The Murchison Cataracts of the Shire river begin in 15 degrees 20 minutes S., and end in lat. 15 degrees 55 minutes S., the difference of latitude is therefore 35 minutes. The river runs in this space nearly north and south, till we pass Malango; so the entire distance is under 40 miles. The principal Cataracts are five in number, and are called Pamofunda or Pamozima, Morewa, Panoreba or Tedzane, Pampatamanga, and Papekira. Besides these, three or four smaller ones might be mentioned; as, for instance, Mamvira, where in our ascent we first met the broken water, and heard that gushing sound which, from the interminable windings of some 200 miles of river below, we had come to believe the tranquil Shire could never make. While these lesser cataracts descend at an angle of scarcely 20 degrees, the greater fall 100 feet in 100 yards, at an angle of about 45 degrees, and one at an angle of 70 degrees. One part of Pamozima is perpendicular, and, when the river is in flood, causes a cloud of vapour to ascend, which, in our journey to Lake Shirwa, we saw at a distance of at least eight miles. The entire descent from the Upper to the Lower Shire is 1200 feet. Only on one spot in all that distance is the current moderate — namely, above Tedzane. The rest is all rapid, and much of it being only fifty or eighty yards wide, and rushing like a mill-race, it gives the impression of water-power, sufficient to drive all the mills in Manchester, running to waste. Pamofunda, or Pamozima, has a deep shady grove on its right bank. When we were walking alone through its dark shade, we were startled by a shocking smell like that of a dissecting-room; and on looking up saw dead bodies in mats suspended from the branches of the trees, a mode of burial somewhat similar to that which we subsequently saw practised by the Parsees in their “towers of silence” at Poonah, near Bombay. The name Pamozima means, “the departed spirits or gods”— a fit name for a place over which, according to the popular belief, the disembodied souls continually hover.
The rock lowest down in the series is dark reddish-grey syenite. This seems to have been an upheaving agent, for the mica schists above it are much disturbed. Dark trappean rocks full of hornblende have in many places burst through these schists, and appear in nodules on the surface. The highest rock seen is a fine sandstone of closer grain than that at Tette, and quite metamorphosed where it comes into contact with the igneous rocks below it. It sometimes gives place to quartz and reddish clay schists, much baked by heat. This is the usual geological condition on the right bank of the Cataracts. On the other side we pass over masses of porphyritic trap, in contact with the same mica schists, and these probably give to the soil the great fertility we observed. The great body of the mountains is syenite. So much mica is washed into the river, that on looking attentively on the stream one sees myriads of particles floating and glancing in the sun; and this, too, even at low water.
It was the 15th of August before the men returned from the ship, accompanied by Mr. Rae and the steward of the “Pioneer.” They brought two oxen, one of which was instantly slaughtered to put courage into all hearts, and some bottles of wine, a present from Waller and Alington. We never carried wine before, but this was precious as an expression of kindheartedness on the part of the donors. If one attempted to carry either wine or spirits, as a beverage, he would require a whole troop of followers for nothing else. Our greatest luxury in travelling was tea or coffee. We never once carried sugar enough to last a journey, but coffee is always good, while the sugarless tea is only bearable, because of the unbearable gnawing feeling of want and sinking which ensues if we begin to travel in the mornings without something warm in the stomach. Our drink generally was water, and if cool, nothing can equal it in a hot climate. We usually carried a bottle of brandy rolled up in our blankets, but that was used only as a medicine; a spoonful in hot water before going to bed, to fend off a chill and fever. Spirits always do harm, if the fever has fairly begun; and it is probable that brandy-and-water has to answer for a good many of the deaths in Africa.
Mr. Rae had made gratifying progress in screwing together the “Lady Nyassa.” He had the zealous co-operation of three as fine steady workmen as ever handled tools; and, as they were noble specimens of English sailors, we would fain mention the names of men who are an honour to the British navy — John Reid, John Pennell, and Richard Wilson. The reader will excuse our doing so, but we desire to record how much they were esteemed, and how thankful we felt for their good behaviour. The weather was delightfully cool; and, with full confidence in those left behind, it was with light hearts we turned our faces north. Mr. Rae accompanied us a day in front; and, as all our party had earnestly advised that at least two Europeans should be associated together on the journey, the steward was at the last moment taken. Mr. Rae returned to get the “Lady Nyassa” ready for sea; and, as she drew less water than the “Pioneer,” take her down to the ocean in October. One reason for taking the steward is worth recording. Both he and a man named King, 5 who, though only a leading stoker in the Navy, had been a promising student in the University of Aberdeen, had got into that weak bloodless-looking state which residence in the lowlands without much to do or think about often induces. The best thing for this is change and an active life. A couple of days’ march only as far as the Mukuru–Madse, infused so much vigour into King that he was able to walk briskly back. Consideration for the steward’s health led to his being selected for this northern journey, and the measure was so completely successful that it was often, in the hard march, a subject of regret that King had not been taken too. A removal of only a hundred yards is sometimes so beneficial that it ought in severe cases never to be omitted.
Our object now was to get away to the N.N.W., proceed parallel with Lake Nyassa, but at a considerable distance west of it, and thus pass by the Mazitu or Zulus near its northern end without contact — ascertain whether any large river flowed into the Lake from the west — visit Lake Moelo, if time permitted, and collect information about the trade on the great slave route, which crosses the Lake at its southern end, and at Tsenga and Kota-kota. The Makololo were eager to travel fast, because they wanted to be back in time to hoe their fields before the rains, and also because their wives needed looking after.
