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were, in the second century, Christian churches established in
the northern part, where are now the Barbary States, and in
times of persecution, the Christians fled into the desert ; but
we have very little additional information from this source.

It was not till the invasion by the Arabs in the seventh
century that the darkness began to be really dispelled. Tak-
ing possession of the region north of the desert, they were
able by means of the camel to penetrate south, and hold inter-
course with the negro tribes that lived along the southern bor-



der. In consequence of this influx of the Arabs, the religion
of Mohammed became diffused among these tribes, and is
found, more or less corrupted, to this day, over a very wide
region of Central Africa. There was also a mixture of Arab
and negro blood, by which the characteristics of the native races
were much modified, and their general condition improved.

Modern European discovery may be said to date from the
fifteenth century. At this period the Portuguese were among
the most adventurous explorers. They sailed, in this cen-
tury, along the western coast, going each voyage farther and
farther south, till in 1497, Vasco De Gaina doubled the Cape
of Good Hope, and sailed up on the eastern side. Then the
shape and outline of this great continent was known, but no
travelers had yet penetrated its dark wilds.

The Portuguese, while prosecuting these discoveries along
the western coast, attempted at certain points along the Gulf
of Guinea, to establish commercial relations with the natives,
and formed settlements for this purpose. So, also, the zeal
of the Roman Catholic church led it to form missionary set-'
tlements. After the slave trade begun, other European
nations hastened to occupy stations on the same coast. In
this way something was learned of the interior, but the slave
traders cared more for their profits than for the interests of
discovery ; nor was much of geographical knowledge gained
by the missionaries.

It was in 1788, that the Royal Geographical Society of
Great Britain was formed, and the real work of African
exploration began. The first travelers it sent forth were cut
off by death. The next was the famous Mungo Park, who
reached Africa in 1795, and whose travels are read with great
interest even to this day. He discovered the 2s iger, and sev-
eral large trading cities in the interior, and returned in safety.
But in 1805, making a second attempt, although lie again
reached the Niger in safety, he was attacked on the river,
and, endeavoring to escape by swimming, was drowned. Other
expeditions were sent out, starting at the same point on the
western coast, but they all accomplished little.


These attempts to reach the central parts of the continent
from the coasts of Senegambia and Guinea having failed, it
was proposed, about 1819, to try a new route proceeding from
Tripoli through the Great Desert. The first expedition failed.
A second was undertaken in 1822, under Major Denham, and
others. This was very successful. Lake Tchad was discovered,
the region around it visited, and the names and boundaries of
the tribes and kingdoms ascertained. Some of the cities were
found to be quite populous ; one of them, Sackatoo, had about
forty thousand inhabitants, and was laid out with regular
streets. In general, these countries were much more advanced
in civilization than was expected.

A companion of Major Denham, Captain Clapperton, in
1826, determined, with two or three others, to try again to
reach the Niger, and to start where Park had started, from the
northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea. In this attempt all
died but Lander, the servant of Clapperton, who returned to
the coast, though not till the Niger had been reached and
crossed. Lander, with a younger brother, made a second
attempt in 1830, following the same route. They again
reached the river, and sailed down it in a canoe, and finally
came to its mouth in the Gulf of Guinea.

This was the solution of one of the great African mysteries.
The real cause of the difficulty in finding where the Niger
emptied was, that it divided into many streams as it came
towards the sea, some of them a hundred miles distant from
others, and each of the larger ones seemed as if it was an
independent stream.

So soon as the mouth of the Niger was found, some British
merchants determined to send an expedition up it, to ascer-
tain its course and capabilities for navigation and commerce.
Accordingly two steamers, one of them of iron, were sent out
in 1832. But the steamers did not ascend far. Many of the
crews were cut oif by disease, and Richard Lander, who
accompanied them, was mortally wounded in a fight with the
natives. In every point of view the expedition was a failure.

In 1841 the British sent three iron steamers, intending to


establish a colony somewhere on the banks of the Niger.
One of the steamers went as far up as Egga, about three hun-
dred and fifty miles from the sea, but was compelled to
return through the sickness of the crew. The whole expe-
dition ended in disaster ; many died of the river fever, and
the colony was abandoned.

