Francisco Lacerda 1798
Francisco Lacerda was formally known as Dr Francisco Jose Maria De Lacerda e Almeida. He was born in 1750 in Brazil, then a Portuguese colony, and educated in Portugal becoming a Doctor of Mathematics. After working as an explorer in Brazil, he was sent to Mozambique in order to find a trade route between the Portuguese territories of Mozambique and Angola via the Lunda Kazembe Empire.
He set off from Sena with a massive armed convoy of over 500 people including, possibly 15 Portuguese who were allocated to the expedition as guides and protectors. He was then aged 48 years. One of the Portuguese was a priest, Father Francisco Joao Pinto, who was to take charge of the expedition after the death of Francisco Lacerda.
It would seem that, most of the way, the Portuguese were carried in palanquins carried by porters. Palanquins were popular in India where the Portuguese also had a port and were trading. I found this drawing of a palanquin. I expect the Portuguese had had them manufactured in Mozambique, but I have not seen any pictures from there.
Before leaving on the expedition, Lacerda got as much information as he could about the route and about Kazembe and the people he is likely to meet along the way. He is told this about Kazembe:
He has a number of domestic slaves, and he carefully preserves his many wives, who are allowed to speak with his confidents only. His usual dress is a large silk sheet wound around the middle and girt with a bandoleer: it is plaited and folded above the girdle …. He wears a cap ornamented with red feathers, and his legs are adorned with cowries, large white beads, the pipe-shaped beads, much valued amongst them …
The City is surrounded by a deep ditch, said to be several leagues in length … The offensive weapons are spears 6 feet long, and shorter assegais for throwing, with broad-bladed and well-worked viol-shaped and pointed knives … For defensive armour they have shields, externally of light thin tree-bark, large enough to defend the whole body: the inside is strengthened and kept in shape by neat wickerwork, and before battle these defences are soaked in water. The soldiers do not use bows and arrow, but the Muiza archers skirmish in the van of the army, which is formed in three lines.
Lacerda had endless problems finding porters and then food for the porters throughout the journey. His attitude did not help because he tended to feel he had the right to order the people around. In fact, most of his text is about the problems he has, not only with the porters and slaves but also with the Portuguese men who had accompanied the expedition.
They reached Tete and then continued northwards coming in to Chewa territory. He names the Chewa as Marave, their original name from south of Lake Malawi.
They reach the Luangwa River and then they are in Bisaland. The Bisa are called by Lacerda: Muiza. The Bisa at the time were the traders of the region working for Kazembe. They trekked slaves carrying elephant tusks to the coast, either to the Arabs or Portuguese. They were worldly-wise and very cunning in all their dealings with Lacerda. The Bisa, then, occupied a vast area. This was the time before the main slave trade started when the Bemba were to rise as the dominant tribe in the region.
He comments of the Bisa:
The Muiza jag the sides of their teeth, making them resemble those of a saw.
He also tells us that the Bisa use the red dust from a tree to cover their hair.
One of the chiefs of the Bisa, he calls Mocando. The Luangwa River is called the Aruangoa. In this text we find the Tumbuka people:
From the Mocando’s country to the southern Aruangoa River, another tribe, the Mutumbuca, is mixed with the Maraves, subject to the chief of the later… Generally speaking, both these Caffre families are well formed and robust, but the women are rendered horrible by their habit of piercing the upper lip to admit an ivory circlet, or a bit of dried gourd of more than a thumb in diameter; you may say that the upper lip serves as a sun-bonnet to the lower. The men wear in their ears stars or rings of pewter, or lastly, young bamboo shoots – about one palm long. On their bodies they draw star-like lines and patterns, which are not without their own peculiar beauty. They wear various head-dresses and necklaces of velorio (beads) or of cowries. Others part their hair into as many ringlets as can be made, about the size of quills; each lock is plaited with tree-fibre from the root to the point, so closely that it is hard, and projects spike-like from the head. Some few begin to tie these pigtails round the roots, and thus they fall over the head with a graceful bend.