In going in the first instance N.E. from the uppermost Cataract, we followed in a measure the great bend of the river towards the foot of Mount Zomba. Here we had a view of its most imposing side, the west, with the plateau some 3000 feet high, stretching away to its south, and Mounts Chiradzuru and Mochiru towering aloft to the sky. From that goodly highland station, it was once hoped by the noble Mackenzie, who, for largeness of heart and loving disposition, really deserved to be called the “Bishop of Central Africa,” that light and liberty would spread to all the interior. We still think it may be a centre for civilizing influences; for any one descending from these cool heights, and stepping into a boat on the Upper Shire, can sail three hundred miles without a check into the heart of Africa.
We passed through a tract of country covered with mopane trees, where the hard baked soil refused to let the usual thick crops of grass grow; and here we came upon very many tracks of buffaloes, elephants, antelopes, and the spoor of one lion. An ox we drove along with us, as provision for the way, was sorely bitten by the tsetse. The effect of the bite was, as usual, quite apparent two days afterwards, in the general flaccidity of the muscles, the drooping ears, and looks of illness. It always excited our wonder that we, who were frequently much bitten too by the same insects, felt no harm from their attacks. Man shares the immunity of the wild animals.
Finding a few people on the evening of the 20th of August, who were supporting a wretched existence on tamarinds and mice, we ascertained that there was no hope of our being able to buy food anywhere nearer than the Lakelet Pamalombe, where the Ajawa chief, Kainka, was now living; but that plenty could be found with the Maravi female chief, Nyango. We turned away north-westwards, and struck the stream Ribve-ribve, or Rivi-rivi, which rises in the Maravi range, and flows into the Shire.
As the Rivi-rivi came from the N.W. we continued to travel along its banks, until we came to people who had successfully defended themselves against the hordes of the Ajawa. By employing the men of one village to go forward and explain who we were to the next, we managed to prevent the frightened inhabitants from considering us a fresh party of Ajawa, or of Portuguese slaving agents. Here they had cultivated maize, and were willing to sell, but no persuasion could induce them to give us guides to the chieftainess, Nyango. They evidently felt that we were not to be trusted; though, as we had to certify to our own character, our companions did not fail “to blow our own trumpet,” with blasts in which modesty was quite out of the question. To allay suspicion, we had at last to refrain from mentioning the lady’s name.
It would be wearisome to repeat the names of the villages we passed on our way to the north-west. One was the largest we ever saw in Africa, and quite deserted, with the usual sad sight of many skeletons lying about. Another was called Tette. We know three places of this name, which fact shows it to be a native word; it seems to mean a place where the water rushes over rocks. A third village was called Chipanga (a great work), a name identical with the Shupanga of the Portuguese. This repetition of names may indicate that the same people first took these epithets in their traditional passage from north to south.
At this season of the year the nights are still cold, and the people, having no crops to occupy their attention, do not stir out till long after the sun is up. At other times they are off to their fields before the day dawns, and the first sound one hears is the loud talking of men and women, in which they usually indulge in the dark to scare off beasts by the sound of the human voice. When no work is to be done, the first warning of approaching day is the hemp-smoker’s loud ringing cough.
Having been delayed one morning by some negotiation about guides, who were used chiefly to introduce us to other villages, we two whites walked a little way ahead, taking the direction of the stream. The men having been always able to find out our route by the prints of our shoes, we went on for a number of miles. This time, however, they lost our track, and failed to follow us. The path was well marked by elephants, hyenas, pallahs, and zebras, but for many a day no human foot had trod it. When the sun went down a deserted hamlet was reached, where we made comfortable beds for ourselves of grass. Firing muskets to attract the attention of those who have strayed is the usual resource in these cases. On this occasion the sound of firearms tended to mislead us; for, hearing shots next morning, a long weary march led us only to some native hunters, who had been shooting buffaloes. Returning to a small village, we met with some people who remembered our passing up to the Lake in the boat; they were as kind as they could be. The only food they possessed was tamarinds, prepared with ashes, and a little cowitch meal. The cowitch, as mentioned before, has a velvety brown covering of minute prickles, which, if touched, enter the pores of the skin and cause a painful tingling. The women in times of scarcity collect the pods, kindle a fire of grass over them to destroy the prickles, then steep the beans till they begin to sprout, wash them in pure water, and either boil them or pound them into meal, which resembles our bean-meal. This plant climbs up the long grass, and abounds in all reedy parts, and, though a plague to the traveller who touches its pods, it performs good service in times of famine by saving many a life from starvation. Its name here is Kitedzi.
Having travelled at least twenty miles in search of our party that day, our rest on a mat in the best hut of the village was very sweet. We had dined the evening before on a pigeon each, and had eaten only a handful of kitedzi porridge this afternoon. The good wife of the village took a little corn which she had kept for seed, ground it after dark, and made it into porridge. This, and a cup of wild vegetables of a sweetish taste for a relish, a little boy brought in and put down, with several vigorous claps of his hands, in the manner which is esteemed polite, and which is strictly enjoined on all children.
On the third day of separation, Akosanjere, the headman of this village, conducted us forward to our party who had gone on to Nseze, a district to the westward. This incident is mentioned, not for any interest it possesses, apart from the idea of the people it conveys. We were completely separated from our men for nearly three days, and had nothing wherewith to purchase food. The people were sorely pressed by famine and war, and their hospitality, poor as it was, did them great credit, and was most grateful to us. Our own men had become confused and wandered, but had done their utmost to find us; on our rejoining them, the ox was slain, and all, having been on short commons, rejoiced in this “day of slaughter.” Akosanjere was, of course, rewarded to his heart’s content.
