according to custom, lent us the roofs of some huts to save the men the trouble of booth-making. I suspect that the story in Park’s “Travels”, of the men lifting up the hut to place it on the lion, referred to the roof only. We leave them for the villagers to replace at their leisure. No payment is expected for the use of them. By night it rained so copiously that all our beds were flooded from below; and from this time forth we always made a furrow round each booth, and used the earth to raise our sleeping-places. My men turned out to work in the wet most willingly; indeed, they always did. I could not but contrast their conduct with that of Intemese. He was thoroughly imbued with the slave spirit, and lied on all occasions without compunction. Untruthfulness is a sort of refuge for the weak and oppressed. We expected to move on the 4th, but he declared that we were so near Katema’s, if we did not send forward to apprise that chief of our approach, he would certainly impose a fine. It rained the whole day, so we were reconciled to the delay; but on Sunday, the 5th, he let us know that we were still two days distant from Katema. We unfortunately could not manage without him, for the country was so deluged, we should have been brought to a halt before we went many miles by some deep valley, every one of which was full of water. Intemese continued to plait his basket with all his might, and would not come to our religious service. He seemed to be afraid of our incantations, but was always merry and jocular.
6TH. Soon after starting we crossed a branch of the Lokalueje by means of a canoe, and in the afternoon passed over the main stream by a like conveyance. The former, as is the case with all branches of rivers in this country, is called nyuana Kalueje (child of the Kalueje). Hippopotami exist in the Lokalueje, so it may be inferred to be perennial, as the inhabitants asserted. We can not judge of the size of the stream from what we now saw. It had about forty yards of deep, fast-flowing water, but probably not more than half that amount in the dry season. Besides these, we crossed numerous feeders in our N.N.W. course, and, there being no canoes, got frequently wet in the course of the day. The oxen in some places had their heads only above water, and the stream, flowing over their backs, wetted our blankets, which we used as saddles. The arm-pit was the only safe spot for carrying the watch, for there it was preserved from rains above and waters below. The men on foot crossed these gullies holding up their burdens at arms’ length.
The Lokalueje winds from northeast to southwest into the Leeba. The country adjacent to its banks is extremely fine and fertile, with here and there patches of forest or clumps of magnificent trees. The villagers through whose gardens we passed continue to sow and reap all the year round. The grains, as maize, lotsa (‘Pennisetum typhoideum’), lokesh or millet, are to be seen at all stages of their growth — some just ripe, while at this time the Makololo crops are not half grown. My companions, who have a good idea of the different qualities of soils, expressed the greatest admiration of the agricultural capabilities of the whole of Londa, and here they were loud in their praises of the pasturage. They have an accurate idea of the varieties of grasses best adapted for different kinds of stock, and lament because here there are no cows to feed off the rich green crop, which at this time imparts special beauty to the landscape.
Great numbers of the omnivorous feeding fish, ‘Glanis siluris’, or mosala, spread themselves over the flooded plains, and, as the waters retire, try to find their way back again to the rivers. The Balonda make earthen dikes and hedges across the outlets of the retreating waters, leaving only small spaces through which the chief part of the water flows. In these open spaces they plant creels, similar in shape to our own, into which the fish can enter, but can not return. They secure large quantities of fish in this way, which, when smoke-dried, make a good relish for their otherwise insipid food. They use also a weir of mats made of reeds sewed together, with but half an inch between each. Open spaces are left for the insertion of the creels as before.
In still water, a fish-trap is employed of the same shape and plan as the common round wire mouse-trap, which has an opening surrounded with wires pointing inward. This is made of reeds and supple wands, and food is placed inside to attract the fish.
Besides these means of catching fish, they use a hook of iron without a barb; the point is bent inward instead, so as not to allow the fish to escape. Nets are not so common as in the Zouga and Leeambye, but they kill large quantities of fishes by means of the bruised leaves of a shrub, which may be seen planted beside every village in the country.
