Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin Adolf Friedrich.

From the Congo to the Niger and the Nile; an account of the German Central African Expedition of 1910-1911 (Volume 2) online

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When once their distrust was overcome, the villagers
soon got over their shyness, but they never became
importunate, as is so often the case amongst natives.
The children played outside my tent with the same
innocent high spirits as if there were no white man
in the village. In the evening I often took a pleasure


in watching the boys and girls romping in the moon-
light, sometimes accompanying their games with merry
songs. (Illus. 135.)

I was surprised to see how much their games resembled
those of European children, though of course they
were adapted to African conditions. When the boys
and girls were playing together the tendencies of their
sexes were clearly denned, the boys rushing about
in little carts that they had constructed for themselves,
and the girls amusing themselves with then* dolls.
The dolls were the simplest that can be imagined,
consisting merely of a large block of the juicy banana
stalk, which the girls fastened to their waists with a

I shall always retain the most pleasant recollections
of my visit to Peum, where I spent many happy hours
amongst the merry children of Nature. On the even-
ing that preceded my departure my tent was filled
with natives men, women, and children all anxious to
see the photographs that I had taken of them. When
they had made out the figures of the photographs,
and recognised a familiar face, they went into fits of
laughter, as if it were a great joke, and my tent resounded
with " Ohs " and " Ahs " of amazement. No display
of my photographs has ever in all my life received such
an enthusiastic reception as by these simple people.

I would willingly have stayed longer in this charming
village, but here, as in many other places in the course
of my travels, the difficulties of feeding my bearers
forced me to push on. On the morning of the 14th
of March my bearers, who in the meantime had carried
Mildbraed's baggage one stage further, took up my
loads, and scrambled down the steep incline to the
Lokomo River. We crossed the bridge, consisting

124. Bangandu village.

125. Plantation N'gusi in the primaeval forest.

126. Bangandu bending his crossbow. 127. Bangandu crossbowman.

128. Bangandu at the loom.


of a fallen tree, and then pushed on into the dark
glades of the uninhabited jungle, which was to afford
us shelter for the next three days. (Illus. 133.)

Meanwhile, in spite of occasional showers, the dry
season had set in, and the vast forest, extending over
many miles of deserted country, had a gloomy and
lifeless appearance. Not a bird, not even an insect,
was to be seen. Its dark green depths, against which
the tall, straight stems of the Triplochiton (illus. 138),
the Piptadenia africana, and other gigantic trees
stood out clearly, maintained a mysterious and im-
pressive silence.

My colleague had left traces of his activity in the
shape of empty cartridges and large flowering branches
lying here and there on the ground, which gave evidence
of the battles he had fought with the tall trees and

The jungle affords a delightful camping ground
provided the season is favourable, and provided a
suitable spot is selected. This is not always an easy
matter, for apart from the necessity of being near a
sufficient water supply, the traveller must beware of
pitching his tent under a tree whose dead branches
may prove dangerous. It is generally necessary to
make a more or less extensive clearance. But even
with these disadvantages the forest is preferable to
a village street as a camping ground. In the villages
there is always a danger of being tormented by
mosquitoes or sand-flies, there is little shade from
the burning rays of the sun, and one's work is con-
tinually interrupted by endless palaver with the

My first night in the Bange jungle was the first I had
spent in the forest for several years, and I surrendered


myself to the enjoyment of the wonderful and awe-
inspiring solitude. My bearers were in the highest
spirits, for one of the hunters had killed a small ante-
lope, and they sang and danced merrily. The blue
smoke of the glowing camp fire rose in misty spirals
and disappeared between the tree-tops in the deepening
twilight. The tropical night soon wrapped everything
in darkness, and ushered in the myriad insect singers,
who kept silence during the day and began their
concert only at dusk. The songs of my carriers gradu-
ally subsided, until at last they ceased altogether.

Everything lay wrapped in sleep when the moon
rose and pierced the foliage screen above me. The
air was cool, almost cold, and I shivered as I wrapped
myself in my rugs. It was the coldest night that we
had yet experienced, though the thermometer stood
at 63 F., which may seem warm to Europeans at home,
but was chilly for anyone accustomed to the tropics.
We were cold and shivering when we set out soon
after sunrise.