As we pursued our way, we came close up to a range of mountains, the most prominent peak of which is called Mvai. This is a great, bare, rounded block of granite shooting up from the rest of the chain. It and several other masses of rock are of a light grey colour, with white patches, as if of lichens; the sides and summits are generally thinly covered with rather scraggy trees. There are several other prominent peaks — one, for instance, still further north, called Chirobve. Each has a name, but we could never ascertain that there was an appellation which applied to the whole. This fact, and our wish to commemorate the name of Dr. Kirk, induced us afterwards, when we could not discover a particular peak mentioned to us formerly as Molomo-ao-koku, or Cock’s-bill, to call the whole chain from the west of the Cataracts up to the north end of the Lake, “Kirk’s Range.” The part we slept at opposite Mvai was named Paudio, and was evidently a continuation of the district of one of our stations on the Shire, at which observations for latitude were formerly taken.
Leaving Paudio, we had Kirk’s Range close on our left and at least 3000 feet above us, and probably not less than 5000 feet above the sea. Far to our right extended a long green wooded country rising gradually up to a ridge, ornamented with several detached mountains, which bounded the Shire Valley. In front, northwards, lay a valley as rich and lovely as we ever saw anywhere, terminating at the mountains, which, stretched away some thirty miles beyond our range of vision and ended at Cape Maclear. The groups of trees had never been subjected to the landscape gardener’s art; but had been cut down mercilessly, just as suited the convenience of the cultivator; yet the various combinations of open forest, sloping woodland, grassy lawns, and massive clumps of dark green foliage along the running streams, formed as beautiful a landscape as could be seen on the Thames. This valley is named Goa or Gova, and as we moved through it we found that what was smooth to the eye was very much furrowed by running streams winding round innumerable knolls. These little brooklets came down from the range on our left, and the water was deliciously cool.
When we came abreast of the peak Chirobve, the people would no longer give us guides. They were afraid of their enemies, whose dwellings we now had on our east; and, proceeding without any one to lead us, or to introduce us to the inhabitants, we were perplexed by all the paths running zigzag across instead of along the valley. They had been made by the villagers going from the hamlets on the slopes to their gardens in the meadows below. To add to our difficulties, the rivulets and mountain-torrents had worn gullies some thirty or forty feet deep, with steep sides that could not be climbed except at certain points. The remaining inhabitants on the flank of the range when they saw strangers winding from side to side, and often attempting to cross these torrent beds at impossible places, screamed out their shrill war-alarm, and made the valley ring with their wild outcries. It was war, and war alone, and we were too deep down in the valley to make our voices heard in explanation. Fortunately, they had burned off the long grass to a great extent. It only here and there hid them from us. Selecting an open spot, we spent a night regarded by all around us as slave-hunters, but were undisturbed, though the usual way of treating an enemy in this part of the country is by night attack.
The nights at the altitude of the valley were cool, the lowest temperature shown being 37 degrees; at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. it was 58 degrees, about the average temperature of the day; at mid-day 82 degrees, and sunset 70 degrees. Our march was very much hindered by the imperfectly burned corn and grass stalks having fallen across the paths. To a reader in England this will seem a very small obstacle. But he must fancy the grass stems as thick as his little finger, and the corn-stalks like so many walkingsticks lying in one direction, and so supporting each other that one has to lift his feet up as when wading through deep high heather. The stems of grass showed the causes of certain explosions as loud as pistols, which are heard when the annual fires come roaring over the land. The heated air inside expanding bursts the stalk with a loud report, and strews the fragments on the ground.
A very great deal of native corn had been cultivated here, and we saw buffaloes feeding in the deserted gardens, and some women, who ran away very much faster than the beasts did.
On the 29th, seeing some people standing under a tree by a village, we sat down, and sent Masego, one of our party, to communicate. The headman, Matunda, came back with him, bearing a calabash with water for us. He said that all the people had fled from the Ajawa, who had only just desisted from their career of pillage on being paid five persons as a fine for some offence for which they had commenced the invasion. Matunda had plenty of grain to sell, and all the women were soon at work grinding it into meal. We secured an abundant supply, and four milk goats. The Manganja goat is of a very superior breed to the general African animal, being short in the legs and having a finely-shaped broad body. By promising the Makololo that, when we no longer needed the milk, they should have the goats to improve the breed of their own at home, they were induced to take the greatest possible care of both goats and kids in driving and pasturing.
After leaving Matunda, we came to the end of the highland valley; and, before descending a steep declivity of a thousand feet towards the part which may be called the heel of the Lake, we had the bold mountains of Cape Maclear on our right, with the blue water at their base, the hills of Tsenga in the distance in front, and Kirk’s Range on our left, stretching away northwards, and apparently becoming lower. As we came down into a fine rich undulating valley, many perennial streams running to the east from the hills on our left were crossed, while all those behind us on the higher ground seemed to unite in one named Lekue, which flowed into the Lake.
