David Livingstone.

Livingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : including a sketch of sixteen years' residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast, thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi to the eastern ocean online

. (page 10 of 36)
Online LibraryDavid LivingstoneLivingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : including a sketch of sixteen years' residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast, thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi to the eastern ocean → online text (page 10 of 36)
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amicable relations between the two tribes altogether. It
was a case in which a very small tribe, commanded by a
weak and foolish chief, had got possession of fire-arms, and
felt conscious of ability to cope with a numerous and war-

ANT-niLLS. 109

like race. Such cases are the only ones in which the pos-
session of fire-arms does evil. The universal effect of the dif-
fusion of the more potent instruments of warfare in Africa
le the same as among ourselves. Fire-arms render wars less
frequent and less bloody. It is indeed exceedingly rare to
hear of two tribes having guns going to war with each other;
and, as nearly all the feuds, in the south at least, have been
about cattle, the risk which must be incurred from long
shots generally proves a preventive to the foray.

The Makololo were prevailed upon to keep the peace
during my residence with them, but it was easy to per-
ceive that public opinion was against sparing a tribe of
Bechuanas for whom the Makololo entertained the most
sovereign contempt. The young men would remark,
"Lechulatebe is herding our cows for us; let us only go,
we shall 4ift' the price of them in sheep,'' &c.



Having waited a month at Linyanti, (lat. 18° 17' 20" S.,
long. 23° 50' 9" E.,) we again departed, for the purpose of
ascending the river from Sesheke, (lat. 17° 31' 38" S., long.
25° 13' E.) To the Barotse country, the capital of which
is Nariele or :N'aliele, (lat. 15° 24' 17" S., long. 23° 5' 54" E.,)
I went in company with Sekeletu and about one hundred
and sixty attendants. We had most of the young men
with us, and many of the under-chiefs besides. The country
between Linyanti and Sesheke is perfectly flat, except
patches elevated only a few feet above the surrounding
level. There are also many mounds where the gigantic
ant-hills of the country have been situated or still appear:
these mounds are evidently the work of the termites. No
one who has not seen their gigantic structures can fancy



the industry of these little laborers; they seem tc impart
fertility to the soil which has once passed through their
mouths, for the Makololo find the sides of ant-hills the
choice spots for rearing early maize, tobacco, or any thing
on which they wish to bestow especial care. We had the
Chobe on our right, with its scores of miles of reed occupy-
ing the horizon there. It was pleasant to look back on the
long extended line of our attendants, as it twisted and bent
according to the curves of the footpath, or in and out behind
the mounds, the ostrich-feathers of the men waving in tho
wind. Some had the white ends of ox-tails on their heads,
hussar fashion, and others great bunches of black ostrich-
feathers, or caps made of lions' manes. Some wore red
tunics, or various-colored prints which the chief had bought
from Fleming ; the common men carried burdens j the gen-
tlemen walked with a small club of rhinoceros-horn in their
hands, and had servants to carry their shields; while tho
^^Machaka," battle-axe men, carried their own, and were
liable at any time to be sent oif a hundred miles on an
errand, and expected to run all the way.

Sekeletu is always accompanied by his own Mopato, a
number of young men of his own age. When he sits down
they crowd around him ; those who are nearest eat out of
the same dish, for the Makololo chiefs pride themselves on
eating with their people. He eats a little, then beckons
his neighbors to partake. When they have done so, he
perhaps beckons to some one at a distance to take a share;
that person starts forward, seizes the pot, and removes it
to his own companions. The comrades of Sekeletu, wish
ing to imitate him in riding on my old horse, leaped on the
backs of a number of half-broken Batoka oxen as they ran;
but, having neither saddle nor bridle, the number of tumbles
they met with was a source of much amusement to the

When we arrived at any village, the women all turned
out to lulliloo their chief Their shrill voices, to which
they give a tremulous sound by a quick motion of tho


tongne, peal forth, "Great lion!" "Great chief!" "Sleep,
mv lord !" &c. The men utter similar salutations ; and
Sekeletu receives all with becoming indiifercnce. After a
few minutes' conversation and telling the news, the head
man of the village, who is almost always a Makololo, rises
and brings forth a number of large pots of beer. Cala-
bashes, being used as drinking-cups, are handed round, and
as many as can partake of the beverage do so, grasping
the vessels so eagerly that they are in danger of being