The length of the day's march in the jungle depends
even more than in inhabited districts, on the situation
of the pre-arranged camping places, for the traveller
must carefully apportion his stock of provisions, and
is well advised to make an early start. The places
suitable for a camp may be recognized by the ashes
of former camp fires, for in a country which is so rich
in india-rubber, the forest paths are more frequented
than might be supposed.

The two settlements recently established in the
Bange forest by order of the authorities at Molundu
afforded a pleasant break in the monotony of the
jungle, though they gave evidence of the great difficul-
ties that had to be overcome. Even in the tropics









130. Mausoleum in the village of Yukaduma.

131. Burial place of a Bangandu chief near Kumilla.


it takes a certain time for the plantations to bear
fruit, and the natives do not see the object of their
appointed task and naturally dislike the trouble
of fetching all their provisions from a distance for a
whole year.

On reaching the Bange River we left the " dead "
forest zone behind, and after crossing with some diffi-
culty the so-called Bange bridge, which consists merely
of a very slippery tree trunk, we encamped on the steep
bank of the Bumba River close to a factory belonging
to the South Cameroon Company.

In the factory manager's house, I found Mildbraed,
whom I had heard botanising that same morning.
He was surrounded by a mountain of botanical presses,
full of forest flowers. He decided, however, to return
for a few days to a most promising part of the Bange
forest, and this gave me time to visit the neighbouring
village, Bange, the birthplace of my " boy " Musa,
whose countrymen were the notorious Kunabembes.

Anyone endeavouring to find his way by the map
is not likely to be successful, for the inhabitants of the
South-East Cameroons are continually moving about,
so that even the best maps are soon out of date. It
ought to be one of the most important duties of the
authorities to accustom the natives to remain in their
settlements. The present system of cultivating new
forest districts every few years, and abandoning the
old plantations, is very wasteful, and results in the
irrevocable destruction of much valuable property.

Even the village in which Musa had first seen the
light of day was no longer in the place laid down for
it in the map. " Massa, them town I be born live
now for some other place," he remarked in his pigeon
English, as we set off in the direction of his " town,"


which proved to be three or four miles further west
than it should have been according to the map. As
we entered the village, I was amused to see the airs
that Musa gave himself, as he swaggered along in a
brand-new khaki uniform, his cap perched on the side
of his head, his rifle on his shoulder, and evidently
thinking himself a very " big man." Nothing would
have induced him to forego this inspiring moment,
when he made a triumphal entry into his native

After all that Musa had told me about his fellow-
countrymen, I was agreeably surprised at the peaceful
appearance of the Bange villagers. Naked children
played with whips and tops in the clean village street,
whilst the women and girls, adorned with heavy brass
necklets, were returning from their work in the fields.
(Illus. 140.) They wore bunches of scarlet blossoms,
&nd appeared to be in high spirits. And yet it is
these Kunabembes who practise the most revolting
form of cannibalism, or at any rate did practise it until
quite recently. Men who were on friendly terms used
to give one another their parents in exchange, for
cannibal purposes, as soon as they had grown old and
weak, and were useless for anything else. I had heard
this barbarous custom repeatedly ascribed to the
Kunabembes, but could not bring myself to believe
such an accusation, until it was confirmed by Musa.

On the 19th of February I continued my journey
north. At first the path led through dense under-
wood, which obliged us to stoop almost continuously.
But in a short time we came to the easiest and most
pleasant path that I have ever seen in all my Cameroon