After a long day’s march in the valley of the Lake, where the temperature was very much higher than in that we had just left, we entered the village of Katosa, which is situated on the bank of a stream among gigantic timber trees, and found there a large party of Ajawa — Waiau, they called themselves — all armed with muskets. We sat down among them, and were soon called to the chiefs court, and presented with an ample mess of porridge, buffalo meat, and beer. Katosa was more frank than any Manganja chief we had met, and complimented us by saying that “we must be his ‘Bazimo’ (good spirits of his ancestors); for when he lived at Pamalombe, we lighted upon him from above — men the like of whom he had never seen before, and coming he knew not whence.” He gave us one of his own large and clean huts to sleep in; and we may take this opportunity of saying that the impression we received, from our first journey on the hills among the villages of Chisunse, of the excessive dirtiness of the Manganja, was erroneous. This trait was confined to the cool highlands. Here crowds of men and women were observed to perform their ablutions daily in the stream that ran past their villages; and this we have observed elsewhere to be a common custom with both Manganja and Ajawa.
Before we started on the morning of the 1st September, Katosa sent an enormous calabash of beer, containing at least three gallons, and then came and wished us to “stop a day and eat with him.” On explaining to him the reasons for our haste, he said that he was in the way by which travellers usually passed, he never stopped them in their journeys, but would like to look at us for a day. On our promising to rest a little with him on our return, he gave us about two pecks of rice, and three guides to conduct us to a subordinate female chief, Nkwinda, living on the borders of the Lake in front.
The Ajawa, from having taken slaves down to Quillimane and Mosambique, knew more of us than Katosa did. Their muskets were carefully polished, and never out of these slaver’s hands for a moment, though in the chiefs presence. We naturally felt apprehensive that we should never see Katosa again. A migratory afflatus seems to have come over the Ajawa tribes. Wars among themselves, for the supply of the Coast slave-trade, are said to have first set them in motion. The usual way in which they have advanced among the Manganja has been by slave-trading in a friendly way. Then, professing to wish to live as subjects, they have been welcomed as guests, and the Manganja, being great agriculturists, have been able to support considerable bodies of these visitors for a time. When the provisions became scarce, the guests began to steal from the fields; quarrels arose in consequence, and, the Ajawa having firearms, their hosts got the worst of it, and were expelled from village after village, and out of their own country. The Manganja were quite as bad in regard to slave-trading as the Ajawa, but had less enterprise, and were much more fond of the home pursuits of spinning, weaving, smelting iron, and cultivating the soil, than of foreign travel. The Ajawa had little of a mechanical turn, and not much love for agriculture, but were very keen traders and travellers. This party seemed to us to be in the first or friendly stage of intercourse with Katosa; and, as we afterwards found, he was fully alive to the danger.
Our course was shaped towards the N.W., and we traversed a large fertile tract of rich soil extensively cultivated, but dotted with many gigantic thorny acacias which had proved too large for the little axes of the cultivators. After leaving Nkwinda, the first village we spent a night at in the district Ngabi was that of Chembi, and it had a stockade around it. The Azitu or Mazitu were said to be ravaging the country to the west of us, and no one was safe except in a stockade. We have so often, in travelling, heard of war in front, that we paid little attention to the assertion of Chembi, that the whole country to the N.W. was in flight before these Mazitu, under a chief with the rather formidable name of Mowhiriwhiri; we therefore resolved to go on to Chinsamba’s, still further in the same direction, and hear what he said about it.
The only instrument of husbandry here is the short-handled hoe; and about Tette the labour of tilling the soil, as represented in the woodcut, is performed entirely by female slaves. On the West Coast a double-handled hoe is employed. Here the small hoe is seen in the hands of both men and women. In other parts of Africa a hoe with a handle four feet long is used, but the plough is quite unknown.
In illustration of the manner in which the native knowledge of agriculture strikes an honest intelligent observer, it may be mentioned that the first time good Bishop Mackenzie beheld how well the fields of the Manganja were cultivated on the hills, he remarked to Dr. Livingstone, then his fellow-traveller —“When telling the people in England what were my objects in going out to Africa, I stated that, among other things, I meant to teach these people agriculture; but I now see that they know far more about it than I do.” This, we take it, was an honest straightforward testimony, and we believe that every unprejudiced witness, who has an opportunity of forming an opinion of Africans who have never been debased by slavery, will rank them very much higher in the scale of intelligence, industry, and manhood, than others who know them only in a state of degradation.
On coming near Chinsamba’s two stockades, on the banks of the Lintipe, we were told that the Mazitu had been repulsed there the day before, and we had evidence of the truth of the report of the attack in the sad sight of the bodies of the slain. The Zulus had taken off large numbers of women laden with corn; and, when driven back, had cut off the ears of a male prisoner, as a sort of credential that he had been with the Mazitu, and with grim humour sent him to tell Chinsamba “to take good care of the corn in the stockades, for they meant to return for it in a month or two.”
Chinsamba’s people were drumming with might and main on our arrival, to express their joy at their deliverance from the Mazitu. The drum is the chief instrument of music among the Manganja, and with it they express both their joy and grief. They excel in beating time. Chinsamba called us into a very large hut, and presented us with a huge basket of beer. The glare of sunlight from which we had come enabled him, in diplomatic fashion, to have a good view of us before our eyes became enough accustomed to the dark inside to see him. He has a Jewish cast of countenance, or rather the ancient Assyrian face, as seen in the monuments brought to the British Museum by Mr. Layard. This form of face is very common in this country, and leads to the belief that the true type of the negro is not that met on the West Coast, from which most people have derived their ideas of the African.