They bring forth also large pots and bowls of thick milk;
some contain six or eight gallons; and each of tnese, as
well as of the beer, is given to a particular person, who has
the power to divide it with whom he pleases. The head-
man of any section of the tribe is generally selected for
this office. Spoons not being generally in fashion, the milk
is conveyed to the mouth with the hand. I often presented
my friends with iron spoons, and it was curious to observe
how the habit of hand- eating prevailed, though they were
delighted with the spoons. They lifted out a little with
the utensil, then put it on the left hand, and ate it out of

As the Makololo have great abundance of cattle, and the
chief is expected to feed all who accompany him, he either
selects an ox or two of his own from the numerous cattle-
stations that he possesses at different spots all oyer the
country, or is presented by the head-men of the villagea
he visits with as many as he needs, by way of tribute. The
animals are killed by a thrust from a small javelin in the
region of the heart, the wound being purposely small in
order to avoid any loss of blood, which, with the internal
parts, are the perquisites of the men who perform the work
of the butcher; hence all are eager to render service in
that line. Each tribe has its own way of cutting up and
distribiiting an animal. Among the Makololo the hump
and ribs belong to the chief; among the Bakwains the
breast is his perquisite. After the oxen are cut up, the dif-


ferent joints are placed before Sekeletu, and he apportions
them among the gentlemen of the party. The whole is
rapidly divided by their attendants, cut into long strips,
and so many of these are thrown into the fires at once that
they are nearly put out. Half broiled and burning hot,
the meat is quickly handed round -, every one gets a mouth-
ful, but no one except the chief has time to masticate. It
is not the enjoyment of eating they aim at, but to get as
much of the food into the stomach as possible during the
fehort time the others are cramming as well as themselves,
for no one can eat more than a mouthful after the others
have finished. They are eminently gregarious in their
eating; and, as they despise any one who eats alone, I
always poured out two cups of coffee at my own meals, so
that the chief, or some one of the principal men, might
partake along with me. They all soon become very fond
of coffee; and, indeed, some of the tribes attribute greater
fecundity to the daily use of this beverage. They were all
well acquairrted with the sugarcane, as they cultivate it
in the Barotse country, but knew nothing of the method
of extracting the sugar from it. They use the cane only
for chewing. Sekeletu, relishing the sweet coffee and bis-
1 cuits, of which I then had a store, said ''he knew my heart

/\ loved him by finding his own heart warming to my food."

He had been visited during my absence at the Cape by
some traders and Griquas, and ^' their coffee did not taste
half so nice as mine, because they loved his ivory and not
himself." This was certainly an original mode of dis-
cerning character.

Sekeletu and I had each a little gipsy-tent in which to
sleep. The Makololo huts are generally clean, while those
of the Makalaka are infested with vermin. The cleanli-
ness of the former is owing to the habit of frequently
smearing the floors with a plaster composed of cow-dung
and earth. If we slept in the tent in some villa^s, the
mice ran over our faces and disturbed our sleep, or hungry
prowling dogs would eat our shoes and leave only the


soles. "Wnben they were guilty of this and other misde-
meanors, we got the loan of a hut. The best sort of Ma-
kololo huts consist of three circular walls, with small holes
as doors, each similar to that in a docj-house; and it w
necessary to bend down the body to get in, even when on
all-fours. The roof is formed of reeds or straight sticks,
in shape like a Chinaman's hat, bound firmly together with
circular bands, which are lashed with the strong inner
bark of the mimosa-tree. When all prepared except the
thatch, it is lifted on to the circular wall, the rim resting
on a circle of poles, between each of which the third wall
is built. The roof is thatched with fine grass, and sewed
with the same material as the lashings; and, as it projects
far beyond the walls, and reaches within four feet of the
ground, the shade is the best to be found in the country.
These huts are very cool in the hottest day, but are close
and deficient in ventilation by night.

The bed is a mat made of rushes sewn together *with
twine; the hip-bone soon becomes sore on the hard flat
surface, as we are not allowed to make a hole in the floor
to receive the prominent part called trochanter by ana-
tomists, as we do when sleeping on grass or sand.