The two adjoining villages, Minyass and Kungo,

132. Entrance to the place of assembly of the newly circumcised
near a Bangandu village.

133. In the Bangi forest.


134. Pygmy hut with doorway only half a yard high.


135. Pose of children for play.

136. The corpse of the chief Djaolo in Digondji lying in state.
137. Bokari woman with balloon cap and cock's tail.


in which we encamped on the 19th of February, made
a very pleasing impression. Like all the villages
through which we had passed, they consisted of a
double row of houses, separated by a straight and
well-kept street. The houses were built close together,
so that they formed one continuous building under
one long roof. The wealth of the inhabitants, probably
due in part to the recent rise in the price of rubber,
was evidenced by the size and weight of the brass
necklets worn by the women. It was very difficult
to acquire any interesting ethnographical specimens,
for with so many possibilities of earning money the
Kunabembes had no use for my one or two mark pieces,
or for my poor exchange wares. However, on the
second day, with Musa's help, I was able to buy at a
heavy price a few of the richly engraved necklets and
anklets. They are worth about forty or fifty shillings
of our money, and are circulated as currency in the
purchase of wives. I was obliged to give the chieftain
of Kungo a complete khaki outfit, and also to fulfil
his dearest wish, which was to possess a pair of spectacles.
He certainly looked very dignified in his large spectacles
made of beautiful blue window-glass, and he felt that
he now entirely resembled a white man.

The natives are spoiled by the attempts of the various
rubber firms to outbid one another. At present there
is plenty of india-rubber in the South-East Cameroons,
but the profusion of kicJcxias will not long survive
the reckless tapping of the natives.

As I was about to encamp in the neighbourhood
of the village of Dumba, the chiefs of Dumba and
Akamayong came to meet me. One of them was
attired in French artillery trousers, and the other in
khaki breeches ; both of them wore white coats, and


irreproachable brown shoes much too tight of course
and gaiters. The Dumba " king " wore a sun helmet
covered with imitation leopard skin. Their appearance
showed how much the india-rubber traders have
changed the habits of these savages during the last
few years. Some of my " boys " were overcome by
the exceedingly comical aspect of these two victims
of European civilisation, here in the middle of the
jungle, and they greeted the village rulers with a
roar of laughter. I was obliged to reprove them, as
I did not wish to offend the chiefs.

My " boys " had carefully pitched my tent close
to an Afrostyrax lepidophylla, whose penetrating odour
of garlic affected my nose in the most painful fashion,
and entirely spoiled the beauty of the spot. The
natives, however, are very fond of the smell of this tree,
and they even use the bark to flavour their soup.

In the forest near Akamayong there is a huge tomb
over the grave of a former chief. A clearance several
hundred yards square has been made round the grave,
and the trees are covered with stripes of red paint.
The deceased must have been a great hero, for there
were no less than thirty-eight knots in the liana, showing
that he had killed thirty-eight enemies, some of whom,
according to the good old Kunabembe fashion, he had
no doubt cooked and assimilated.

In the village of N'kung, our last stopping-place
before reaching Yukaduma, I made the acquaintance
of the chief Dogelumpum, the most interesting per-
sonage in the whole district, who was held in high
esteem because he could with impunity allow the most
poisonous snakes to bite him. I was very anxious to
meet this man, who had been described to me in
Molundu as an arrant rogue, and I was somewhat


disappointed when a small, delicate-looking negro was
presented to me as the famous snake-charmer. Many
times I entreated him to display his skill to me, and
at last, in my presence, he allowed a medium-sized
poisonous tree-snake to bite him in the finger. He
assured me that he had tried in vain to procure a
cobra or a hooded viper. This was, of course, only
an excuse, for it is quite possible that a native who
has been repeatedly bitten by one of the smaller
poisonous snakes may eventually become to a certain
extent immune, but I very much doubt whether the
man would placidly have permitted a large cobra to
bite him.

Soon after passing a small ravine, in which for the
first time I found some tree ferns, we once more entered
the jungle, and we had to march several hours before
we caught sight of the outskirts of Yukaduma. Beside
the N'yui River is a clearance on which stands a large
bark house and several sheds, from which the wind
wafted the familiar smell of india-rubber. This is the
Yukaduma factory belonging to the South Cameroon
Company. I was hospitably received by the manager,
Herr Graf, who had not seen a white man for many

The next morning the bearers returned to fetch
Mildbraed's baggage, and I had plenty of time to
sort and pack my specimens and prepare for the next
stage of our journey : our eagerly anticipated excursion
into the prairie land.