A later expedition was sent out in 185-i by the same gov-
ernment, and was much more successful, and since that time
the river has been explored by several parties, and found to
offer no impediment to navigation that may not easily be
overcome. It has been navigated for four hundred and forty
seven geographical miles, and with rising waters, or in a full
flood, is believed to be navigable to a much higher point, and
at such stages of water the river is comparatively healthy.

Another traveler from the western coast, M. Du Chaillu, an
American, has excited much interest by his discoveries. lie
reached Africa in December, 1855, and started inward from
the neighborhood of the Gaboon river. Proceeding into the
interior, he discovered a range of mountains rising in terraces
to the heighth of six thousand feet. This range was cov-
ered with dense and almost impenetrable forests, which are
nearly devoid of animal life. The thick jungles and rugged
steeps are almost incapable of cultivation, and are inhabited
by savages and by apes. In these mountains are the sources
of most of the rivers which here enter into the Atlantic.
lie discovered a large river which he ascended three hundred
and fifty miles from the coast, and which he thinks one of
the most important streams of Western Africa. He also
discovered a fine lake, the country around which was filled
with India-rubber vines and ebony trees. On a second visit
the lake was in part dried up, and its surface dotted with
islets of black mud, on which crocodiles were basking in vast
numbers, many of them twenty feet long.

M. Du Chaillu visited several of the negro tribes, and had
many interesting and exciting experiences. Ashango-land
was the limit of his second expedition, which was suddenly
checked by a sad accident. The people had been rather sus-


picious of liis motives, and harassed him in his camp, so that
a few shots were fired in the air by way of warning. Unfor-
tunately, one of the guns was discharged before it was raised,
and the bullet struck an unfortunate man in the head, kill-
ing him instantly. The whole village flew to arms, the war-
drum sounded, and the warriors crowded to the spot, with
their barbed spears, and bows and poisoned arrows.

For a moment there was a lull : the interpreter, whose
hand fired the unlucky shot, explained that it was an accident,
and that the price of twenty men should be paid as compen-
sation. Beads and cloth were produced, and one of the head-
men had just assented to the proposal, when a loud wailing
was heard, and a woman rushed out of a hut, announcing
that the favorite wife of the friendly head-man had been
killed by the same fatal bullet, which had passed through the
thin walls of the hut, and killed the poor woman within.

After this announcement all hopes of peace were at an end ;
the husband naturally cried for vengeance ; and, amid a
shower of arrows, one of which struck the interpreter, and
another nearly severed M. Du Chaillu's finger, the party
retreated as they best could, refraining from firing as long as
they could, but at last being forced to fire in self-defence.

In order to escape as fast as they cortld, the porters were
obliged to throw away the instruments, specimens of natural
history, and photographs, so that the labor of months was
lost, and scarcely anything except the journal was saved.
Each village to which they came, sent out its warriors against
them. M. Du Chaillu was dangerously wounded in the side,
and had at last to throw away his best but heaviest rifle. It
was only after the death of several of their number that the
Ashangos perceived that they had to contend with a foe who
was more than a match for them, and at last gave up the pur-

On his retreat from Ashango-land, Du Chaillu was
received with even more than usual hospitality by the Isho-
gos, who live westward of the Ashangos. They arranged
his journey westwards, and the whole population of the vil-


lajres went with him a little distance when he started off.


Some of the Ishogos accompanied him on his expedition.

On their meeting Olenda, the head chief of a tribe of the
Ashira, a singular scene took place. It seems that each
Ashira cliief has a sort of salutation called "Kombo," which
he addresses to every one of importance whom he meets for
the first time.

The ringing of the " kando " or sacred bell, which is
the emblem of royalty in this land, and which is only
sounded on occasions of ceremony, announced the approach
of Olenda.

lie was a very old man of venerable aspect. His woolly
hair was perfectly white, his body bent almost double with
age, and his face one mass of wrinkles. By way of adding to
the beauty of his countenance, he had covered one side of his
face with red and the other with white stripes. He was so
old that he was accompanied by many of his children, all old,
white-headed, and wrinkled men. The natives held him in
great respect, believing that he had a powerful fetish against
death. As soon as he had recovered from the sight of a
clothed man with straight hair, steady eyes, and a white face,
he proceeded to make a speech which, when translated, was
as follows :

"I have no bowels. I am like the Ovenga river; I
cannot be cut in two. But also, I am like the is iembar and
Ovenga rivers, which unite together. Thus my body is
united, and nothing can divide it."