On the 7th we came to the village of Soana Molopo, a half-brother of Katema, a few miles beyond the Lokalueje. When we went to visit him, we found him sitting with about one hundred men. He called on Intemese to give some account of us, though no doubt it had been done in private before. He then pronounced the following sentences: “The journey of the white man is very proper, but Shinte has disturbed us by showing the path to the Makololo who accompany him. He ought to have taken them through the country without showing them the towns. We are afraid of the Makololo.” He then gave us a handsome present of food, and seemed perplexed by my sitting down familiarly, and giving him a few of our ideas. When we left, Intemese continued busily imparting an account of all we had given to Shinte and Masiko, and instilling the hope that Soana Molopo might obtain as much as they had received. Accordingly, when we expected to move on the morning of the 8th, we got some hints about the ox which Soana Molopo expected to eat, but we recommended him to get the breed of cattle for himself, seeing his country was so well adapted for rearing stock. Intemese also refused to move; he, moreover, tried to frighten us into parting with an ox by saying that Soana Molopo would send forward a message that we were a marauding party; but we packed up and went on without him. We did not absolutely need him, but he was useful in preventing the inhabitants of secluded villages from betaking themselves to flight. We wished to be on good terms with all, and therefore put up with our guide’s peccadilloes. His good word respecting us had considerable influence, and he was always asked if we had behaved ourselves like men on the way. The Makololo are viewed as great savages, but Intemese could not justly look with scorn on them, for he has the mark of a large gash on his arm, got in fighting; and he would never tell the cause of battle, but boasted of his powers as the Makololo do, till asked about a scar on his back, betokening any thing but bravery.
Intemese was useful in cases like that of Monday, when we came upon a whole village in a forest enjoying their noonday nap. Our sudden appearance in their midst so terrified them that one woman nearly went into convulsions from fear. When they saw and heard Intemese, their terror subsided.
As usual, we were caught by rains after leaving Soana Molopo’s, and made our booths at the house of Mozinkwa, a most intelligent and friendly man belonging to Katema. He had a fine large garden in cultivation, and well hedged round. He had made the walls of his compound, or court-yard, of branches of the banian, which, taking root, had grown to be a live hedge of that tree. Mozinkwa’s wife had cotton growing all round her premises, and several plants used as relishes to the insipid porridge of the country. She cultivated also the common castor-oil plant, and a larger shrub (‘Jatropha curcas’), which also yields a purgative oil. Here, however, the oil is used for anointing the heads and bodies alone. We saw in her garden likewise the Indian bringalls, yams, and sweet potatoes. Several trees were planted in the middle of the yard, and in the deep shade they gave stood the huts of his fine family. His children, all by one mother, very black, but comely to view, were the finest negro family I ever saw. We were much pleased with the frank friendship and liberality of this man and his wife. She asked me to bring her a cloth from the white man’s country; but, when we returned, poor Mozinkwa’s wife was in her grave, and he, as is the custom, had abandoned trees, garden, and huts to ruin. They can not live on a spot where a favorite wife has died, probably because unable to bear the remembrance of the happy times they have spent there, or afraid to remain in a spot where death has once visited the establishment. If ever the place is revisited, it is to pray to her, or make some offering. This feeling renders any permanent village in the country impossible.
We learned from Mozinkwa that Soana Molopo was the elder brother of Katema, but that he was wanting in wisdom; and Katema, by purchasing cattle and receiving in a kind manner all the fugitives who came to him, had secured the birthright to himself, so far as influence in the country is concerned. Soana’s first address to us did not savor much of African wisdom.
FRIDAY, 10TH. On leaving Mozinkwa’s hospitable mansion we crossed another stream, about forty yards wide, in canoes. While this tedious process was going on, I was informed that it is called the Mona–Kalueje, or brother of Kalueje, as it flows into that river; that both the Kalueje and Livoa flow into the Leeba; and that the Chifumadze, swollen by the Lotembwa, is a feeder of that river also, below the point where we lately crossed it. It may be remarked here that these rivers were now in flood, and that the water was all perfectly clear. The vegetation on the banks is so thickly planted that the surface of the earth is not abraded by the torrents. The grass is laid flat, and forms a protection to the banks, which are generally a stiff black loam. The fact of canoes being upon them shows that, though not large, they are not like the southern rivulets, which dry up during most of the year, and render canoes unnecessary.