Our course at this time led us to a part above Sesheke,
called Katonga, where there is a village belonging to a
Bashubia man named Sekhosi, — latitude 17° 29' 13", longi-
tude 24° 33'. The river here is somewhat broader than at
Sesheke, and certainly not less than six hundred yards.
It flows somewhat slowly in the first part of its eastern
course. "Wh^ the canoes came from Sekhosi to take us
over, one of the comrades of Sebituane rose, and, looking
to Sekeletu, called out, ''The elders of a host always take
iho lead in an attack." This was understood at once; and
Sekeletu, with all the young men, were obliged to give the
elders the precedence, and remain on the southern bank
and see that all went orderly into the canoes. It took a
considerable time to ferry over the whole of our largo

party, as, even with quick paddling, from six to eight
H J0»


minutes were spent in the mere passage from bank to

Several days were spent in collecting canoes from dif-
ferent villages on the river, which we now learned is called
by the whole of the Barotse the Liambai or Leeambye.
This we could not ascertain on our first visit, and, conse-
quently, called the river after the town " Sesheke." This
term Sesheke means "white sand-banks," many of which
exist at this part. There is another village in the valley
of the Barotse likewise called Sesheke, and for the same
reason; but the term Leeambye means " the large river,'*
or the river jpar excellence. Luambeji, Luambesi, Ambezi,
Ojimbesi, and Zambesi, &c., are names applied to it at dif-
ferent parts of its course, according to the dialect spoken,
and all possess a similar signification, and express the na-
tive idea of this magnificent stream being the main drain
of the country.

In order to assist in the support of our large party, and
at the same time to see the adjacent country, I went
several times, during our stay, to the north of the village
for game. The country is covered with clumps of beauti-
ful trees, among which fine open glades stretch away in
every direction ; when the river is in flood these are inun-
dated, but the tre(^covered elevated spots are much more
numerous here than in the country between the Chobe and
the Leeambye. The soil is dark loam, as it is everywhere
on spots reached by the inundation, while among the trees
it is sandy, and not covered so densely with grass as else-
where. A sandy ridge covered with trees, lAining parallel
to and about eight miles from the river, is the limit of the
inundation on the north; there are large tracts of this
Bandy forest in that direction, till you come to other dis-
tricts of alluvial soil and fewer trees. The latter soil is
always found in the vicinity of rivers which either now
overflow their banks annually or formerly did so. The
people enjoy rain in sufficient quantity to raise very large
Bupplies of grain and groundnuts.


Great numbers of buffaloes, zebras, tsessebes, tahaetsi,
find eland, or pohu, grazed undisturbed on these plains, so
that very little exertion was required to secure a fair sup-
ply of meat for the party during the neceibsary delay.
Hunting on foot, as all those who have engaged in it in
this country will at once admit, is very hard work indeed.
'J'he heat of the sun by day is so great, even in winter, aa
it now was, that, had there been any one on whom I could
have thrown the task, he would have been most welcome
to all the sport the toil is supposed to imj^art. But the
Makololo shot so badly, that, in order to save my powder,
I was obliged to go myself.

We shot a beautiful cow-eland, standing in the shade of
a fine tree. It was evident that she had lately had hci
calf killed by a lion, for there were five long deep scratches
on both sides of her hind-quarters, as if she had run to tho
rescue of her calf, and the lion, leaving it, had attacked
herself, but was unable to pull her down. When lying on
the ground, the milk flowing from the large udder showed
that she must have been seeking the shade, from the dis-
tress its non-removal in the natural manner caused. She
was a beautiful creature, and Lebeole, a Makololo gentle-
man who accompanied me, speaking in reference to its size
and beauty, said, *' Jesus ought to have given us these in-
stead of cattle.'' It was a new, undescribed variety of this
splendid antelope. It was marked with narrow white
bands across the body, exactly like those of the koodoo,
and had a black patch of more than a hand-breadth on tbo
oiit«r side of the foreann.