This address was rather puzzling because no sense could be
made from it; but the interpreter- explained that this was
merely the kombo, and that sense was not a necessary ingre-
dient in it.

According to the etiquette of the country, after Olenda had
made his salutation, he offered his presents, consisting of three
goats, twenty fowls, twenty bunches of plantain, several bas-
kets of ground-nuts, some sugar-cane, and two slaves. That
the last-mentioned articles should be declined was a most
astonishing phenomena to the Ashira.


The manner in which Olenda dismissed his guests was not
less curious. Gathering his old and white-haired sons around
him, he addressed the travelers, wishing them success, and
littering a sort of benediction. He then took some sugar-
cane, bit a piece of the pith out of it, chewed it, and spat a
small portion into the hand of each of the travelers, mutter-
ing at the same time, some "words to the effect that he hoped
all things would go pleasantly with them, and be sweet as the
breath which lie had blown on their hands. Advanced as he
was in age, he lived some years longer, until he succumbed
to the small-pox in common with many of his relatives and

Another tribe, the Aponos, although at first terribly fright-
ened, proved honest and friendly, and so good natured, that
when he dispersed some night revelers who disturbed his
sleep, by going to their hut and kicking over their vessels of
palm-wine and ordering the chiefs and his attendants out of
the hut, they grumbling obeyed, although much vexed at the
loss of so much liquor.

When the traveler first entered the Apono village, there
was a general consternation, the men running away as fast as
their legs could carry them, and the women fleeing to their
huts, clasping their children in their arms, and shrieking with
terror. The village was, in fact, deserted, in spite of the ex-
ample of the chief, who, although as much frightened as any
of his subjects, bore in mind the responsibilities of his office,
and stood in front of his house to receive his visitor. In
order to neutralize as much as possible the effect of the white
man's witchery, he had hung on his neck, body, and limbs all
the fetishes which he possessed, and had besides covered his
body with mysterious lines of alumbi chalk. Thus fortified,
he stood in front of his hut, accompanied by two men, who
bravely determined to take part with their chief in his peril-
ous adventure.

M. Du Chaillu claims to liave liad much experience and
success at fighting gorillas gigantic apes, about which
there has been considerable controversy. Some claim that the


gorilla is the king of the forest, supplanting all other wild
animals, and even attacking and driving away the elephant
itself ; that it has no fear of man, but lies in wait for him
and attacks him whenever the opportunity offers, and that in
such a duel the man or the gorilla must perish. Others claim
that the gorilla is timid and retiring, and that he naturally
runs away from man. There is no doubt however that it is a
tierce and savage beast when attacked. Mr. Winwood Reade,
an Englishman, who traveled extensively along the coast of
"Western Africa, says that no white man has ever yet bagged
a gorilla.

To a party of native hunters unprovided with fire-arms,
the chase of the animal is a service of real difficulty and dan-
ger. They are obliged to seek it in the recesses of its own
haunts, and to come to close quarters with it. The spear is
necessarily the principal weapon employed, as the arrow, even
though poisoned, does not kill at once, and the gorilla is only
incited by the pain of a wound to attack the man who inflicted
it. Their fear of the animal is also increased by the supersti-
tion that a man is sometimes transformed into a gorilla, and
becomes thereby a sort of sylvan demon, who cannot be
killed at all events, by a black man and who is possessed
with a thirst for killing every human being that he meets.

Mr. Reade, the traveler referred to above, visited, among
other tribes, the Fans, who live just above the equator, on
the Gamboon River. They are coffee-colored, and in other
respects not to be classed with negroes. They are fierce
and cruel in battle, yet in private life said to be polite and
hospitable a race of cannibal gentlemen ; for cannibalism is
their chief characteristic.