As we were crossing the river we were joined by a messenger from Katema, called Shakatwala. This person was a sort of steward or factotum to his chief. Every chief has one attached to his person, and, though generally poor, they are invariably men of great shrewdness and ability. They act the part of messengers on all important occasions, and possess considerable authority in the chief’s household. Shakatwala informed us that Katema had not received precise information about us, but if we were peaceably disposed, as he loved strangers, we were to come to his town. We proceeded forthwith, but were turned aside, by the strategy of our friend Intemese, to the village of Quendende, the father-in-law of Katema. This fine old man was so very polite that we did not regret being obliged to spend Sunday at his village. He expressed his pleasure at having a share in the honor of a visit as well as Katema, though it seemed to me that the conferring that pleasure required something like a pretty good stock of impudence, in leading twenty-seven men through the country without the means of purchasing food. My men did a little business for themselves in the begging line; they generally commenced every interview with new villagers by saying “I have come from afar; give me something to eat.” I forbade this at first, believing that, as the Makololo had a bad name, the villagers gave food from fear. But, after some time, it was evident that in many cases maize and manioc were given from pure generosity. The first time I came to this conclusion was at the house of Mozinkwa; scarcely any one of my men returned from it without something in his hand; and as they protested they had not begged, I asked himself, and found that it was the case, and that he had given spontaneously. In other parts the chiefs attended to my wants, and the common people gave liberally to my men. I presented some of my razors and iron spoons to different head men, but my men had nothing to give; yet every one tried to appropriate an individual in each village as “Molekane”, or comrade, and the villagers often assented; so, if the reader remembers the molekane system of the Mopato, he may perceive that those who presented food freely would expect the Makololo to treat them in like manner, should they ever be placed in similar circumstances. Their country is so fertile that they are in no want of food themselves; however, their generosity was remarkable; only one woman refused to give some of my men food, but her husband calling out to her to be more liberal, she obeyed, scolding all the while.
In this part of the country, buffaloes, elands, koodoos, and various antelopes are to be found, but we did not get any, as they are exceedingly wary from being much hunted. We had the same woodland and meadow as before, with here and there pleasant negro villages; and being all in good health, could enjoy the fine green scenery.
Quendende’s head was a good specimen of the greater crop of wool with which the negroes of Londa are furnished. The front was parted in the middle, and plaited into two thick rolls, which, falling down behind the ears, reached the shoulders; the rest was collected into a large knot, which lay on the nape of the neck. As he was an intelligent man, we had much conversation together: he had just come from attending the funeral of one of his people, and I found that the great amount of drum-beating which takes place on these occasions was with the idea that the Barimo, or spirits, could be drummed to sleep. There is a drum in every village, and we often hear it going from sunset to sunrise. They seem to look upon the departed as vindictive beings, and, I suspect, are more influenced by fear than by love. In beginning to speak on religious subjects with those who have never heard of Christianity, the great fact of the Son of God having come down from heaven to die for us is the prominent theme. No fact more striking can be mentioned. “He actually came to men. He himself told us about his Father, and the dwelling-place whither he has gone. We have his words in this book, and he really endured punishment in our stead from pure love,” etc. If this fails to interest them, nothing else will succeed.