Having at last procured a sufficient number of canoes,
we began to ascend the river. I had the choice of the
whole fleet, and selected the best, though not the largest ;
it was thirty-four feet long by twenty inches wide. I had
six paddlers, and the larger canoe of Sekeletu had ten
They stand upright, and keep the stroke with great pre-
cision, though they change from side to side as the course
demands. The men at the head and stern are selected from
the strongest and most expert of the whole. The canoes,
being flat-bottomed, can go into very shallow water ; and
whenever the men can feel the bottom they use the paddles,
which are about eight feet long, as poles to punt with.
Our fleet consisted of thirty-three canoes, and about one
hundred and sixty men. It was beautiful to see them
skimming along so quickly and keeping the time so well.
On land the Makalala fear the Makololo; on water the
Makololo fear them, and cannot prevent them from racing
with each other, dashing along at the top of their speedy
and placing their masters' lives in danger. In the event
of a capsize, many of the Makololo would sink like stones.
A case of this kind happened on the first day of our voyage
up. The wind, blowing generally from the east, raises very
large waves on the Leeambye. An old doctor of the Mako-
lolo had his canoe filled by one of these waves, and, being
unable to swim, was lost. The Barotse who were in the
canoe with him saved themselves by swimming, and were
afraid of being punished with death in the evening for rot
saving the doctor as well. Had he been a man of mord
influence, they certainly would have sufi'ered death.


"We proceeded rapidl}^ up the river, and I felt the plea-
sure of looking on lands which had never been seen by a
European before. The river is, indeed, a magnificent one,
often more than a' mile broad, and adorned with many
Islands of from three to five miles in length. Both islands
and banks are covered with forests, and most of the trees
on the bnnk of the water send down roots from their
branches like the banian, or Ficus Indica. The islands at
a little distance seem great rounded masses of sylvan vege-
tation reclining on the bosom of the glorious stream. The
beauty of the scenery of some of the islands is greatly in-
creased by the date-palm, with its gracefully-curved fronds
and refreshing light-green color, near the bottom of the
picture, and the lofty palmyra towering far above, and
casting its feathery foliage against a cloudless sky. It
being winter, we had the strange coloring on the banks
which many parts of African landscape assume. The
country adjacent to the river is rocky and undulating,
abounding in elephants and all other large game, except
leches and nakongs, which seem generally to avoid stony
ground. The soil is of a reddish color, and very fertile, as
is attested by the great quantity of grain raised annually
by the Banyeti. A great many villages of this poor and
very industrious people arc situated on both banks of the
river: they are expert hunters of the hippopotami and
other animals, and very proficient in the manufacture of
articles of wood and iron. The whole of this part of the
country being infested with the tsetse, they are unable to
rear domestic animals. This may have led to their skill
in handicraft works. Some make large wooden vessels
with very neat lids, and wooden bowls of all sizes; and,
since the idea of sitting on stools has entered the Makololo
mind, they have shewn great taste in the difi'erent forma
given to the legs of these pieces of furniture.

Other Banyeti, or Manyeti, as they arc called, make neat
and strong baskets of the split roots of a certain tree,
while others excel in pottery and iron. 1 Ci^nnot find that


they have ever been warlike. Indeed, the wars m Iho
centre of the country, where no slave-trade existed, have
seldom been about any thing else but cattle. So well
known is this, that several tribes refuse to keep cattle,
because they tempt their enemies to come and steal
\ Nevertheless, they have no objection to eat them when
oifered, and their country admits of being well stocked. I
nave heard of but one war having occurred from another
cause. Three brothers, Barolongs, fought for the possession
of a woman who was considered worth a battle, and tho
tribe has remained permanently divided ever since.

From the bend up to the north, called Katima-molelo, (I
quenched fire,) the bed of the river is rocky, and the
stream runs fast, forming a succession of rapids and cata-
racts, which prevent continuous navigation when the
water is low. The rapids are not visible when the river
is full, but the cataracts of Nambwo, Bombwe, and Kale
must always be dangerous. The 'fall at each of these is
between four and six feet. But the falls of Gonye present
a much more serious obstacle. There we were obliged to
take the canoes out of the water, and carry them more
than a mile by land. The fall is about thirty feet. The
main body of water, which comes over the ledge of rock
when the river is low, is collected into a space seventy or
eighty yards wide before it takes the leap, and, a mass of
rock being thrust forward against the roaring torrent, a
loud sound is produced.

