David Livingstone 1853-1855

Kololo. Barotse (Lozi). Tonga. Subiya. Mbunda. Ishindi Lunda. Mambari.

David Livingstone has visited Zambesia and met the Kololo king in 1851, travelling with his wife and children.  He knows that he cannot travel further north taking his wife and children with him so he returns south and sends them to England. 

He has a plan to find a better route to the interior of Africa rather than the present one through the Kalahari.  He returns to Linyanti in 1853 where he finds that Sekeletu is now the king. 

Sekeletu was eighteen years of age, of the dark yellow, of which the Makololo are so proud.

Next day we returned in canoes across the flooded land.  A few days later a party of the Barotse came down from Linyanti to take us across the river.  This they did in fine style, swimming and diving among the oxen, more like alligators than men, and taking the wagons to pieces, carried them across on a number of canoes lashed together.  Now we were among friends.

Sekeletu accompanies David Livingstone to Sesheke.

When we arrive at any village, the women all turn out to ‘lulliloo’ their chief.  Their shrill voices, to which they give a tremulous sound by a quick motion of the tongue, peal forth ‘Great Lion’, ‘Great Chief’, ‘Sleep, my Lord’.  The men utter similar salutations, all of which are received by Sekeletu with lordly indifference.  After the news has been told, the headman of the village, who is always a Makololo, brings forth a number of large pots of beer.  They bring forth also large pots and bowls of thick milk, some of which contain six or eight gallons; and each of these, as well as the beer, is given to a particular person, who has the power to divide it with whom he pleases.

Later they need more meat:

Hunting on foot in this country is very hard work.  … But the Makololo shot so badly that I was obliged to go myself in order to save my powder.

Guns were only available through trade. The trade for guns was slaves and elephant tusks. The Kololo knew that their society depended on the work of their people and therefore would not sell them happily to slave traders. They did sell some people who were of no value to them – people captured in raids and criminals. It would seem that the Kololo people had little expertise with guns, showing us that they had not acquired many and hence had not participated much in the slave trade. A question mark for me here is that they did have plenty of elephant tusks to sell, but without selling slaves to carry them, the trade in elephant tusks was surely limited. Would this be a proper conclusion?

From Sesheke, they head upstream towards Naliele (Nalolo?):

Having at last collected a fleet of thirty-three canoes and about one hundred and sixty men, we began to ascend the river. …  They stand upright and keep stroke with great precision though they change from side to side as the course demands.  The men at the head and stern are the strongest and most expert. … They love to race each other along at top speed, and place their masters’ lives in danger.  In the event of a capsize many of the Makololo would sink like a stone. 

They reach Nalolo.

Naliele, the capital of the Barotse is built on a mound which was constructed by Santuru to store grain.  Santuru was a great hunter, and fond of taming animals.  He had among others two young hippopotami.  These gambolled in the river all day but never failed to go to Naliele for their supper of milk and meal.

Sekeletu and David Livingstone then go to Sekeletu’s mother’s town:

The people usually show their joy and work off their excitement in dances and songs.  The men stand nearly naked in a circle, with clubs or small battle-axes in their hands, each roaring at the top of his voice, while simultaneously lift one leg, stamp heavily twice with it, then lift the other and stamp once with that.  The arms and head are thrown about in every direction.  The perspiration streams off their bodies; the noise rends the air; and the continued stamping makes a cloud of dust ascend and leaves a deep ring in the ground.

This dance is reminiscent of their southern African roots and is probably copied from the Zulus.

David Livingstone then prepares for his journey to Luanda. 

The three men whom I had brought from Kuruman suffered much from fever, so I decided to send them south … I was entirely dependent on my twenty-seven whom I might calls Zambesians, for there were only two Makololo, while the rest consisted of Barotse, Batoka, Bashubia and two Ambonda.

Bashubia will be Subiya and Ambonda will be Mbunda.

The group sets off with many gifts from Sekeletu.  They travel north and reach Lundaland.

On 6th January we reached the village of another female chief named Nyamoana, who is said to be the mother of Manenko and sister of Shinte (Ishindi), the greatest Balonda chief in this part of the country.  Her husband, Samoana, was clothed in a kilt of green and red baize, and was armed with a spear and broadsword of antique form, about eighteen inches long and three broad.  The chief and her husband were sitting on skins placed in the middle of a circle thirty paces in diameter, a little raised above the ordinary level of the ground and having a trench around it.  Outside the trench sat about a hundred persons of all ages and both sexes.  The men were armed with bows, arrows, spears, and broadswords. …  We put down our arms about forty yards off, and I walked up to the centre and saluted him in the usual way by clapping hands in their fashion.