Mr. Reade questioned an old and very polite Fan on the
subject. His answers were plain enough. Of course they
all ate men. He ate men himself, and they were very good.
They mostly ate prisoners of war, but some ate executed wiz-
ards a food which he was rather afraid to eat, as it might not
agree with him.

This Fan, supposed of course, that white men were canni-


bals, and asked Mr. Reade wiry they took tlie trouble to send
to Africa for negroes when they had a plenty of white men.
to eat at home. Mr. Reade, having an eye to the future;,
discreetly replied that they were obliged to do so, because tho
flesh of white men was deadly poison. This answer wasi
satisfactory to the Fan. Mr. Reade, however, when traveling
in the company of cannibals thought it good policy not to
let them ever get very hungry

The Fans are very superstitious,and, as far as they wor-
ship anything, are idolaters. Like many other African tribes,
they have a custom of celebrating by some kind of religious
ceremony, the first appearance of the new moon. Mr. Reade
graphically describes the proceedings on such an occasion :

" The full moon began to rise. When she was high in the
heavens, I had the fortune to witness a religious dance in her
honor. There were two musicians, one of whom had an
instrument called handja, constructed on the principle of an
liarmonicon ; a piece of hard wood being beaten with sticks,
and the notes issuing from calabashes of different sizes fast-
ened below. The other instrument was a drum, which stood
upon a pedestal, its skin made from an elephant's ear. The
dull thud of this drum, beaten with the hands, and the harsh
rattle of the handja, summoned the dancers.

They came singing in procession from the forest. The
dance was uncouth ; their song a solemn tuneless chant ; they
revolved in a circle, clasping their hands as we do in prayer,
with their eyes fixed always on the moon, and sometimes
their arms flung wildly towards her.

The youth who played the drum assumed a glorious atti-
tude. As I looked upon him his head thrown back, his
eyes upturned, his fantastic head-dress, his naked, finely-
moulded form I saw beauty in the savage for the first time.

The measure changed, and two women, covered with green
leaves and the skins of wild beasts, danced in the midst,
where they executed a pas-de-deux which would have made a
premiere danseuse despair. They accompanied their intri-
cate steps with miraculous contortions of the body, and


obtained small presents of white beads from the spectators."

Bargaining for a wife, is often a very amusing scene,
especially if the father has been sufficiently sure of his daugh-
ter's beauty to refrain from betrothing her as a child, The
dusky suitor dresses himself in his best apparel, and waits on
the father, in order to open the negotiations.

His business is, of course, to depreciate the beauty of the
girl ; to represent that, although she may be very pretty as a
child of eleven or twelve, she will have fallen oif in her good
looks when she is a mature woman of fourteen or fifteen.
The father, on the contrary, extols the value of his daughter,
speaks slightingly of the suitor as a man quite beneath his
notice, and forthwith sets a price on her that the richest
warrior could not hope to pay.

At last, the affair is settled, and the price of the girl
agreed upon. Part is generally paid at the time, and the
bridegroom promises to pay the remainder when he comes
for his wife. He and his friends then begin to make prepa-
rations for a grand feast with which they are expected to
entertain a vast number of guests.

When the day is fixed, all the inhabitants of the village
assemble, and the bride is handed over to her husband, who
has already paid her price. Both are, of course, dressed in
their very best. The bride wears, as is the custom among
unmarried females, nothing but red paint and as many orna-
ments as she can manage to procure. Her hair is decorated
with great quantities of white beads, and her wrists and
ankles are hidden under a profusion of brass and copper
rings. The bridegroom oils his body until his skin shines
like a mirror, blackens and polishes his well filed teeth, adonis
his head with a tuft of brightly-colored feathers, and ties
round his waist the handsomest skin which he possesses.

A scene of unrestrained jollity then commences. The
guests, sometimes several hundred in number, keep up the
feast for three or four days in succession, eating elephants'
flesh, drinking palm-wine, and dancing, until the powers of
nature are quite exhausted, and then sleeping for an hour or



two with the happy facility that distinguishes the native
African. Awaking from their brief slumber, they begin to
feast afresh, and after the first few hours scarcely one of the
guests are sober, or indeed are expected to be so. At last,
however, all the wine is drunk, and then the guests return to
an involuntary state of sobriety.

