NO explorer in Africa has been a more curious observer of African
traits arid character than Emin Pasha. Not only is he one of
the first scientists of the world, and therefore has looked at Africa
as a scholar would, taking account of the geography, its geology,
its botany, and all its natural features, but he has also gained a very keen
insight into the habits and customs of the savage tribes. Particularly
has he described the Wanyoro nation, and the following description
from his pen will possess a fascinating interest for every reader :
The Wanyoro, though they do not despise the flesh of a cow which
has died a natural death, are very clean and particular in their eating and
in their persons. They will never eat on the bare ground ; even on a
journey they carry with them a little mat for a tablecloth; but, strange
to say, they do not wash their cooking-pots after using them. Washing
is much in vogue, but notwithstanding the cleanly habits of the people,
there unfortunately exists a quantity of vermin, which especially infest
the bark cloth. The custom therefore prevails of fumigating the cloth
every two or three days with smoke from pieces of dried papyrus-stalks
stripped of their bark ; the thick and peculiarly pungent smoke is said
to drive away parasites, and at the same time imparts to the material a
perfume perceptible at some distance. As for scents, however, for rub-
bing on the body, a kind of sweet-smelling very compact gray clay is
used, and a species of touchwood which smells like musk. The clay is
brought from the south, and is sold at a high price. The body is always
clean shaved, the head only as a sign of mourning.
The Wanyoro cut their finger-nails in the form of a triangle, the vertex
of the triangle being in the middle of the nail. All cuttings of the
hair and nails are carefully stored under the bed, and afterwards strewn
about amongst the tall grass.
Brother, sister, brother-in-law, and son-in-law are the recognized
grades of relationship. I have never noticed any intimate connection
between more distant relations.
The food of the Wanyoro consists principally of vegetables, bananas,
sweet potatoes, gourds, purslane, etc. All these are made into a por-
ridge with ground sesame seeds, except bananas, which are plucked
before they are ripe and roasted. Ripe bananas are seldom eaten ; they
are used to make an intoxicating drink. When meat is to be had, it is
eaten, even if very old ; the bones are broken in pieces and boiled with
the meat, and then the marrow is eaten, but it is much disliked when
raw. Marrow, with ants and sesame, is made into a dish " of which a
man leaves nothing for his children." Milk is drunk fresh and unboiled.
Antelopes are a favorite food, while elephant's flesh is never eaten, and
hippopotamus meat is shunned, as it is thought to produce skin diseases.
Many of the Wanyoro (in the lake districts) are industrious fishers, and
eat fish with great gusto; but others entirely avoid and despise it, as
well as fowls and eggs.
All the Wanyoro eat salt. Fire is produced by holding a stick verti-
cally in a shallow hollow made in another stick lying horizontally, and
twirling it quickly round ; the spark is caught in hay or old bark cloth.
This process, however, demands a good deal of skill. The honey of
wild bees is much liked ; it is eaten alone or with porridge.
The habit of eating earth is known in Unyoro, and is practiced as a
remedy for a disease to which both sexes are liable. The kind of earth
most liked is that with which the termites are in the habit of arching
over their passages on the trunks of trees, but ordinary earth is not des-
pised. This practice, if long continued, is said to cause discoloration of
the skin and hair, as well as general emaciation, and finally death. Night-
mare is ascribed to overheating the body by food or clothing.
Throughout Unyoro and Uganda the women are the cooks ; but the
chiefs employ men cooks, with whom they have made blood-brother-
hood, and have separate kitchens for the men and women. The great
chiefs always eat alone, and no one may touch or look at the dishes pre-
pared for them. Inferior chiefs often invite their favorites to their table,
and whenever a crumb happens to fall to the ground from the chiefs
hand, these men snatch it up at once and swallow it, in homage to their
lord! Women eat in a separate place, and after the men have finished ;
it is considered a particular sign of favor when a woman is invited by her
husband to eat with him, but the Wawitu women who spring from ruhng
families are privileged in this respect, for they always eat with their hus-
bands. The boys eat with the women. Meat is preferred cooked with
vegetables, especially unripe bananas. The pots used for cooking are
round, and exactly similar to the water-vessels, but smaller. The food,
when ready, is poured into boat-shaped dishes standing on feet, which
are placed on a mat ; the company gather round them, and eat with
their hands ; spoons, however, cut out of gourd-shells, are in use. There
are altogether three raeals in the day. After eating, in which the Wan-
yoro are moderate, a strip of wet banana bark is used to wipe the hands.
