Colin Harding came to Barotseland in 1899 as Acting British Resident at the age of 26. He had been posted to Northwestern Rhodesia to raise a Police Force and to train them but had to temporarily fill in as Resident. As Resident he travelled widely getting to know the people and the geography.
He was posted to Mongu, near Lealui, the palace of Chief Lewanika, with whom he quickly made friends. Chief Lewanika helped Colin Harding in all aspects of his role as Resident until, finally the ‘proper’ Resident, Robert Coryndon, returned a year or so later.
Colin Harding wrote three books, one of which is In Remotest Barotseland which gives us detailed accounts of his travels in the region.
The first trip he took was upstream from Lealui into Lovaleland and Lundaland. The border between Portuguese West Africa (Angola). Belgium Congo (DRC) and Northwestern Rhodesia had not been agreed so some of his travels took him beyond our present border.
He travelled by canoe up the Zambezi River. First, he met Mokwai, the sister of Chief Lewanika.
Among our distinguished visitors on the way up was the Mokwai Mo-Mi, an elder sister of King Lewanika. She was a grizzled, dried-apple personage, but had a very kindly heart, and regaled us royally with the produce of her gardens and herds.
She was accompanied by her Prime Minister, a man named Mambwa. He wore a long dressing gown with red stripes, a straw hat without a brim, and with a feather stuck in the cream- coloured band. Throughout our parley with the Mokwai he was convulsed with laughter, and at one rather feeble joke of mine could contain himself no longer, but rose and walked away shaking his fat sides with absurd merriment. I have never seen anywhere so ludicrous a face as his, and the thought of him never fails, to this day, to make me roar with laughter.
Further upstream he meets the Lovale people:
Every day I was interviewed by natives on either side of the river. This is of course part of my work, but it certainly has its comic as well as its serious side. One morning there visited me a personage of really considerable importance. He was the N’gambella, or Prime Minister, of one of the largest chiefs in the country we had reached, and a connection of one of the royal houses, his wife being the youngest daughter of the chief Masungundungu! He appeared accompanied by a guard composed of two small boys, bearing and beating a drum, made without parchment or skin of any kind. These came first, walking with an assumption of severe dignity, which sat, with most ludicrous effect, on their small persons.
Next came an induna bearing a huge sheathed double-edged knife, dagger shaped, the sheath made of wood, studded with brass nails, and the handle beautifully carved from the same piece of iron as the blade, and covered with plaited wire. After this induna came the N’gambella’s brother-in-law, carrying another blood-curdling implement, and finally the N’gambella himself, surrounded by his staff. The great man was arrayed in a coloured nightcap, a coat, and trousers. The coat was one that in its palmy days might have fitted a boy of fifteen, whilst the trousers, formerly apparently the property of a private in the 42nd Highlanders, were so tight that their proud owner could only walk with the greatest caution.
Chief Masungundungu is no longer on the list of chiefs for the Lovale. It is not clear too whether he was in present-day Angola or Zambia. When the borders were finally drawn for Northwestern Rhodesia, Belgium Congo and Portuguese West Africa, the Lovale and Lunda found their clansmen on opposite sides, their societies divided by European boundaries. This brought about confusion for the people who found, sometimes, that their senior chief was in another country.
Those Lunda and Lovale who found themselves under British administration also disliked the British idea that they were part of the Lozi empire. The British had used the ‘Lozi Empire’ as a bargaining tool when negotiations had been taking place in Europe over the borders. So, this idea that the Lunda and Lovale in the north, were under Lozi control remained in the minds of the British administrators … but certainly not in the minds of the Lunda and Lovale!
Sasa is Colin Harding’s ‘headman’. Meeting Lunda people:
As soon as we decided to halt for lunch — about three hours from our start — we invariably found that the boat containing the commissariat was miles in the rear, but the time of hungry waiting was often occupied by the reception of some induna, his hair (if a Malunda) ochred, and braided with clay and grease, the latter being composed of the fat of ox or hippo. One of these Malunda chiefs, Kompatho by name, had his beard, of which he is unnecessarily proud, tied up in one large pigtail two inches in length, securely fastened and ornamented with blue beads. …
Whenever any chief came to see me the forms of etiquette never varied. He was brought up and introduced by Sasa, and informed that I am the Morena or chief; he then gave the royal salute, the indunas with him following his example. This salute consists of holding the arms high in the air and shouting ” Shangwe ” in guttural tones, after which the company sits down on its haunches, and loud hand-clapping …
… the Malunda tribe … have for years past unwillingly supplied slaves for the west coast, and consequently the villages are destitute of young men, whilst decrepit and palsied veterans of both sexes are seen in abundance throughout the kraals. The costume of the Malunda is as dissimilar as is their language to that of the Valovale. Two gaudy beads decorate their heads, the men wear less calico than the Valovale, and their hair is kept short. They do not in any way recognise Nyakatoro’s authority, but acknowledge as their chief an induna called Sinde or Shinti, who lives on the Kabompo, and is a recognised chief of Lewanika’s. ……
Owing to the persistent slave-raiding of the Valovale and Mambari, the Malunda are in a constant state of armed resistance. Most of the villages are stockaded, and on our arrival the natives rushed away into the bush like rabbits, until drawn back by our assurances of friendly intention. They then emerged valiantly with excuses for their rapid disappearance, generally remarking airily that they had decamped for the purpose of calling the induna, who was working in the gardens. Kaponda, near whose kraal we stayed one night, brought us down a goat and meal for presents — a most welcome change from the manioc porridge and bread off which we had been feasting so long a time. …
Not long before, the Lunda Empire had begun to crumble so the outlying clans found that they were no longer protected by the central organisation of Mwata Yamvo.