They reach northern Luangwa River around present-day Nsefu, I think. They are still in Bisaland
The millet harvest-home having just ended, here, the people are in a constant state of drink, which they call a festival. Since my arrival the drum has never been silent at night, and when I asked if it was to collect a party for me, they replied “No;” it was a sign that on the morrow they would “raise Pombe.” After inquiry, I found the phrase to mean that, when the village chief caused his drum to sound in that way, it was an order for all his “sons,” or subjects, to come on the next day with their pots full of country beer to be drunk with shouting and dancing.
They reach the Chambeshi River.
Many Muizas passed us yesterday, coming from the king with ivory and copper-bars for sale. I now think with reason that the great number of tusks which once went to Mozambique, and which certainly came from these lands, goes at present to Zanzibar, or the neighbourhood, not only because they get more for their ivory, but also because Zanzibar is nearer than our possessions.
Throughout the journey Lacerda spends most of his time sick with malaria. Finally, just as they reach Kazembe’s land, he dies.
The expedition is then handed over to Francisco Pinto, who toils to keep the rabble together and return to Tete. Pinto also wants to continue the journey across country to Angola, but Mwata Kazembe is not happy with this and neither are the Portuguese members of the party who just want to return. It is now November and the rains have started.
Francisco Pinto describes Mwata Kazembe:
The Cazembe shows gravity and inspires respect; he also is tall, and well built, and his age may be about fifty. As he had many wives he becomes every year the father of two, three, or four children. He is very generous at times in giving slaves and pieces of cloth to his vassals, as well as to strangers and whites, when he is not set against them; and every day he sent the Muzungos (white people) money and different presents of provisions, captives, ivory or copper bars, in proportion to their offerings of cloth and beads.
He is severe; death, or at least amputation of the hand, being the usual punishment. He is barbarous; every new moon he causes a Caffre to be killed by his medicine-man, and with the victim’s blood, heart and part of the entrails, they make up is medicine, always mixing it with oil. When these charms are prepared, they are inserted into the horns of various animals which are closed with stoppers of wood or cloth. These fetishes are distributed about his palace and courts; they are hung to doors, and for fear of sorcery the king never speaks to any one without some of these horns lying at his feet.
Usually the men are tall, dark, well made and good-looking; they tattoo, but do not paint their bodies, nor do they jag their teeth. Their dress is a cloth extending from the waist to the knees, which are exposed by the garment being raised in front; it is girt by a leathern belt. Their gala-dress is called “Muconzo;” it is of woollen or cotton, but it must be black.
Francisco Pinto then goes on to describe how the black fabric is bordered in three more bright colours.
When putting on the “Muconzo,” they cover the waist and legs, finishing at the front of the person with a great band of artificial pleats; and the larger it is, the grander is the garb. For arm-ornaments they use strings of fine beads like bracelets; their feet are covered with strung cowries, large opaque stoneware beads, and white or red porcelains. Over their combed head-dresses, which are of many braids, large and small, the locks are also striped with a certain clay, …
As usual the women dress better than the men … They use, like the males, strings of many sorts of beads, to cover their ankles, but they are not so fond of cowries or porcelain. Their coiffure is unlike that of the men; they cut off all the hair, leaving a little lock in the middle, which in time, growing long, serves to support a kind of diadem; the rest of the hair, when it grows, forming sundry lines of short braid.
The expedition stayed at Kazembe’s for 6 months during which time they collected many slaves and elephant tusks to take back with them to Tete. They left in July, now the dry season.
