David Livingstone 1855-1856

Kololo.  Barotse (Lozi).  Tonga.  Bashukalumpo (Ila).  Bisa.  Bapimpe.  Nyai.  Chief Mburuma (Nsenga).

David Livingstone is now on his journey to the east coast.  He leaves Linyanti, accompanied by Sekeletu, king of the Kololo, and they walk along the river to the Zambezi. 

The Barotse believe that at a certain part of the river a tremendous monster lies hid, that will catch a canoe and hold it motionless in spite of the efforts of the paddlers.  They believe that some of them possess the knowledge of the proper prayer to lay the monster. 

As they neared the Victoria Falls:

The next evening we slept opposite the island of Chondo, and, then crossing the Lekone or Lekwine, early the following morning, were at the island of Sekote, called Kalai.  This Sekote was the last of the Batoka chiefs whom Sebituane rooted out.  This island is surrounded by a rocky shore and deep channels, through which the river rushes with great force.  Sekote, feeling secure in his island home, ventured­­­ to ferry over the Matabele enemies of Sebituane.  When they had retired, Sebituane made one of those rapid marches which he always adopted in every enterprise.  He came down the Leeambye from Naliele, sailing by day along the banks, and during the night in the middle of the stream, to avoid the hippopotami.  When he reached Kalai Sekote took advantage of the larger canoes they employ in the rapids, and fled during the night to the opposite bank.  Most of his people were slain or taken captive, and the island has ever since been under the Makololo. It is large enough to contain a considerable town.  On the northern side I found the kotla of the elder Sekote, garnished with numbers of human skulls mounted on poles: a large heap of the crania of hippopotami, the tusks untouched except by time, stood on one side.  At a short distance, under some trees, we saw the grave of Sekote, ornamented with seventy large elephants’ tusks planted round it with the points turned inward, and there were thirty more placed over the resting-places of his relatives.  … The Batoka believe that Sekote had a pot of medicine buried here, which, when opened, would cause an epidemic in the country. 

Chondo is Chundu Island.  The Lekone, I assume is Sinde River.  Sekote is Chief Sekute.  Leeambye is the Zambezi. Naliele is Nalolo.

After visiting the Falls:

At three spots near these falls, one of them the island in the middle, on which we were, three Batoka chiefs offered up prayers and sacrifices to the Barimo.  They chose their places of prayer within the sound of the roar of the cataract, and in sight of the bright bows in the cloud.  They must have looked upon the scene with awe.  Fear may have induced the selection.  The river itself is to them mysterious. 

The words of the canoe-song are,

“The Leeambye!  Nobody knows

Whence it comes and whither it goes.”

 In discussion with Sekeletu on Kalai Island:

Some Mambari had come down thus far, and induced the Batoka to sell a very large tusk which belonged to Sekeletu for a few bits of cloth.  They had gone among the Batoka who need hoes, and, having purchased some of these from the people near Sesheke, induced the others living farther east to sell both ivory and children.  They would not part with children for clothing or beads, but agriculture with wooden hoes is so laborious, that the sight of the hoes prevailed.  The Makololo proposed to knock the Mambari on the head as the remedy the next time they came; but on my proposing that they should send hoes themselves, and thereby secure the ivory in a quiet way, all approved highly of the idea. 

The Mambari are the slave traders from Angola.

After visiting the Mosi-oa-Tunya, David Livingstone continues his journey with 114 men carrying elephant tusks.  Sekeletu remains behind.  They reach a village of a man named, Moyara, after four days, travelling along a river named Lekone (Sinde). 

The father of Moyara was a powerful chief, but the son now sits among the ruins of the town with four or five wives and a few people.  In this hamlet I counted fifty-four human skulls hung on stakes.  These were Matabele whom his father had overwhelmed when they were suffering from sickness and famine.  I remarked that many were the skulls of mere boys, and asked why his father had killed boys.  ‘To show his fierceness,’ was the answer.  …

All the Batoka tribes follow the curious custom of knocking out the upper front teeth at the age of puberty.  This is done by both sexes.  When questioned respecting the origin of this practice, the Batoka reply that their object is to be like oxen, and those who retain their teeth they consider to resemble zebras. 

The Batoka of the Zambezi are dark in colour and very degraded in appearance, and not likely to improve because they are addicted to smoking mutokwane (Cannabis sativa); …  It is extensively used by tribes of the interior, …

After another four days they come to the edge of Kololo-controlled land.  David Livingstone states that this is the place where the Matabele defeated the Kololo, so it has to be near present-day Kalomo.  They travelled further north. 

The farther north we advanced the more we found the country swarming with inhabitants.  Great numbers came to see the white men, a sight they had never held before.  They always brought presents of maize and masuko.  Their mode of salutation is quite singular.  They throw themselves on their backs on the ground, rolling from side to side, and slap themselves on their thighs as expressions of thankfulness, uttering the words ‘Kina bomba.’ … the men being totally unclothed.

Many of the people wore no clothes at this time.  The weather did not warrant the wearing of clothes.  Only at night would covering be used to keep warm.  In some cases even though a person had access to clothes it was a fashion statement to wear none.  There is a story about a Lunda princess who had plenty of clothes chose only to cover herself in red ochre.  For David Livingstone and other Europeans to meet people who were completely naked must have come as quite a shock.  During the Victorian era (David Livingstone’s time) clothes were essential to keep warm and there were strict codes of appropriate dress.  When they came to Africa, even though it was very hot, many Europeans stuck to the dress code.  It must have been extremely uncomfortable for them. 

After three weeks from the Victoria Falls they reach Monze’s village.