Chinsamba had many Abisa or Babisa in his stockade, and it was chiefly by the help of their muskets that he had repulsed the Mazitu: these Babisa are great travellers and traders.
We liked Chinsamba very well, and found that he was decidedly opposed to our risking our lives by going further to the N.W. The Mazitu were believed to occupy all the hills in that direction, so we spent the 4th of September with him.
It is rather a minute thing to mention, and it will only be understood by those who have children of their own, but the cries of the little ones, in their infant sorrows, are the same in tone, at different ages, here as all over the world. We have been perpetually reminded of home and family by the wailings which were once familiar to parental ears and heart, and felt thankful that to the sorrows of childhood our children would never have superadded the heartrending woes of the slave-trade.
Taking Chinsamba’s advice to avoid the Mazitu in their marauding, we started on the 5th September away to the N.E., and passed mile after mile of native cornfields, with an occasional cotton-patch.
After a long march, we passed over a waterless plain about N.N.W. of the hills of Tsenga to a village on the Lake, and thence up its shores to Chitanda. The banks of the Lake were now crowded with fugitives, who had collected there for the poor protection which the reeds afforded. For miles along the water’s edge was one continuous village of temporary huts. The people had brought a little corn with them; but they said, “What shall we eat when that is done? When we plant corn, the wild beasts (Zinyama, as they call the Mazitu) come and take it. When we plant cassava, they do the same. How are we to live?” A poor blind woman, thinking we were Mazitu, rushed off in front of us with outspread arms, lifting the feet high, in the manner peculiar to those who have lost their sight, and jumped into the reeds of a stream for safety.
In our way along the shores we crossed several running rivulets of clear cold water, which, from having reeds at their confluences, had not been noticed in our previous exploration in the boat. One of these was called Mokola, and another had a strong odour of sulphuretted hydrogen. We reached Molamba on the 8th September, and found our old acquaintance, Nkomo, there still. One of the advantages of travelling along the shores of the Lake was, that we could bathe anywhere in its clear fresh water. To us, who had been obliged so often to restrain our inclination in the Zambesi and Shire for fear of crocodiles, this was pleasant beyond measure. The water now was of the same temperature as it was on our former visit, or 72 degrees Fahr. The immense depth of the Lake prevents the rays of the sun from raising the temperature as high as that of the Shire and Zambesi; and the crocodiles, having always clear water in the Lake, and abundance of fish, rarely attack man; many of these reptiles could be seen basking on the rocks.
A day’s march beyond Molamba brought us to the lakelet Chia, which lies parallel with the Lake. It is three or four miles long, by from one to one and a half broad, and communicates with the Lake by an arm of good depth, but with some rocks in it. As we passed up between the Lake and the eastern shore of this lakelet, we did not see any streams flowing into it. It is quite remarkable for the abundance of fish; and we saw upwards of fifty large canoes engaged in the fishery, which is carried on by means of hand-nets with side-frame poles about seven feet long. These nets are nearly identical with those now in use in Normandy — the difference being that the African net has a piece of stick lashed across the handle-ends of the side poles to keep them steady, which is a great improvement. The fish must be very abundant to be scooped out of the water in such quantities as we saw, and by so many canoes. There is quite a trade here in dried fish.
The country around is elevated, undulating, and very extensively planted with cassava. The hoe in use has a handle of four feet in length, and the iron part is exactly of the same form as that in the country of the Bechuanas. The baskets here, which are so closely woven together as to hold beer, are the same with those employed to hold milk in Kaffirland — a thousand miles distant.
Marching on foot is peculiarly conducive to meditation — one is glad of any subject to occupy the mind, and relieve the monotony of the weary treadmill-like trudge-trudging. This Chia net brought to our mind that the smith’s bellows made here of a goatskin bag, with sticks along the open ends, are the same as those in use in the Bechuana country far to the south-west. These, with the long-handled hoe, may only show that each successive horde from north to south took inventions with it from the same original source. Where that source may have been is probably indicated by another pair of bellows, which we observed below the Victoria Falls, being found in Central India and among the Gipsies of Europe.
Men in remote times may have had more highly-developed instincts, which enabled them to avoid or use poisons; but the late Archbishop Whately has proved, that wholly untaught savages never could invent anything, or even subsist at all. Abundant corroboration of his arguments is met with in this country, where the natives require but little in the way of clothing, and have remarkably hardy stomachs. Although possessing a knowledge of all the edible roots and fruits in the country, having hoes to dig with, and spears, bows, and arrows to kill the game — we have seen that, notwithstanding all these appliances and means to boot, they have perished of absolute starvation.
The art of making fire is the same in India as in Africa. The smelting furnaces, for reducing iron and copper from the ores, are also similar. Yellow haematite, which bears not the smallest resemblance either in colour or weight to the metal, is employed near Kolobeng for the production of iron. Malachite, the precious green stone used in civilized life for vases, would never be suspected by the uninstructed to be a rich ore of copper, and yet it is extensively smelted for rings and other ornaments in the heart of Africa. A copper bar of native manufacture four feet long was offered to us for sale at Chinsamba’s. These arts are monuments attesting the fact, that some instruction from above must at some time or other have been supplied to mankind; and, as Archbishop Whately says, “the most probable conclusion is, that man when first created, or very shortly afterwards, was advanced, by the Creator Himself, to a state above that of a mere savage.”