The troops went off this day with my leave. They were charged with the Crown slaves, chained in twos, threes, or fours, to each soldier. …
During the march to Tete:
I heard that Jose Rodrigues Calega was marching so fast, that he would not trouble himself with the sick slaves of the Crown, and that whenever one could not walk his head was cut off. …
When they reached rivers, like the Chambeshi, they were still full from the rains. They could not ford them so had to get boats to ferry everyone across. After crossing the Chambeshi they were attacked by some Bisa. The Bisa continued to attack from time to time and they could rarely find anyone to sell them food. They marched on, hungry. It took 4 months to get back to Tete. They had to abandon many of their elephant tusks and other items as the porters ran away.
Pedro Baptista and Anastácio Francisco 1806
7 years later, two men did manage to cross the continent and record their journey. They were two ‘pombeiros’ from Angola. A pombeira was a person of mixed race. The Portuguese, as we saw with Lacerda, suffered badly from disease in the interior, but people of mixed race fared much better. As Portuguese men had often ‘married’ local women, there were plenty of mixed-race people living along both the Angola and Mozambique coasts.
The two men were Pedro João Baptista and Anastácio Francisco. They crossed from Luanda to Sena, via Kazembe’s capital. It took them 11 weeks to walk from Luanda to Kazembe’s capital. Not much of interest is recorded in Pedro Baptista’s journal during this time, but he does comment on Kazembe when they finally meet.
He was robed in his silks and velvets, and had beads of various kinds on his arms and legs; … King Kazembe is very black, a fine stout young man, with small beard, and red eyes; he is very well accustomed to white traders, who come to his court to buy and sell such articles as seed, manioc flour, maize, haricot beans, sugar cane and fish. Ivory comes from the other side of the river Luapula, and is brought as tribute by the people; green stones (malachite) are found in the ground; traders from the Muizas people come and buy ivory, in exchange for tissues and merchandise; another nation, named Tungalagazas, brings slaves and brass bracelets, cowries, palm-oil …
The Mwata Kazembe who had met Francisco Lacerda, had died and his son had replaced him. I do not know of the Tungalagazas, but they must come from the Katanga area in present-day DRC because malachite is found alongside copper.
The two men are kept at Kazembe’s capital for four years, the king ‘refusing them the road’. Only in 1810 did they continue their journey to Tete which took 8 weeks. Again, there are few details of the people they met.
José Monteiro and Antonio Gamitto 1831
This was the next expedition to Mwata Kazembe. Their full names are Major José Maria Corrêa Monteiro and Captain Antonio Candido Pedroso Gamitto. They went with 20 soldiers and a drummer. They were accompanied by another man who acted as interpreter with his 50 slaves to act as porters. They had a terrible journey as there was little wildlife to kill for food and they ended up almost on the point of starvation. It wasn’t until they reached Kazembe’s land that food was found.
Before they were allowed to meet Mwata Kazembe they were required to visit the graves of the ancestors. This they did over two days.
They were first conducted to the Mashamo of the Muata Canyembo III, the third sovereign of that name and of this state. It consisted of a large quadrangular enclosure, about a hundred paces on each side, constructed of branches of trees and stakes, forming an impenetrable barrier. Near the entrance stood a heap of human skulls, and outside the door, seated cross-legged on a lion-skin, was the Muine-Mashamo (grave-keeper or minister), smeared over with impemba (chalk?) from the head to the waist.
The soldiers here fired three volleys of musketry, and the captain and the interpreter made offerings to the Muzimo (spirit) of the Muata by placing them in front of the minister, who said they were insufficient, and that unless an addition was made, he would not be able to offer them. His demand having been complied with, he took the presents with him into the Mashamo, and shortly afterwards sent to desire the strangers to enter.