The fireplace used for cooking is often situated in a small compartment
walled off by reeds (in Uganda they have separate huts for cooking). It
consists of five stones so placed that the longest and broadest is in the
middle, and the others stand two in a line to the right and left of it, so
that several vessels can be put on the fire at once.
What Africans Drink.
For storing corn clean holes in the ground are used. Fish is split
open, cleaned, and dried over a smoky fire; this is the method of curing
employed on both lakes.
The drinks used in Unyoro are sandi and mwenge. Sandi is the juice
of ripe bananas, freshly pressed out, and little, if at all, fermented. It is
a pleasant drink, resembling wine, and slightly sparkling, and is more
especially affected by tfee ladies ; when it comes into the market at all it
is rather dear. Mwenge, prepared by mashing bananas ripened artifi-
cially over a fire or underground, adding water and roasted durrah, and
allowing the liquor to stand until it has become highly fermented. This
beverage is sour and very intoxicating. Corn is not malted here. The
mwenge is so universal in Unyoro, and particularly in Uganda,
that I believe many people never drink water. The Wanyoro take enor-
mous quantities of it, and even little children drink it with the greatest
delight. Yet I have never seen drunken men here as in Europe.
Coffee-drinking is unknown, though the tree grows in the south, and
berries are exported in large quantities from Uganda to the north. The
sugar-cane, which is cultivated everywhere, is eaten, but not made into
It is remarkable how proud the wives of the chiefs in this country are.
To begin with, they do no cooking ; field work and water-carrying are
left.jto the servants, and the mistresses sit on their mats and do nothing
but smoke and talk. For clothing, they affect fine leather imported from
Uganda, covered with material made from bark, and adorn themselves
with rings of brass and copper, strings of pearls round the neck and
waist, sometimes also with anklets. The rings often cover two-thirds of
the forearm. I have seen cuts or scars as ornaments, but only on women
from the south-western districts.
The food of the people varies extremely according to their rank.
Whereas milk is much liked by all classes, and the fat wives of Kabrega
and the greater chiefs are only permitted to live on milk, except twice a
week salt porridge mixed with broth, and sometimes a handful of raw
salt, the lower classes, unless they are prevented by personal dislike or
fear, eat whatever their limited agriculture and the animal world afford
them. Kabrega himself eats bananas and beef only, and drinks milk
and inwenge. His cook, as also all his body-servants, are united to him
in blood-brotherhood. To perform this ceremony a slight incision is
made with a razor above the fifth rib on the right side. Coffee-berries
are soaked in the blood, and are exchanged and eaten by those partici-
pating in the rite. The covenant thus made lasts for life. The parties
to it never desert one, another in danger, and frequent the houses and
converse with each other's wives without constraint or suspicion. A
case of breach of faith has never been known.
Among the narcotics used, tobacco, which is much smoked by both
sexes, takes the first place. The tobaccos from Nkole and the highlands
of Uganda are considered the best. The pipe-bowls are spherical, large,
and strong, and are attached to long stems, which in Londu are formed
of two pieces tied together with skin, and are as much as five feet long.
Everyone has his own pipe; but when he happens not to have it with
him, he takes a few whiffs from his neighbor's. The larger the bowl of
the pipe, the greater the gentleman who uses it ; I have seen bowls
which would easily hold a pound of tobacco ; they are half filled with
glowing embers and half with tobacco ; perhaps the carbonic oxide
increases the soothing effect of the tobacco. The most singular pipes I
have yet seen are those used by Unyoro magicians ; a huge twin bowl,
ornamented all over with short conical spikes, is fastened to a short
Treating Friends With Coffee-berries.