As we passed up the river, the different villages of Ban-
yeti turned out to present Sekeletu with food and skins, a<4
their tribute. One large village is placed at Gonye, tho
inhabitants of which are required to assist the Makololo
to carry their canoes past the falls. The tsetse hero
lighted on us even in the middle of the stream. This
we crossed repeatedly, in order to make short cuts at
bmds of the rirer. The course is, however, remarkably
h raight among the rocks; and here the river is shallow,

ft account of the great bieadth of surface which it coverst.


When we came to about 16° 16' S. latitude, the high
wooded banks seemed to leave the river, and no more
tsetse appeared.

This visit was the first Sekeletu had made to these parts
since he attained the chieftainship. Those who had taken
part with Mpepe were consequently in great terror.
When we came to the town of Mpepe' s father, as he and
another nian had counselled Mamochisane to put Sekeletu
to death and marry Mpepe, the two were led forth and
tossed into the river. ISTokuane was again one of the
executioners. When I remonstrated against human blood
being shed in the off-hand way in which they were pro-
ceeding, the counsellors justified their acts by the evidence
given by Mamochisane, and calmly added, "You see we
are still Boers : we are not yet taught.''

Naliele, the capital of the Barotse, is built on a mound
which was constructed artificially by Santuru, and was his
storehouse for grain. His own capital stood about five
hundred yards to the south of that, in what is now the
bed of the river. All that remains of the largest mound
in the valley are a few cubic yards of earth, to erect which
cost the whole of the people of Santuru the labor of many
years. The same thing has happened to another ancient
site of a town, Linangelo, also on the left bank. It would
seem, therefore, that the river in this part of the valley
must be wearing eastward.

Santuru, at whose ancient granary we are staying, was
a great hunter, and very fond of taming wild animals.
His people, aware of his taste, brought to him every young
antelope they could catch, and, among other things, two
young hippopotami. These animals gambolled in the river
by day, but never failed to remember to come up to Nalielo
for their suppers of milk and meal. They were the wonder
of the country, till a stranger, happening to come to visit
Santuru, saw them reclining in the sun, and speared ono
of them, on the supposition that it was wild. The samo
unlucky accident happened to one of the cats I had brought}


to Sekoleiu. A stranger, seeing an animal he had never
viewed before, killed it, and brought the trophy to the
chief, thinking that he had made a very remarkable dis-
covery : we thereby lost the breed of cats, of which, from
the swarms of mice, we stood in great need.

On making inquiries to ascertain whether Santuru, the
Moloiana, had ever been visited by white men., I could find
no vestige of any such visit; there is no evidence of any
of Santuru's people having ever seen a white man before
the arrival of Mr. Oswell and myself in 1851. The people
have, it is true, no written records; but any remarkable
event here is commemorated in names, as was observed by
Park to be the case in the countries he traversed. JThe
year of our arrival is dignified by the name of the year
when the white men came, or of Sebituane's death ; but
they prefer the former, as they avoid, if possible, any direct
reference to the departed. After my wife's first visit, great
numbers of children were named Ma-Eobert, or mother of
Hobert, her eldest child; others were named Gun, Horse,
Wagon, Monare, Jesus, &c. ; but though our names, and
those of the native Portuguese who came in 1853, were
adopted, there is not a trace of any thing of the sort having
happened previously among the Barotse: the visit of a
white man is such a remarkable event, that, had any taken
place during the last three hundred years, there must have
remained some tradition of it.

The town or mound of Santuru's mother was shown to
me : this was the first symptom of an altered state of feel-
ing with regard to the female sex that I had observed.
There are few or no cases of women being elevated to the
headships of towns farther south. The Barotse also showed
some relics of their chief, which evinced a greater amount
of the religious feeling than 1 had ever known displayed
among Bechuanas. His more recent capital, Lilonda, built,
too, on an artificial mound, is covered with different kinds
of trees, transplanted when young by himself. They form
a grove on the end of the mound; in which are to be soei*


various instruments of iron just in the state ho left them.
One looks like the guard of a basket-hilted sword; another
has an upright stem of the metal, on which are placed
branches worked at the ends into miniature axes, hoes, and
spears; on these he was accustomed to present offerings,

Online LibraryDavid LivingstoneLivingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : including a sketch of sixteen years' residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast, thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi to the eastern ocean → online text (page 10 of 36)