Leaving the canoes, Colin Harding goes overland to find the source of the Zambezi:
I breakfasted while my clothes made some attempt at drying in front of a fire, and to my joy after breakfast we came on a native garden. I sent the native interpreter to try and induce the owners of the crops to visit me, but in vain. We could find no one to interview. The kraal, when we reached it, was deserted, but hearing voices in the surrounding bush I again sent Peter out to reconnoitre — again with no result. I told the boys to take what food they required, intending to pay the owners of the garden if I could see them; in any case, food was absolutely indispensable. My instructions were received with acclamation, and the boys went to work with great promptitude to carry them out. Proceeding for about two miles along a good foot-path I suddenly came upon about ten fully armed Malunda. They at once cocked their guns, and as I was leisurely pursuing my way minus breeches or coat I considered a pleasant friendliness the best attitude to take up. I clapped my hands amiably at them, which gave them pause until Peter came up, and explained that our intentions were friendly, and they then consented to answer a few questions and lead us to their kraal. Their induna was named Kashali, and resided in a fortress of no mean dimensions, enclosed with a high earthen wall, and ditch with long poles driven in to effectually prevent the scaling of the wall by either native or white troops.
We found all the kraals in this country similarly guarded against the raiding of the Valovale. The entrance to the kraal is constructed on the principle of those before described, and we were again obliged to enter it on all fours. …
He was very reserved at first, and after hearing what we had to say retired to consult with his chiefs as to what course to pursue with regard to our arrival.
… Returning, he complained of numerous raids from Valovale and Mambari tribes, who came and seized his people as slaves. We had seen a good deal of this raiding on our way, deserted villages being constant ocular demonstration of the truth of Kashali’s statements.
… Leaving the river on our right, we marched along briskly, but the path did not last long, and by breakfast-time — half-past eight — we were once more wading waist high in the Molazi river. After the very frugal meal called breakfast, we had to struggle somehow through the Combumgi, which is of far larger dimensions than the Molazi. We found Mashora, when we reached his kraal, a very intelligent person, and exceedingly pleased to see us — though his women and children nearly upset his equilibrium by their impetuous flight to escape anything so appalling as myself. He stood his ground with great courage, however, and stated after preliminary greetings that he was an induna of Kanongesia, who lived one day’s march from his kraal to the west. He gave me the native name for the Kapenda cataracts which is Marunda-a-Makesh, ” the death of man ” — a name founded on circumstances of a somewhat gruesome character.
Some years ago the Valovale tried to cross the cataract by a temporary bridge, intent on a raid on the Malunda. But the bridge gave way and several of the would-be raiders met their fate in the seething waters below. The Valovale gave up their excursion and retired in peace to their houses, and since then the spot has been held as sacred by the Malunda. …
Kanongesia is Chief Kanongesha, still a Lunda Chief in the northwest. Having said that, it would seem that the original Kanongesia was, at the time of Colin Harding’s journey on the Angolan side of the border. When the border was ‘officially’ drawn, the Lunda left Kanongesia in Angola but installed a new one in Northwestern Rhodesia.
After leaving Mashora’s kraal early on Monday morning we pursued a south-east course, keeping close to the Che Yougholo river, which flowed on our right for two miles; and we arrived at Manouta’s kraal, a distance of six miles, without seeing any villages whatever. The country through which we passed was high and dry, with thin bush, a distinctly healthy neighbourhood. Manouta’s kraal was passed on our right, and taking an east-north-east direction, we arrived at Sakapenda’s kraal, another six miles distance, quite ready for breakfast. Sakapenda was most obliging, and volunteered to guide us to Moroba’s kraal, which was the point we wished to reach.
The women and children, as usual, fled into the bush on our first appearance, reappearing in nervous groups of two and three after we had settled in their village. Here we found a Mambari camp ; these traders arrive periodically at Sakapenda’s to trade in rubber and an occasional slave. With Sakapenda as guide the time seemed short until we reached Marova’s. On the road we came upon a crowd of Malunda warriors, who, hearing of our approach, and concluding we meant fighting, had turned out immediately to meet the war, and guard their village from supposed ravenous raiders.