MEANWHILE the lesser rainy season was evidently
approaching. We experienced the first appreciable
downfall whilst we were encamped near the Bange
River, and from the end of February onwards, violent
rainstorms fell at shorter and shorter intervals, satura-
ting the parched ground. The thunderstorms, too,
that accompanied the rain, became more and more
frequent, whilst about the middle of March tornadoes
came up from the south-east, followed by continuous
sheets of lightning, truly tropical in their brilliance.

The effect of the rain soon made itself felt. The
first obvious result was the increasing number of
insects, some of them harmless and beautiful ; others,
such as the vicious sand-flies (Simulia), spent their
whole time in trying to make our lives miserable.
These troublesome torments of the African tropics,
against whose attacks the smallest meshed mosquito
net is useless, probably came from the pisang plants
of the neighbouring village.

These luxuriant and unusually productive planta-
tions cover wide stretches of land round the new village
of Yukaduma, and our hunters were consequently
able to indulge in their favourite fruit, so neces-
sary to their well-being. It is 'hard to say whether
the wonderful profusion of bananas in this neighbour-
hood is due to the fertility of the ground, or to



the reprehensible custom of continually moving the
plantations, and cultivating only virgin soil.

The Bumbums, who own these rich plantations,
are closely related to the Kunabembes. They also
claimed to be connected with the N'dzimus, who live
near Lomie, as well as with the tribes inhabiting the
banks of the Lower Djah and Ssanga Rivers, so that all
the tribes of the South-East Cameroons, with the excep-
tion of those derived from the Soudan, may be included
in one large family. It is difficult to trace the origin
of many of their customs, analogous to those of far
distant tribes, with which they can have had no possible
connection. For instance, it seemed to me very strange
to find among the Bumbums the custom ascribed by
Schweinfurth and Schubotz to the Mangbettus, namely,
that of dyeing their skin with the juice of the Randia
malleifera. Some of the young people had adorned
their faces with elaborate and tasteful patterns, and
the blue-black dye showed up well on their brown

While I was getting ready for my journey into the
prairie, several Europeans arrived in Yukaduma.
Amongst them was a merchant, Herr Funck, who
extracted from me a promise to visit him in his lonely
factory at Momos. This promise I never had cause
to regret, for this gentleman was of great assistance
to me in my ethnographical studies.

Mildbraed and I were fortunately not obliged to
take all our baggage with us. We left most of our
loads in Herr Graf's care, so that our bearers were
now sufficiently numerous to enable us both to set
off on the same day, the 15th of March.

Mildbraed went straight to the prairie, whilst I made
a short detour to visit Herr Funck's factory at Momos.


I spent a few days in this comfortable abode, which
was so charming that I could readily understand its
owner having no desire to return to Europe. He
entered into the thoughts and feelings of the natives,
just as he understood the beasts of the jungle that
he had tamed, and that followed him everywhere.
The Pygmies of the neighbourhood were specially
attached to him, and endeavoured to express their
affection by bringing him large supplies of india-rubber.

It was here in Momos that I became intimately
acquainted with this interesting race. The first time
that I visited their camp in the jungle, the little people
seemed somewhat nervous, but as soon as my com-
panion had assured them that they might trust me
as completely as they trusted him, they got over their
timidity and were as affable and friendly as possible.
They answered all my questions, and demonstrated
to me their original and pleasing dances.

These dances differed from any I have ever seen
before or since. They were round dances in which
men, women, and children took part in turns, moving
in circles with measured tread, and imitating by
grotesque evolutions the paces of the various forest
animals. Amongst the Bantus, on the other hand,
one or two dancers perform in the middle of a ring
of spectators. The round dances of the Pygmies
recalled those of certain South African tribes.