We here met with some people just arrived from the town of Matiamvo (Muata yanvo), who had been sent to announce the death of the late chieftain of that name. Matiamvo is the hereditary title, muata meaning lord or chief. The late Matiamvo seems, from the report of these men, to have become insane, for he is said to have sometimes indulged the whim of running a muck in the town and beheading whomsoever he met, until he had quite a heap of human heads. Matiamvo explained this conduct by saying that his people were too many, and he wanted to diminish them. He had absolute power of life and death. On inquiring whether human sacrifices were still made, as in the time of Pereira, at Cazembe’s, we were informed that these had never been so common as was represented to Pereira, but that it occasionally happened, when certain charms were needed by the chief, that a man was slaughtered for the sake of some part of his body. He added that he hoped the present chief would not act like his (mad) predecessor, but kill only those who were guilty of witchcraft or theft. These men were very much astonished at the liberty enjoyed by the Makololo; and when they found that all my people held cattle, we were told that Matiamvo alone had a herd. One very intelligent man among them asked, “If he should make a canoe, and take it down the river to the Makololo, would he get a cow for it?” This question, which my men answered in the affirmative, was important, as showing the knowledge of a water communication from the country of Matiamvo to the Makololo; and the river runs through a fertile country abounding in large timber. If the tribes have intercourse with each other, it exerts a good influence on their chiefs to hear what other tribes think of their deeds. The Makololo have such a bad name, on account of their perpetual forays, that they have not been known in Londa except as ruthless destroyers. The people in Matiamvo’s country submit to much wrong from their chiefs, and no voice can be raised against cruelty, because they are afraid to flee elsewhere.
We left Quendende’s village in company with Quendende himself, and the principal man of the embassadors of Matiamvo, and after two or three miles’ march to the N.W., came to the ford of the Lotembwa, which flows southward. A canoe was waiting to ferry us over, but it was very tedious work; for, though the river itself was only eighty yards wide, the whole valley was flooded, and we were obliged to paddle more than half a mile to get free of the water. A fire was lit to warm old Quendende, and enable him to dry his tobacco-leaves. The leaves are taken from the plant, and spread close to the fire until they are quite dry and crisp; they are then put into a snuff-box, which, with a little pestle, serves the purpose of a mill to grind them into powder; it is then used as snuff. As we sat by the fire, the embassadors communicated their thoughts freely respecting the customs of their race. When a chief dies, a number of servants are slaughtered with him to form his company in the other world. The Barotse followed the same custom, and this and other usages show them to be genuine negroes, though neither they nor the Balonda resemble closely the typical form of that people. Quendende said if he were present on these occasions he would hide his people, so that they might not be slaughtered. As we go north, the people become more bloodily superstitious.
We were assured that if the late Matiamvo took a fancy to any thing, such, for instance, as my watch-chain, which was of silver wire, and was a great curiosity, as they had never seen metal plaited before, he would order a whole village to be brought up to buy it from a stranger. When a slave-trader visited him, he took possession of all his goods; then, after ten days or a fortnight, he would send out a party of men to pounce upon some considerable village, and, having killed the head man, would pay for all the goods by selling the inhabitants. This has frequently been the case, and nearly all the visitants he ever had were men of color. On asking if Matiamvo did not know he was a man, and would be judged, in company with those he destroyed, by a Lord who is no respector of persons? the embassador replied, “We do not go up to God, as you do; we are put into the ground.” I could not ascertain that even those who have such a distinct perception of the continued existence of departed spirits had any notion of heaven; they appear to imagine the souls to be always near the place of sepulture.
After crossing the River Lotembwa we traveled about eight miles, and came to Katema’s straggling town (lat. 11° 35’ 49” S., long. 22° 27’ E.). It is more a collection of villages than a town. We were led out about half a mile from the houses, that we might make for ourselves the best lodging we could of the trees and grass, while Intemese was taken to Katema to undergo the usual process of pumping as to our past conduct and professions. Katema soon afterward sent a handsome present of food.