Mr. Reade also visited the Gammas, who live in a large
district through which runs the river Rembo, the great high-
way into Central Africa. Like most tribes which live on the
banks of rivers, the Gamma are good boatman and fine swim-
mers the women taking to the water as naturally as the men.
* Along the river Rembo are certain sacred spots, on which
the natives think themselves bound to land and dance in
honor of the spirit. When any one passes the spot for the
first time, he is obliged to disembark, to chant a song in
praise of the local deity, to pluck a bough from a tree and
plant it in the mud. When Du Chaillu passed the spot,
he was requested to follow the usual custom, but refused, on
the ground of disbelief in polytheism. As usual, the Ashira
admitted his plea as far as he was concerned. He was a great
white man, and one God was enough for the rich and white
men. But black men were poor and ignorant, and therefore
wanted plenty of gods to take care of them.

When a canoe starts on a long journey, a curious ceremony
is enacted. Each man dips his paddle in the water, slaps it
on the surface, raises it in the air, and allows one drop of the
water to fall into his mouth. After a good deal of singing,
shouting, and antic-playing, they settle down to their work,
and paddle on steadily for hours.

An important expedition under Messrs. Richardson, Barth,
and Overweg, was sent out by the British and Prussian Gov-
ernments in 1849. Starting from Tripoli, in March, 1850,
the travelers proceeded from the Arab villages, relics of the
middle ages, into a country dotted with ruins of the Roman
dominion, and through the wild hordes of Tuaricks who
inhabit the desert, to the Negro tribes and native races south
of the desert.


They found a great diversity of people and customs,
Mohammedan knowledge ingrafted on ignorance, and magnifi-
cent ceremonies side by side with the simplicity of barbarous
Negro tribes.

They arrived on the borders of Soudan on the first day
January 1851. Here the travelers separated, and Richardson
died in the following March. Overweg and Barth met again
in July, at Kuta, near Lake Tchad. Here Overweg died in
September. Dr. Barth then turned his steps towards the
Niger. He started from Kuta in November 1852, reached
Sackatoo in April, 1853, and arrived at the famous city of
Timbuctoo in September. He remained in Timbuctoo near-
ly one year, explored the middle course of the Niger, and
returned to Europe in 1855.

As early as 1630, the Dutch founded Cape Town in South
Africa, the capital of Cape Colony. This colony became, and
is, the most flourishing of all the European settlements on the
Continent. The Dutch early extended their rule in all direc-
tions, and became masters of a large section of country. The
Colony was taken by the English in 1795, and restored to the
Dutch in 1800 ; it was taken again by the English in whose
hands it now remains. From this end of the continent many
explorations were made, some by merchants and traders, and
gome by missionaries.

As early as 1777, the Orange river was visited, and an
attempt made to cross over to Mozambique on the east coast,
but the travelers were killed on the way. Mr. Campbell, a
missionary, penetrated further into the interior, and came to
the border of an immense desert, which he supposed rivaled
in extent the desert of Sahara. This desert was crossed by
Livingstone, as we shall see in following his journeys.

Another missionary, Rev. Robert Moffat, lived in South
Africa over fifty years, and has given us a very interesting
account of his experiences and discoveries. In 1818, he
took up his abode in Great Namaqua-land, just north of the
Orange River, dwelling for six months in a Hottentot hut.
This station being almost uninhabitable on account of the


want of rain, he went to explore the country northward on the
border of the Damara land, but without success. Soon after
he took a journey eastward, along the Orange River, and
gives a glowing account of the river scenery and the denizens
thereof birds of rare plumage but without a song, geese,
ducks, flamingoes, swallows, ravens, etc. Tigers lions, and
hyenas also abounded, and he was surrounded one morning by a
hundred baboons, of gigantic size and threatening aspect.

Passing on over a hot plain without water, the delusive
mirage tantilized him with exhibitions of the lovliest pic-

Online LibraryJosiah TylerLivingstone lost and found → online text (page 6 of 51)