They travel on to Ishinde’s town.

We were honoured with a grand reception by Shinte about eleven o’clock.  … The kgotla, or place of audience, was about a hundred yards square, and two graceful banian-trees stood near one end.  Under one of these sat Shinte on a sort of throne covered with leopard skin.  He wore a checked jacket and a kilt of scarlet baize edged with green.  Many strings of large beads hung from his neck, and his limbs were covered with iron and copper armlets and bracelets.  On his head he wore a helmet of beads woven neatly together and crowned with a great bunch of goose feathers.  Close to him sat three lads with large sheaves of arrows over their shoulders.

When we entered the kgotla the whole of Manenko’s party saluted Shinte by clapping their hands, and Sambanza did obeisance by rubbing his chest and arms with ashes.  One of the trees being unoccupied, I retreated to it for the sake of shade, and my whole party did the same.  We were now about forty yards from the chief and could see the whole ceremony.

The different sections of the tribe came forward in the same way as we did, the headman of each making obeisance with ashes which he carried with him for the purpose.  Then came the soldiers, all armed to the teeth, running and shouting towards us, with their swords drawn and their faces screwed up so as to appear as savage as possible; for the purpose, I thought of trying whether they could not make us take to our heels.  As we did not they turned round towards Shinte, saluted him, and then retired.  …

Behind Shinte sat about a hundred women, clothed in their best, which happened to be a profusion of red baize.  The chief wife of Shinte, one of the Matabele or Zulus, sat in front with a curious red cap on her head.  During the intervals between the speeches these ladies burst forth into a sort of plaintive ditty, but it was impossible to catch whether it was in praise of the speaker, of Shinte, or of themselves.  This was their first time that I had ever seen females present at a public assembly: in the south the women are not permitted to enter the kgotla.  Here they expressed approbation by clapping their hands and laughing, and Shinte frequently turned round and spoke to them.

A party of musicians, consisting of three drummers and four performers on the marimba, went round the kgotla several times regaling us with their music.  …

About a thousand people and three hundred soldiers were present.  The sun was now hot and the scene ended by the Mambari discharging their guns. 

We were particularly struck with the punctiliousness of manners shown by the Balonda.  Inferiors on meeting their superiors in the street at once drop on their knees and rub dust on their arms and chests, and continue the salutation of clapping the hands until the great ones have passed.  … We several times saw the woman who holds the office of drawer of water to Shinte; as she passes along she rings a bell to give warning to all to keep out of her way.  It would be a great offence for anyone to exercise an evil influence by approaching the drink of the chief. 

David Livingstone then travels further north, along the Zambezi and meets more Lunda people who treat him equally kindly, providing food and hospitality. 

He then heads west toward the coast where he meets other people who are not in the least bit friendly.  He is now in the slave trade area where tribes are pitted against each other to capture slaves and sell them at the coast to the Portuguese.  The Portuguese had been trading in slaves since the 1500s – over 300 years!

Map from Livingstone’s Travels, edited by James MacNair

David Livingstone mentions the Lobale Plains but does not say that he meets any Lobale (Lovale) people.

One of the tribes he mentions is Chiboque which have to be Chokwe.  He tells us that the Chokwe filed their teeth to a point.  He also comments that the Chokwe worked with the Mambari slave traders.

The Chokwe who came to present-day Zambia came in the early 1900s and were part of the Wiko – people from the west – which included the Luchazi and Lovale.  The slave trade continued in Angola for a long time after its abolition in 1836.  The people were no longer taken overseas but were taken to work on farms and in factories in Angola itself. 

David Livingstone and his team took 6½ months to go from Linyanti to Luanda.  They stayed at the port for 11 months and then did the return journey back to Linyanti which took them another year.

They were welcomed back by the people with lots of excitement:

My men decked themselves out in their best, and I found that although their goods were finished, they had managed to save suits of European clothing, which, being white, with their red caps, gave them rather a dashing appearance.  They tried to walk like the soldiers they had seen at Loanda, and called themselves my braves. 

I wonder if this is the start of the Lozi tradition of wearing red caps.