Next morning we had a formal presentation, and found Katema seated on a sort of throne, with about three hundred men on the ground around, and thirty women, who were said to be his wives, close behind him. The main body of the people were seated in a semicircle, at a distance of fifty yards. Each party had its own head man stationed at a little distance in front, and, when beckoned by the chief, came near him as councilors. Intemese gave our history, and Katema placed sixteen large baskets of meal before us, half a dozen fowls, and a dozen eggs, and expressed regret that we had slept hungry: he did not like any stranger to suffer want in his town; and added, “Go home, and cook and eat, and you will then be in a fit state to speak to me at an audience I will give you to-morrow.” He was busily engaged in hearing the statements of a large body of fine young men who had fled from Kangenke, chief of Lobale, on account of his selling their relatives to the native Portuguese who frequent his country. Katema is a tall man, about forty years of age, and his head was ornamented with a helmet of beads and feathers. He had on a snuff-brown coat, with a broad band of tinsel down the arms, and carried in his hand a large tail made of the caudal extremities of a number of gnus. This has charms attached to it, and he continued waving it in front of himself all the time we were there. He seemed in good spirits, laughing heartily several times. This is a good sign, for a man who shakes his sides with mirth is seldom difficult to deal with. When we rose to take leave, all rose with us, as at Shinte’s.
Returning next morning, Katema addressed me thus: “I am the great Moene (lord) Katema, the fellow of Matiamvo. There is no one in the country equal to Matiamvo and me. I have always lived here, and my forefathers too. There is the house in which my father lived. You found no human skulls near the place where you are encamped. I never killed any of the traders; they all come to me. I am the great Moene Katema, of whom you have heard.” He looked as if he had fallen asleep tipsy, and dreamed of his greatness. On explaining my objects to him, he promptly pointed out three men who would be our guides, and explained that the northwest path was the most direct, and that by which all traders came, but that the water at present standing on the plains would reach up to the loins; he would therefore send us by a more northerly route, which no trader had yet traversed. This was more suited to our wishes, for we never found a path safe that had been trodden by slave-traders.
We presented a few articles, which pleased him highly: a small shawl, a razor, three bunches of beads, some buttons, and a powder-horn. Apologizing for the insignificance of the gift, I wished to know what I could bring him from Loanda, saying, not a large thing, but something small. He laughed heartily at the limitation, and replied, “Every thing of the white people would be acceptable, and he would receive any thing thankfully; but the coat he then had on was old, and he would like another.” I introduced the subject of the Bible, but one of the old councilors broke in, told all he had picked up from the Mambari, and glided off into several other subjects. It is a misery to speak through an interpreter, as I was now forced to do. With a body of men like mine, composed as they were of six different tribes, and all speaking the language of the Bechuanas, there was no difficulty in communicating on common subjects with any tribe we came to; but doling out a story in which they felt no interest, and which I understood only sufficiently well to perceive that a mere abridgment was given, was uncommonly slow work. Neither could Katema’s attention be arrested, except by compliments, of which they have always plenty to bestow as well as receive. We were strangers, and knew that, as Makololo, we had not the best of characters, yet his treatment of us was wonderfully good and liberal.
I complimented him on the possession of cattle, and pleased him by telling him how he might milk the cows. He has a herd of about thirty, really splendid animals, all reared from two which he bought from the Balobale when he was young. They are generally of a white color, and are quite wild, running off with graceful ease like a herd of elands on the approach of a stranger. They excited the unbounded admiration of the Makololo, and clearly proved that the country was well adapted for them. When Katema wishes to slaughter one, he is obliged to shoot it as if it were a buffalo. Matiamvo is said to possess a herd of cattle in a similar state. I never could feel certain as to the reason why they do not all possess cattle in a country containing such splendid pasturage.