The argument for an original revelation to man, though quite independent of the Bible history, tends to confirm that history. It is of the same nature with this, that man could not have MADE himself, and therefore must have had a Divine CREATOR. Mankind could not, in the first instance, have CIVILIZED themselves, and therefore must have had a superhuman INSTRUCTOR.
In connection with this subject, it is remarkable that throughout successive generations no change has taken place in the form of the various inventions. Hammers, tongs, hoes, axes, adzes, handles to them; needles, bows and arrows, with the mode of feathering the latter; spears, for killing game, with spear-heads having what is termed “dish” on both sides to give them, when thrown, the rotatory motion of rifle-balls; the arts of spinning and weaving, with that of pounding and steeping the inner bark of a tree till it serves as clothing; millstones for grinding corn into meal; the manufacture of the same kind of pots or chatties as in India; the art of cooking, of brewing beer and straining it as was done in ancient Egypt; fish-hooks, fishing and hunting nets, fish-baskets, and weirs, the same as in the Highlands of Scotland; traps for catching animals, etc., etc. — have all been so very permanent from age to age, and some of them of identical patterns are so widely spread over the globe, as to render it probable that they were all, at least in some degree, derived from one Source. The African traditions, which seem possessed of the same unchangeability as the arts to which they relate, like those of all other nations refer their origin to a superior Being. And it is much more reasonable to receive the hints given in Genesis, concerning direct instruction from God to our first parents or their children in religious or moral duty, and probably in the knowledge of the arts of life, 6 than to give credence to the theory that untaught savage man subsisted in a state which would prove fatal to all his descendants, and that in such helpless state he made many inventions which most of his progeny retained, but never improved upon during some thirty centuries.
We crossed in canoes the arm of the Lake, which joins Chia to Nyassa, and spent the night on its northern bank. The whole country adjacent to the Lake, from this point up to Kota-kota Bay, is densely peopled by thousands who have fled from the forays of the Mazitu in hopes of protection from the Arabs who live there. In three running rivulets we saw the Shuare palm, and an oil palm which is much inferior to that on the West Coast. Though somewhat similar in appearance, the fruit is not much larger than hazel-nuts, and the people do not use them, on account of the small quantity of oil which they afford.
The idea of using oil for light never seems to have entered the African mind. Here a bundle of split and dried bamboo, tied together with creeping plants, as thick as a man’s body, and about twenty feet in length, is employed in the canoes as a torch to attract the fish at night. It would be considered a piece of the most wasteful extravagance to burn the oil they obtain from the castor-oil bean and other seeds, and also from certain fish, or in fact to do anything with it but anoint their heads and bodies.
We arrived at Kota-kota Bay in the afternoon of the 10th September, 1863; and sat down under a magnificent wild fig-tree with leaves ten inches long, by five broad, about a quarter of a mile from the village of Juma ben Saidi, and Yakobe ben Arame, whom we had met on the River Kaombe, a little north of this, in our first exploration of the Lake. We had rested but a short time when Juma, who is evidently the chief person here, followed by about fifty people, came to salute us and to invite us to take up our quarters in his village. The hut which, by mistake, was offered, was so small and dirty, that we preferred sleeping in an open space a few hundred yards off.
Juma afterwards apologized for the mistake, and presented us with rice, meal, sugar-cane, and a piece of malachite. We returned his visit on the following day, and found him engaged in building a dhow or Arab vessel, to replace one which he said had been wrecked. This new one was fifty feet long, twelve feet broad, and five feet deep. The planks were of a wood like teak, here called Timbati, and the timbers of a closer grained wood called Msoro. The sight of this dhow gave us a hint which, had we previously received it, would have prevented our attempting to carry a vessel of iron past the Cataracts. The trees around Katosa’s village were Timbati, and they would have yielded planks fifty feet long and thirty inches broad. With a few native carpenters a good vessel could be built on the Lake nearly as quickly as one could be carried past the Cataracts, and at a vastly less cost. Juma said that no money would induce him to part with this dhow. He was very busy in transporting slaves across the Lake by means of two boats, which we saw returning from a trip in the afternoon. As he did not know of our intention to visit him, we came upon several gangs of stout young men slaves, each secured by the neck to one common chain, waiting for exportation, and several more in slave-sticks. These were all civilly removed before our interview was over, because Juma knew that we did not relish the sight.
When we met the same Arabs in 1861, they had but few attendants: according to their own account, they had now, in the village and adjacent country, 1500 souls. It is certain that tens of thousands had flocked to them for protection, and all their power and influence must be attributed to the possession of guns and gunpowder. This crowding of refugees to any point where there is a hope for security for life and property is very common in this region, and the knowledge of it made our hopes beat high for the success of a peaceful Mission on the shores of the Lake. The rate, however, in which the people here will perish by the next famine, or be exported by Juma and others, will, we fear, depopulate those parts which we have just described as crowded with people. Hunger will ere long compel them to sell each other. An intelligent man complained to us of the Arabs often seizing slaves, to whom they took a fancy, without the formality of purchase; but the price is so low — from two to four yards of calico — that one can scarcely think this seizure and exportation without payment worth their while. The boats were in constant employment, and, curiously enough, Ben Habib, whom we met at Linyanti in 1855, had been taken across the Lake, the day before our arrival at this Bay, on his way from Sesheke to Kilwa, and we became acquainted with a native servant of the Arabs, called Selele Saidallah, who could speak the Makololo language pretty fairly from having once spent some months in the Barotse Valley.