They found the whole space inside in a state of utmost cleanliness, and in the centre they saw a large circular house, thatched with straw, in front of the door of which stood another heap of skulls. In the centre of this large house was a smaller one, of cylindrical form, made of plaited cane-work, perfectly empty, and without any decoration, except two painted pillars at the entrance. This was the tomb of Muata, and here they found the minister seated cross-legged, with the presents before him. After he had so remained some time in silence, and apparently in deep meditation, he was heard from time to time to mutter a few words, and at length he exclaimed, with a loud voice, “Averie!” (Hail!). Gamitto says that this exclamation meant “much obliged” but, even, if the true meaning of the expression were not known, the context shows that the Muine-Mashamo was addressing himself to the spirit of the Muata, and not to the officers; for he then turned round to them and said, “The Muzimo is much obliged to the Mazungos, and to the Cazembe Ampaa for having brought them!” On this there was a loud clapping of hands, and cries of “Averie!” on the part of the Cazembes who accompanied the detachment; and the ceremony being then over they all retired, the Cazembes resuming their arms, which they had left outside the enclosure, for no armed person is allowed to enter.
With the formalities completed, the expedition members were allowed to enter the capital to meet Mwata Kazembe. One amusing story is that a donkey had come along on the journey and Gamitto decided to ride it into the town.
It was mounted on this charger that the gallant captain took his place in the procession on its entry into the capital. His uniform consisted of a jacket of blue nankeen and white trowsers, with a scarlet cord and tassels for a sash. He, as well as the other Europeans, had allowed the beard and hair to grow so long that the former reached to his chest, and the latter as low down over his shoulders. On his head he wore an otter-skin cap, and at his side hung his trusty sword, the scabbard of which had become the colour of the natives themselves, from exposure to the air. Thus magnificently equipped, and mounted on his little donkey, he made his solemn entry into what he says is perhaps the largest city of Southern Africa. …
The ass, like the horse, is an animal totally unknown in that part of the world; so that some of the natives said, “It is a man with six legs:” others, “It is an animal that feeds on iron;” others again, “He is a great warrior,”. The immense multitude assembled together, the clamour that was raised by them, and the difficulty of penetrating through the crowd, excited the captain’s charger to such a pitch that it galloped on with its mouth open, as if it wanted to bite the people, every now and then giving utterance to a prolonged bray, to the intense amazement of the people.
They were taken into the court to meet Kazembe:
The Muata was seated on the left side of the east door of the Mossumba. Several panther-skins, with the tails turned outwards, so as to form a sort of star, served him as a carpet, on the centre of which was laid an enormous lion-skin, and upon this was placed a square stool or ottoman covered with a large green cloth. On this species of throne was seated the Muata, clothed with an elegance and sumptuousness such as the Portuguese officers had never witnessed in any other native potentate.
On his head he wore a sort of conical mitre, upwards of a foot in height, formed of feathers of a bright red colour. Encircling this was a diadem of stones, which, from the variety of colour and their quality, presented a most brilliant sight. At the back of his head, and rising from the nape of the neck, was a fan-shaped ruff of green cloth, fastened by two small ivory pins. The neck and shoulders were covered with a sort of cape, the upper edge of which was composed of the bottoms of cowrie-shells; this was followed by rows of pretty artificial stones of glass; below which was a row of small circular and square mirrors, placed alternately in regular order, on which, when the sun happened to shine, it was impossible to keep the eyes fixed.
On each arm, above the elbow, was a band of blue cloth, trimmed with very narrow strips of fur, of which the hair, black and white, having the appearance of a fringe. … The forearm, from the elbow to the wrist, was covered with rows of blue beads.
The monarch’s body, from the waist to the knees, was covered with a yellow cloth, having two borders on each side, the upper one being blue and the lower one scarlet. The cloth was several yards in length, and the way in which it was worn was by placing one end of it on the body and then bringing the cloth round over it, and fastening it in front with a small ivory pin. The rest of the cloth was then gathered up in small and very even plaits, which were secured by means of a strip of raw leather, so that the plaits were formed into a sort of rosette or frill.
… On his legs, from the knees downwards, were rows of beads like those on his arms. Dressed and ornamented in this fashion, his face, hands, and feet alone were naked, all the rest of his body being covered, and, as it appeared to Captain Gamitto, with great elegance and good taste.
No more is said of this expedition.