As Katema did not offer an ox, as would have been done by a Makololo or Caffre chief, we slaughtered one of our own, and all of us were delighted to get a meal of meat, after subsisting so long on the light porridge and green maize of Londa. On occasions of slaughtering an animal, some pieces of it are in the fire before the skin is all removed from the body. A frying-pan full of these pieces having been got quickly ready, my men crowded about their father, and I handed some all round. It was a strange sight to the Balonda, who were looking on, wondering. I offered portions to them too, but these were declined, though they are excessively fond of a little animal food to eat with their vegetable diet. They would not eat with us, but they would take the meat and cook it in their own way, and then use it. I thought at one time that they had imported something from the Mohammedans, and the more especially as an exclamation of surprise, “Allah”, sounds like the Illah of the Arabs; but we found, a little farther on, another form of salutation, of Christian (?) origin, “Ave-rie” (Ave Marie). The salutations probably travel farther than the faith. My people, when satisfied with a meal like that which they enjoy so often at home, amused themselves by an uproarious dance. Katema sent to ask what I had given them to produce so much excitement. Intemese replied it was their custom, and they meant no harm. The companion of the ox we slaughtered refused food for two days, and went lowing about for him continually. He seemed inconsolable for his loss, and tried again and again to escape back to the Makololo country. My men remarked, “He thinks they will kill me as well as my friend.” Katema thought it the result of art, and had fears of my skill in medicine, and of course witchcraft. He refused to see the magic lantern.
One of the affairs which had been intrusted by Shinte to Intemese was the rescue of a wife who had eloped with a young man belonging to Katema. As this was the only case I have met with in the interior in which a fugitive was sent back to a chief against his own will, I am anxious to mention it. On Intemese claiming her as his master’s wife, she protested loudly against it, saying “she knew she was not going back to be a wife again; she was going back to be sold to the Mambari.” My men formed many friendships with the people of Katema, and some of the poorer classes said in confidence, “We wish our children could go back with you to the Makololo country; here we are all in danger of being sold.” My men were of opinion that it was only the want of knowledge of the southern country which prevented an exodus of all the lower portions of Londa population thither.
It is remarkable how little people living in a flat forest country like this know of distant tribes. An old man, who said he had been born about the same time as the late Matiamvo, and had been his constant companion through life, visited us; and as I was sitting on some grass in front of the little gipsy tent mending my camp stool, I invited him to take a seat on the grass beside me. This was peremptorily refused: “he had never sat on the ground during the late chief’s reign, and he was not going to degrade himself now.” One of my men handed him a log of wood taken from the fire, and helped him out of the difficulty. When I offered him some cooked meat on a plate, he would not touch that either, but would take it home. So I humored him by sending a servant to bear a few ounces of meat to the town behind him. He mentioned the Lolo (Lulua) as the branch of the Leeambye which flows southward or S.S.E.; but the people of Matiamvo had never gone far down it, as their chief had always been afraid of encountering a tribe whom, from the description given, I could recognize as the Makololo. He described five rivers as falling into the Lolo, viz., the Lishish, Liss or Lise, Kalileme, Ishidish, and Molong. None of these are large, but when they are united in the Lolo they form a considerable stream. The country through which the Lolo flows is said to be flat, fertile, well peopled, and there are large patches of forest. In this report he agreed perfectly with the people of Matiamvo, whom we had met at Quendende’s village. But we never could get him, or any one in this quarter, to draw a map on the ground, as people may readily be got to do in the south.
Katema promised us the aid of some of his people as carriers, but his rule is not very stringent or efficient, for they refused to turn out for the work. They were Balobale; and he remarked on their disobedience that, though he received them as fugitives, they did not feel grateful enough to obey, and if they continued rebellious he must drive them back whence they came; but there is little fear of that, as all the chiefs are excessively anxious to collect men in great numbers around them. These Balobale would not go, though our guide Shakatwala ran after some of them with a drawn sword. This degree of liberty to rebel was very striking to us, as it occurred in a country where people may be sold, and often are so disposed of when guilty of any crime; and we well knew that open disobedience like this among the Makololo would be punished with death without much ceremony.
On Sunday, the 19th, both I and several of our party were seized with fever, and I could do nothing but toss about in my little tent, with the thermometer above 90°, though this was the beginning of winter, and my men made as much shade as possible by planting branches of trees all round and over it. We have, for the first time in my experience in Africa, had a cold wind from the north. All the winds from that quarter are hot, and those from the south are cold, but they seldom blow from either direction.