From boyhood upwards we have been accustomed, from time to time, to read in books of travels about the great advances annually made by Mohammedanism in Africa. The rate at which this religion spreads was said to be so rapid, that in after days, in our own pretty extensive travels, we have constantly been on the look out for the advancing wave from North to South, which, it was prophesied, would soon reduce the entire continent to the faith of the false prophet. The only foundation that we can discover for the assertions referred to, and for others of more recent date, is the fact that in a remote corner of North–Western Africa the Fulahs, and Mandingoes, and some others in Northern Africa, as mentioned by Dr. Barth, have made conquests of territory; but even they care so very little for the extension of their faith, that after the conquest no pains whatever are taken to indoctrinate the adults of the tribe. This is in exact accordance with the impression we have received from our intercourse with Mohammedans and Christians. The followers of Christ alone are anxious to propagate their faith. A quasi philanthropist would certainly never need to recommend the followers of Islam, whom we have met, to restrain their benevolence by preaching that “Charity should begin at home.”
Though Selele and his companions were bound to their masters by domestic ties, the only new idea they had imbibed from Mohammedanism was, that it would be wrong to eat meat killed by other people. They thought it would be “unlucky.” Just as the inhabitants of Kolobeng, before being taught the requirements of Christianity, refrained from hoeing their gardens on Sundays, lest they should reap an unlucky crop. So far as we could learn, no efforts had been made to convert the natives, though these two Arabs, and about a dozen half-castes, had been in the country for many years; and judging from our experience with a dozen Mohammedans in our employ at high wages for sixteen months, the Africans would be the better men in proportion as they retained their native faith. This may appear only a harsh judgment from a mind imbued with Christian prejudices; but without any pretention to that impartiality, which leaves it doubtful to which side the affections lean, the truth may be fairly stated by one who viewed all Mohammedans and Africans with the sincerest good will.
Our twelve Mohammedans from Johanna were the least open of any of our party to impression from kindness. A marked difference in general conduct was apparent. The Makololo, and other natives of the country, whom we had with us, invariably shared with each other the food they had cooked, but the Johanna men partook of their meals at a distance. This, at first, we attributed to their Moslem prejudices; but when they saw the cooking process of the others nearly complete, they came, sat beside them, and ate the portion offered without ever remembering to return the compliment when their own turn came to be generous. The Makololo and the others grumbled at their greediness, yet always followed the common custom of Africans of sharing their food with all who sit around them. What vexed us most in the Johanna men was their indifference to the welfare of each other. Once, when they were all coming to the ship after sleeping ashore, one of them walked into the water with the intention of swimming off to the boat, and while yet hardly up to his knees was seized by a horrid crocodile and dragged under; the poor fellow gave a shriek, and held up his hand for aid, but none of his countrymen stirred to his assistance, and he was never seen again. On asking his brother-inlaw why he did not help him, he replied, “Well, no one told him to go into the water. It was his own fault that he was killed.” The Makololo on the other hand rescued a woman at Senna by entering the water, and taking her out of the crocodile’s mouth.
It is not assumed that their religion had much to do in the matter. Many Mohammedans might contrast favourably with indifferent Christians; but, so far as our experience in East Africa goes, the moral tone of the follower of Mahomed is pitched at a lower key than that of the untutored African. The ancient zeal for propagating the tenets of the Koran has evaporated, and been replaced by the most intense selfishness and grossest sensuality. The only known efforts made by Mohammedans, namely, those in the North–West and North of the continent, are so linked with the acquisition of power and plunder, as not to deserve the name of religious propagandism; and the only religion that now makes proselytes is that of Jesus Christ. To those who are capable of taking a comprehensive view of this subject, nothing can be adduced of more telling significance than the well-attested fact, that while the Mohammedans, Fulahs, and others towards Central Africa, make a few proselytes by a process which gratifies their own covetousness, three small sections of the Christian converts, the Africans in the South, in the West Indies, and on the West Coast of Africa actually contribute for the support and spread of their religion upwards of 15,000 pounds annually. 7 That religion which so far overcomes the selfishness of the human heart must be Divine.
Leaving Kota-kota Bay, we turned away due West on the great slave route to Katanga’s and Cazembe’s country in Londa. Juma lent us his servant, Selele, to lead us the first day’s march. He said that the traders from Kilwa and Iboe cross the Lake either at this bay, or at Tsenga, or at the southern end of the Lake; and that wherever they may cross they all go by this path to the interior. They have slaves with them to carry their goods, and when they reach a spot where they can easily buy others, they settle down and begin the traffic, and at once cultivate grain. So much of the land lies waste, that no objection is ever made to any one taking possession of as much as he needs; they can purchase a field of cassava for their present wants for very little, and they continue trading in the country for two or three years, and giving what weight their muskets possess to the chief who is most liberal to them.
The first day’s march led us over a rich, well-cultivated plain. This was succeeded by highlands, undulating, stony, and covered with scraggy trees. Many banks of well rounded shingle appear. The disintegration of the rocks, now going on, does not round off the angles; they are split up by the heat and cold into angular fragments. On these high downs we crossed the River Kaombe. Beyond it we came among the upland vegetation — rhododendrons, proteas, the masuko, and molompi. At the foot of the hill, Kasuko-suko, we found the River Bua running north to join the Kaombe. We had to go a mile out of our way for a ford; the stream is deep enough in parts for hippopotami. The various streams not previously noticed, crossed in this journey, had before this led us to the conclusion, independently of the testimony of the natives, that no large river ran into the north end of the Lake. No such affluent was needed to account for the Shire’s perennial flow.