He is considered the chief of all the Batoka we have seen.  He lives near the hill Kisekise, whence we have a view of at least thirty miles of open undulating country, covered with short grass, and having but few trees.  These open lawns would in any other land, as well as this be termed pastoral, but the people have now no cattle, and only a few goats and fowls.  They are located all over the country in small villages, and cultivate large gardens.  They are said to have adopted this wide-spread mode of habitation in order to give alarm should any enemy appear.  In former times they lived in large towns. 

We can assume that the Kololo and Matabele had raided the Tongas previously. The Kololo had arrived near Kalomo in 1838; the Matabele had settled near Bulawayo in 1837.

The chief Monze came to us on Sunday morning, wrapped in a large cloth, and rolled himself about in the dust, screaming “Kina bomba,” as they all do.  The sight of great naked men wallowing on the ground, though intended to do me honor, was always very painful.  …  One of his wives accompanied him; she would have been comely if her teeth had been spared; she had a little battle-axe in her hand and helped her husband to scream.  … We rather liked Monze, for he soon felt at home with us, and kept up conversation during much of the day. 

The next chief David Livingstone meets is Semalembue, near the Kafue River.  Semalembue is very hospitable, giving food generously.  He does not say which tribe these people belong to, but they are obviously different from the Tonga he has passed through.  Could they be Goba?

Semalembue tells David Livingstone:

There is a large, flat district of country to the north, said to be peopled by the Bashukulompo and other tribes, who cultivate the ground to a great extent, and raise vast quantities of grain, ground-nuts, sweet potatoes, etc.  They also grow sugar-cane. 

Bashukulompo are Ila.

I heard that Semalembue gets a good deal of ivory from the surrounding tribes on pretense of having some supernatural power.  He transmits this to some other chiefs on the Zambesi, and receives in return English cotton goods which come from Mozambique by Babisa traders.   

Semalembue was accompanied by about forty people, all large men.  They have much hair on their heads, which is sometimes drawn all together up to the crown, and tied there in a large tapering bunch.  The forehead and round the ears is shaved close to the base of this tuft.  Others draw out the hair on one side and twist it into little strings.  The rest is taken over and hangs above the ear, which gives the appearance of having a cap cocked jauntily on the side of the head. 

The Babisa are the Bisa people who were great traders from around Lake Bangweulu. They were the intermediaries between the Kazembe Lunda on Lake Mweru and the Portuguese of Mozambique.

Semalembue escorts David Livingstone to a ford across the Kafue River.  Once across the river, they climb up the hills in front, part of the Zambezi Escarpment.   

Semalembue intended that we should go a little to the northeast, and pass through the people called Bapimpe, and we saw some of that people, who invited us to come that way on account of its being smoother; but, feeling anxious to get back to the Zambesi again, we decided to cross the hills toward its confluence with the Kafue.

I have no idea who the Bapimpe people are. 

The people live on the hills, and, having no guns, seldom disturb the game.  They have never been visited, even by half-castes; but Babisa traders have come occasionally. 

We spent a night at a baobab, which was hollow, and would hold twenty men inside.  It had been used as a lodging-house by the Babisa.

They then come back to the Zambezi River.

The inhabitants on that side are the Batonga, those on the south bank are the Banyai.  The hills abound in buffaloes, and elephants are numerous, and many are killed by people on both banks.  They erect stages on high trees overhanging the paths by which the elephants come, and then use a large spear with a handle nearly as thick as a man’s wrist, and four or five feet long.  When the animal comes beneath they throw the spear, and if it enters between the ribs above, as the blade is at least twenty inches long by two broad, the motion of the handle, as it is aided by knocking against the trees, makes frightful gashes within, and soon causes death.

The women here are in the habit of piercing the upper lip, and gradually enlarging the orifice until they can insert a shell.  The lip then appears drawn out beyond the perpendicular of the nose, and gives them a most ungainly aspect.  Sekwebu remarked, “These women want to make their mouths like those of ducks;” …  This custom prevails throughout the country of the Maravi, and no one could see it without confessing that fashion had never led women to a freak more mad. 

When we came near a village, we saw men, women, and children employed in weeding their gardens, they being great agriculturalists.  Most of the men are muscular, and have large plowman hands.  … They mark themselves by a line of little raised cicatrices, each of which is a quarter of an inch long; they extend from the tip of the nose to the root of the hair on the forehead.

While walking along the Zambezi, they meet first, friendly headmen who offer food, but further along one chief become aggressive. 

The reason why Selole acted in this foolish manner we afterwards found to be this.  An Italian called Simoens had married the daughter of a chief living north of Tete.  He armed a party of fifty slaves with guns, and ascending the river attacked several inhabited islands beyond, securing a large number of slaves and much ivory.  On his return, however, he was attacked … and killed. … Selole imagined I was another Italian. 

Three weeks later they reach the Luangwa River.  They are being guided by people from Mburuma’s village.  Chief Mburuma is an Nsenga.  David Livingstone is very suspicious of these people.  He watches them carefully and, although, the Nsenga have plenty of canoes to help David Livingstone’s party cross the Luangwa, they are only allowed to use two.  Fortunately, although a large crowd of armed men appeared to watch David Livingstone’s party cross, they were not attacked. 

The Nsenga people had long been used to Portuguese coming upriver from the coast.  The Portuguese had settled on the other side of the Zambezi River in a town named Zumbo in 1720.  Luangwa Town used to be called Feira and had been occupied by the Portuguese in 1820.

We reached the confluence of the Loangwa and the Zambezi.  I walked about some ruins I discovered, built of stone, and found the remains of a church, a broken bell with the letters I.H.S., and a cross but no date. 

David Livingstone’s party now enters Mozambique and is not part of our story.

From WikiCommons – David Livingstone’s journey