20TH. We were glad to get away, though not on account of any scarcity of food; for my men, by giving small presents of meat as an earnest of their sincerity, formed many friendships with the people of Katema. We went about four or five miles in a N.N.W. direction, then two in a westerly one, and came round the small end of Lake Dilolo. It seemed, as far as we could at this time discern, to be like a river a quarter of a mile wide. It is abundantly supplied with fish and hippopotami; the broad part, which we did not this time see, is about three miles wide, and the lake is almost seven or eight long. If it be thought strange that I did not go a few miles to see the broad part, which, according to Katema, had never been visited by any of the traders, it must be remembered that in consequence of fever I had eaten nothing for two entire days, and, instead of sleep, the whole of the nights were employed in incessant drinking of water, and I was now so glad to get on in the journey and see some of my fellow fever-patients crawling along, that I could not brook the delay, which astronomical observations for accurately determining the geographical position of this most interesting spot would have occasioned.
We observed among the people of Katema a love for singing-birds. One pretty little songster, named “cabazo”, a species of canary, is kept in very neatly made cages, having traps on the top to entice its still free companions. On asking why they kept them in confinement, “Because they sing sweetly,” was the answer. They feed them on the lotsa (‘Pennisetum typhoideum’), of which great quantities are cultivated as food for man, and these canaries plague the gardeners here, very much in the same way as our sparrows do at home.
I was pleased to hear the long-forgotten cry of alarm of the canaries in the woods, and observed one warbling forth its song, and keeping in motion from side to side, as these birds do in the cage. We saw also tame pigeons; and the Barotse, who always take care to exalt Santuru, reminded us that this chief had many doves, and kept canaries which had reddish heads when the birds attained maturity. Those we now see have the real canary color on the breast, with a tinge of green; the back, yellowish green, with darker longitudinal bands meeting in the centre; a narrow dark band passes from the bill over the eye and back to the bill again.
The birds of song here set up quite a merry chorus in the mornings, and abound most near the villages. Some sing as loudly as our thrushes, and the king-hunter (‘Halcyon Senegalensis’) makes a clear whirring sound like that of a whistle with a pea in it. During the heat of the day all remain silent, and take their siesta in the shadiest parts of the trees, but in the cool of the evening they again exert themselves in the production of pleasant melody. It is remarkable that so many songbirds abound where there is a general paucity of other animal life. As we went forward we were struck by the comparative absence of game and the larger kind of fowls. The rivers contain very few fish. Common flies are not troublesome, as they are wherever milk is abundant; they are seen in company with others of the same size and shape, but whose tiny feet do not tickle the skin, as is the case with their companions. Mosquitoes are seldom so numerous as to disturb the slumbers of a weary man.
But, though this region is free from common insect plagues, and from tsetse, it has others. Feeling something running across my forehead as I was falling asleep, I put up the hand to wipe it off, and was sharply stung both on the hand and head; the pain was very acute. On obtaining a light, we found that it had been inflicted by a light-colored spider, about half an inch in length, and, one of the men having crushed it with his fingers, I had no opportunity of examining whether the pain had been produced by poison from a sting or from its mandibles. No remedy was applied, and the pain ceased in about two hours. The Bechuanas believe that there is a small black spider in the country whose bite is fatal. I have not met with an instance in which death could be traced to this insect, though a very large black, hairy spider, an inch and a quarter long and three quarters of an inch broad, is frequently seen, having a process at the end of its front claws similar to that at the end of the scorpion’s tail, and when the bulbous portion of it is pressed, the poison may be seen oozing out from the point.
We have also spiders in the south which seize their prey by leaping upon it from a distance of several inches. When alarmed, they can spring about a foot away from the object of their own fear. Of this kind there are several varieties.