As a special mark of their confidence towards my
host, the Pygmies occasionally spent the night at
the factory. This was the case one evening when
we sat with them by lamplight round a long table in
the comfortable verandah. It was wretched weather,
and we could hear the rain descending in torrents.
The little men turned over the pages of some illustrated

138. Stem of Triplochiton in the Bangi forest.

139. Kunabembe village in recently cleared forest.


magazines, and by their frequent questions, betrayed
a lively interest in European affairs. In return for
my information they satisfied my curiosity with regard
to some of their customs, and in this way I was able
to obtain reliable details respecting their mode of
hunting. As soon as the conversation turned on
this subject, occupying as it does all their thoughts
and aspirations, they became very animated ; their
gestures bespoke the enthusiastic hunter, and they
were indefatigable in their efforts to make us under-
stand their methods of stalking elephants. They
confirmed the statement that I had heard in Molundu,
that the spear is their only hunting weapon. They
must certainly be possessed of extraordinary skill,
physical endurance, coolness, and presence of mind in
order to get within striking distance of the elephant.
After wounding him in the body with their iron weapon,
they follow him until he collapses. The Pygmies of
the South Cameroon s never make use of bows and
arrows ; they never lay traps, dig pits, or employ
hunting nets such as are commonly used elsewhere.
The only exception is in the case of the guinea-fowl,
which is caught by means of small pit-falls, and the
armadillo, or pilika, which they smoke out of its
extensive underground burrows.

I considerably enlarged my vocabulary of the Pygmy
tongue, and convinced myself that my small friends
had kept their language free from foreign taint. On
the 22nd of March I took leave of this fascinating
spot, since the itinerary that we had drawn up in
Yukaduma would not permit of a longer visit.

For many reasons I looked forward with eager anti-
cipation to the coming journey. In the first place we
were to traverse another wholly uninhabited district,


which had been described to us as being the richest
in gorillas and elephants in the whole country. Then
we were on the look-out for some interesting volcanic
formations lava-fields as they were called that lay
in our path, and finally we hoped to reach an ethno-
graphically interesting district, partly jungle, partly
prairie, situated close to the former Franco-German
frontier, where for political and commercial reasons
a strange jumble of the most diverse races had taken
up their abode. I had received no news of Mildbraed
since his departure, and this made me all the more
anxious to set out.

We started at six o'clock in the morning, but the
weather was not very promising. The sky overhead
was blue, but in the West loomed a heavy bank of
clouds, their sharply defined edges tipped with salmon-
pink by the morning sun, while in the distance the
thunder growled ominously.

The path was overhung with bushes, wet with the
heavy dew, and they struck us hi the face as we passed,
so that in a very few minutes we were soaked through.
There were no bridges, and each of the deeply cut
water-courses caused us considerable delay. Mean-
while the clouds, though screened from sight by the
trees, were coming up rapidly, as evidenced by the
approaching thunder. We were soon in difficulties
owing to our ignorance of the country, for the two
men who professed to know the way led us hopelessly

There was nothing to be done but to seek a guide
in the newly built village of Saolo, and here we waited
for the thunderstorm to pass over. After much
bargaining we succeeded in procuring a guide, but his
face showed clearly how much he resented his task.


I understood his feelings as soon as we had proceeded
a hundred yards, for the path was one of the worst
that I have ever traversed in the whole of Africa.
We waded for hours through mud and mire, feeling
our way step by step with our sticks, and following
our guide at a snail's pace. The latter was obliged
to cut his way with a hunting-knife through lianas,
roots and branches, in pitch darkness and with a sultry
green-house temperature.

Early in the day we had to cross the Bange River,
a most perilous undertaking, as a slippery tree-trunk
formed the only bridge over the deep and raging
stream. Towards three o'clock in the afternoon the
ground became so treacherous that it was only by
making long detours that we could make any progress
at all. At length we reached the border of a so-called
prairie, that is to say, a bare patch in the jungle, covered
with ferns and surrounded by gigantic raphia palms.
The ground was trampled by numerous elephants
and buffaloes, but we were all too exhausted to take
the least interest in these exciting spoors.

We encamped in the neighbourhood of the prairie,
and in order to avoid catching cold, I helped to build
the leaf huts for the bearers until my tent was ready.
Vapour was rising from the ground and condensing
on the trees. I kept my tent tolerably dry by burning
a few candles, and fixed up lines on which I hung
my clothes to dry.

During the night our Saolo guide took himself off,

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Online LibraryDuke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin Adolf FriedrichFrom the Congo to the Niger and the Nile; an account of the German Central African Expedition of 1910-1911 (Volume 2) → online text (page 10 of 20)