On September 15th we reached the top of the ascent which, from its many ups and downs, had often made us puff and blow as if broken-winded. The water of the streams we crossed was deliciously cold, and now that we had gained the summit at Ndonda, where the boiling-point of water showed an altitude of 3440 feet above the sea, the air was delightful. Looking back we had a magnificent view of the Lake, but the haze prevented our seeing beyond the sea horizon. The scene was beautiful, but it was impossible to dissociate the lovely landscape whose hills and dales had so sorely tried our legs and lungs, from the sad fact that this was part of the great slave route now actually in use. By this road many “Ten thousands” have here seen “the Sea,” “the Sea,” but with sinking hearts; for the universal idea among the captive gangs is, that they are going to be fattened and eaten by the whites. They cannot of course be so much shocked as we should be — their sensibilities are far from fine, their feelings are more obtuse than ours — in fact, “the live eels are used to being skinned,” perhaps they rather like it. We who are not philosophic, blessed the Providence which at Thermopylae in ancient days rolled back the tide of Eastern conquest from the West, and so guided the course of events that light and liberty and gospel truth spread to our distant isle, and emancipating our race freed them from the fear of ever again having to climb fatiguing heights and descend wearisome hollows in a slave-gang, as we suppose they did when the fair English youths were exposed for sale at Rome.
Looking westwards we perceived that, what from below had the appearance of mountains, was only the edge of a table-land which, though at first undulating, soon became smooth, and sloped towards the centre of the country. To the south a prominent mountain called Chipata, and to the south-west another named Ngalla, by which the Bua is said to rise, gave character to the landscape. In the north, masses of hills prevented our seeing more than eight or ten miles.
The air which was so exhilarating to Europeans had an opposite effect on five men who had been born and reared in the malaria of the Delta of the Zambesi. No sooner did they reach the edge of the plateau at Ndonda, than they lay down prostrate, and complained of pains all over them. The temperature was not much lower than that on the shores of the Lake below, 76 degrees being the mean temperature of the day, 52 degrees the lowest, and 82 degrees the highest during the twenty-four hours; at the Lake it was about l0 degrees higher. Of the symptoms they complained of — pains everywhere — nothing could be made. And yet it was evident that they had good reason for saying that they were ill. They scarified almost every part of their bodies as a remedial measure; medicines, administered on the supposition that their malady was the effect of a sudden chill, had no effect, and in two days one of them actually died in consequence of, as far as we could judge, a change from a malarious to a purer and more rarefied atmosphere.
As we were on the slave route, we found the people more churlish than usual. On being expostulated with about it, they replied, “We have been made wary by those who come to buy slaves.” The calamity of death having befallen our party, seemed, however, to awaken their sympathies. They pointed out their usual burying-place, lent us hoes, and helped to make the grave. When we offered to pay all expenses, they showed that they had not done these friendly offices without fully appreciating their value; for they enumerated the use of the hut, the mat on which the deceased had lain, the hoes, the labour, and the medicine which they had scattered over the place to make him rest in peace.
The primitive African faith seems to be that there is one Almighty Maker of heaven and earth; that he has given the various plants of earth to man to be employed as mediators between him and the spirit world, where all who have ever been born and died continue to live; that sin consists in offences against their fellow-men, either here or among the departed, and that death is often a punishment of guilt, such as witchcraft. Their idea of moral evil differs in no respect from ours, but they consider themselves amenable only to inferior beings, not to the Supreme. Evil-speaking — lying — hatred — disobedience to parents — neglect of them — are said by the intelligent to have been all known to be sin, as well as theft, murder, or adultery, before they knew aught of Europeans or their teaching. The only new addition to their moral code is, that it is wrong to have more wives than one. This, until the arrival of Europeans, never entered into their minds even as a doubt.
Everything not to be accounted for by common causes, whether of good or evil, is ascribed to the Deity. Men are inseparably connected with the spirits of the departed, and when one dies he is believed to have joined the hosts of his ancestors. All the Africans we have met with are as firmly persuaded of their future existence as of their present life. And we have found none in whom the belief in the Supreme Being was not rooted. He is so invariably referred to as the Author of everything supernatural, that, unless one is ignorant of their language, he cannot fail to notice this prominent feature of their faith. When they pass into the unseen world, they do not seem to be possessed with the fear of punishment. The utensils placed upon the grave are all broken as if to indicate that they will never be used by the departed again. The body is put into the grave in a sitting posture, and the hands are folded in front. In some parts of the country there are tales which we could translate into faint glimmerings of a resurrection; but whether these fables, handed down from age to age, convey that meaning to the natives themselves we cannot tell. The true tradition of faith is asserted to be “though a man die he will live again;” the false that when he dies he is dead for ever.
5 A brother, we believe, of one who accompanied Burke and Willis in the famous but unfortunate Australian Expedition.
6 Genesis, chap. iii., verses 21 and 23, “make coats of skins, and clothed them”—“sent him forth from the garden of Eden to till the ground” imply teaching. Vide Archbishop Whately’s “History of Religious Worship.” John W. Parker, West Strand, London, 1849.
7 “In 1854 the native church at Sierra–Leone undertook to pay for their primary schools, and thereby effected a saving to the Church Missionary Society of 800 pounds per annum. In 1861 the contributions of this one section of native Christians had amounted to upwards of 10,000 pounds.”—“Manual of Church Missionary Society’s African Missions.”
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