A large reddish spider (‘Mygale’) obtains its food in a different manner than either patiently waiting in ambush or by catching it with a bound. It runs about with great velocity in and out, behind and around every object, searching for what it may devour, and, from its size and rapid motions, excites the horror of every stranger. I never knew it to do any harm except frightening the nervous, and I believe few could look upon it for the first time without feeling himself in danger. It is named by the natives “selali”, and is believed to be the maker of a hinged cover for its nest. You see a door, about the size of a shilling, lying beside a deep hole of nearly similar diameter. The inside of the door lying upward, and which attracts your notice, is of a pure white silky substance, like paper. The outer side is coated over with earth, precisely like that in which the hole is made. If you try to lift it, you find it is fastened by a hinge on one side, and, if it is turned over upon the hole, it fits it exactly, and the earthy side being then uppermost, it is quite impossible to detect the situation of the nest. Unfortunately, this cavity for breeding is never seen except when the owner is out, and has left the door open behind her.
In some parts of the country there are great numbers of a large, beautiful yellow-spotted spider, the webs of which are about a yard in diameter. The lines on which these webs are spun are suspended from one tree to another, and are as thick as coarse thread. The fibres radiate from a central point, where the insect waits for its prey. The webs are placed perpendicularly, and a common occurrence in walking is to get the face enveloped in them as a lady is in a veil.
Another kind of spider lives in society, and forms so great a collection of webs placed at every angle, that the trunk of a tree surrounded by them can not be seen. A piece of hedge is often so hidden by this spider that the branches are invisible. Another is seen on the inside of the walls of huts among the Makololo in great abundance. It is round in shape, spotted, brown in color, and the body half an inch in diameter; the spread of the legs is an inch and a half. It makes a smooth spot for itself on the wall, covered with the above-mentioned white silky substance. There it is seen standing the whole day, and I never could ascertain how it fed. It has no web, but a carpet, and is a harmless, though an ugly neighbor.
Immediately beyond Dilolo there is a large flat about twenty miles in breadth. Here Shakatwala insisted on our remaining to get supplies of food from Katema’s subjects, before entering the uninhabited watery plains. When asked the meaning of the name Dilolo, Shakatwala gave the following account of the formation of the lake. A female chief, called Moene (lord) Monenga, came one evening to the village of Mosogo, a man who lived in the vicinity, but who had gone to hunt with his dogs. She asked for a supply of food, and Mosogo’s wife gave her a sufficient quantity. Proceeding to another village standing on the spot now occupied by the water, she preferred the same demand, and was not only refused, but, when she uttered a threat for their niggardliness, was taunted with the question, “What could she do though she were thus treated?” In order to show what she could do, she began a song, in slow time, and uttered her own name, Monenga-wo-o. As she prolonged the last note, the village, people, fowls, and dogs sank into the space now called Dilolo. When Kasimakate, the head man of this village, came home and found out the catastrophe, he cast himself into the lake, and is supposed to be in it still. The name is derived from “ilolo”, despair, because this man gave up all hope when his family was destroyed. Monenga was put to death. This may be a faint tradition of the Deluge, and it is remarkable as the only one I have met with in this country.
Heavy rains prevented us from crossing the plain in front (N.N.W.) in one day, and the constant wading among the grass hurt the feet of the men. There is a footpath all the way across, but as this is worn down beneath the level of the rest of the plain, it is necessarily the deepest portion, and the men, avoiding it, make a new walk by its side. A path, however narrow, is a great convenience, as any one who has traveled on foot in Africa will admit. The virtual want of it here caused us to make slow and painful progress.
Ants surely are wiser than some men, for they learn by experience. They have established themselves even on these plains, where water stands so long annually as to allow the lotus, and other aqueous plants, to come to maturity. When all the ant horizon is submerged a foot deep, they manage to exist by ascending to little houses built of black tenacious loam on stalks of grass, and placed higher than the line of inundation. This must have been the result of experience; for, if they had waited till the water actually invaded their terrestrial habitations, they would not have been able to procure materials for their aerial quarters, unless they dived down to the bottom for every mouthful of clay. Some of these upper chambers are about the size of a bean, and others as large as a man’s thumb. They must have built in anticipation, and if so, let us humbly hope that the sufferers by the late inundations in France may be possessed of as much common sense as the little black ants of the Dilolo plains.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57