Sakapenda soon appeased their warlike intentions, and they joined our train, clapping their hands and keenly delighted to meet our friendly selves sooner than a caravan of Mambari or Valovale raiders. We crossed the Chingombe quite close to Marova’s village; it was a large river at this time of year, but during the winter months it is quite small and narrow. Marova’s village is stockaded like the rest of the Malunda kraals, but the induna is a more important chief than any we have yet met in the Lunda country. …
For the first two miles we passed gardens; struggling on, wet through in half an hour, we passed the Chiombe river, which was quite a mile wide, but never deep enough to require swimming. Later we arrived at Mosshisse’s kraal. He was most kind, and gave me a hut where I dried my clothes, and a goat. Finally, he presented me with a guide, who brought me to Samogala’s kraal at 12.30.
This kraal is on the Loambazi river. It is surrounded by a ditch and breastwork, having two entrances, east and north. Samogala has an inner kraal for himself and his wives, which is again surrounded by a ditch and stakes driven firmly into the ground and rising to a height of ten feet.
On our arrival the village was in a state of great excitement, and for a time would have nothing of any of us, and insisted in thinking we were Mambaris. I was very wet and tired; it had rained incessantly, and since leaving camp in the morning we had walked ten miles under the most exasperating circumstances. I sent for Samogala, but the message seemed to have little or no effect. Whilst waiting I took possession of an empty hut poked up the dying embers of the fire, and again stripping proceeded to go through the course of drying and ten grains of quinine. The stimulant picked me up, and I was getting quite comfortable when the chief at last appeared on the scene. Arrayed in my partly-dried clothes, I proceeded to our trysting place and was presented. Samogala was seated on a lion skin, surrounded by his indunas. He is a man of commanding presence, well made, and with a kindly large face under his partly grey hair. His head was also covered by a crown of gilt, whilst his hair was trained at the back into a small sugar-loaf shape, about ten inches long, which was again ornamented and covered by large brass-headed nails. His whiskers were tied into four small separate tails ; his body was large and his huge deep chest shone in the welcome sun that had recently condescended to shine on our proceedings. I went through the usual greetings and received the chief’s complaints of the repeated raids of the Valovale and Mambari, who came and stole his people and burnt their villages; it is due to his fear of the Valovale that he has, like other chiefs, made his village into a kind of fortress.
Samogala paid me a second visit, and I visited his harem. In this respect he neither stints himself in his selection nor spares trouble for their accommodation. About twenty huts are set aside for the use of his wives, and no one is allowed to visit them without his special consent. ….
Before entering Samogala’s village I was particularly struck by the number of little altars, or fetish huts, which adorned every ant-hill or bit of rising ground of any good position. Leading to the right or left of your path you would notice a neatly-cleared road, about four feet wide, leading to a small shed, artistically made, beneath which you discovered a pot containing food for the dead or medicine for the dying. Here and there you find a grass animal of grotesque and abnormal proportions, supposed to represent some evil spirit of their forefathers, or some animal which they propose hunting — and this offering is to ensure success. Round these erections you also find the masks and skulls of such animals as have already fallen to the sportsman’s gun. …
Next trip into Angola up the Lutembwe and then Luena.
The Lovale people were often named the Luena people because they came from the region around the Luena River.
Yesterday we walked round the source of the Luena, and within ten miles I was pointed out the course of the Lungubungu, about 25 or 30 miles south of our course. To-day we have found the source of two small tributaries of the Lungubungu, whilst our camp is within ten miles of the source of the Linda, even at this distance quite a large river. Every day I am seeing traces of the slave trade. The wayside trees are simply hung with disused shackles, some to hold one, some two, three, and even six slaves; skulls and bones bleached by the sun lie where the victims fell, and gape with helpless grin on those who pass, a damning evidence of a horrible traffic. Some are buried and surrounded and covered with wood, marked by a piece of linen or calico tied to a pole stuck in the ground, which shows that the dead man was more than an ordinary slave. Yesterday we met two caravans, and to-day one, all proceeding to the Lunda country for their living merchandise. Some of them were carrying spare guns, some calico, others powder. Small boys and young girls were alike loaded with trading material, whilst the half-caste or Bihean trader walked in the rear attired in a startling costume, rascality written on every line of his face. The Mambari do their marching by easy stages; they travel with their women, and regard the whole game as a picnic. Time is no object, as under no circumstances would they return to Bihe till December or January. …
This morning we met another slave caravan, numbering in all 86. This is the third, all going to the Lunda country, and all for the same dastardly purpose. Again to-day several of the carriers were mere children, and the three Mambari traders as usual had their women. Most of their trading produce consists of calico, but I noticed a lot of spare guns and powder. They hardly recognised me in a dirty flannel shirt, veldt schoens, and trousers now short at the knees, …
This is all the information on the people that he met on this journey. It is clear from his stories that the people in the north and west of Loziland were in a dreadful state because of the slave trade. Interesting too is that he rarely mentions any wildlife during his travels – I think we can be fairly sure that there was little left after the slave trade caravans with their guns had killed most of it.
The next trip he took was in 1900 to the Zambezi and Kafue Rivers.