In addition to tobacco, coffee-chewing is also indulged in in Unyoro
and Uganda. The coffee-tree grows in the southern portions of both
countries ; it resembles the tree I have seen in Southern Arabia, only
that the leaves of the kind which grows here are larger. The pods are
gathered when still green, dipped in hot water and dried in the sun, and
then sold and consumed without further preparation. Many persons,
however, partially roast the pods. The taste of the pod is peculiarly aro-
matic, and causes a slight secretion of saliva; I could never discover any
other effect ; on the contrary, the natives maintain that a couple of cof-
fee-berries will drive away hunger, and likewise that the berries are a
remedy for over-indulgence in mwertge. It is customary among the
better classes to offer one another a few coffee-berries.
My attention was repeatedly aroused in the evening by a drumming,
rapping noise, which continued far into the night. It was produced by
the collectors of ants, who light a fire beside the ant-hills and, as they
imagine, induce the male ants to swarm out more rapidly by beating
pieces of wood together. These insects are eaten raw or roasted.
It is a curious fact that, among all the Negro tribes in this part of
Africa, domestic animals, kept in confinement, are exceedingly rare. The
Negro's mind is not adapted for taming wild animals ; his nature is entirely
negative. Here and there one comes across a domesticated wild cat, or
perhaps a house-cat broughtfrom the north. The dogs are of medium size,
with slightly pointed muzzles ; they carry their rather long, short-haired
tails erect, are lop-eared, long-bodied, lean, and usually of a buff-color.
Wild Sports in Unyoro.
Hunting parties often take place. When they are arranged privately,
those that take part in them choose the leader among themselves ; but
when they are set on. foot by the chief of the tribe, he appoints the
leader. The man who throws the first spear at an animal receives a fore-
foot if it is killed. The division of the booty is effected by general
agreement. If the game runs on to ground belonging to another man,
and dies there, the owner receives the right fore-foot. If a leopard or
lion is killed near the king's dwelling, the whole animal is carried to him;
if the place where the animal is slain is too far off, only the skin is
brought to the king. When people kill one of these animals on foreign
soil, the skin belongs to the king of the country. One tusk of all ele-
phants slain belongs by right to the king, the other may be kept by the
hunter, but the king usually gives him a girl in exchange.
The huts of Kabrega's capital are grouped in threes and fours, sur-
rounded by straw fences, and hidden away in banana woods and in
depressions of the ground ; but being scattered about in large groups,
they cover a great extent of ground ; there may be, perhaps, more than
a thousand of them. Most of them have two rooms and high doors with
Some five or six smithies are scattered about the village, each employ-
ing four or five workmen. A large flat stone, with a smooth even sur-
face, driven into the ground, serves as an anvil ; a solid piece of iron,
one end of which is beaten into the form of a handle, does service as a
hammer. There are, too, gourd-bowls filled with water to temper the
iron, some small pitchers for melting copper and brass, and a contrivance
made of wood for wire-drawing. Native iron, copper, and brass are
worked into spear-heads, knives, razors, arm and leg rings, and necklaces,
but the workmanship is by no means superior. Brass and copper come
from Zanzibar through Uganda. The smithies are also meeting-places
for all lovers of gossip. Guns are repaired by Waganda smiths, who
come here periodically, but they are very exorbitant ; for example,
demand a female slave in exchange for a gun.
The preparation of cow-hide for clothing is very simple. The hide is
tightly stretched on level ground by a large number of small pegs, and
then scraped with knives until all bits of flesh are removed ; then it is
dried, and rendered pliant by rubbing in butter. Every fall of rain
makes the hide stiff" again, and then fresh rubbings are necessary ; that
this process is not exactly agreeable to the olfactory organs of the
bystanders is evident. Every one wears hides and bark cloths; men
prefer cow-hides, women goat's-hides, four of which sewn together make
a dress. The manufacture of cloth from the bark of various kinds of
fig-trees, which are planted in banana groves, has been fully described by
Baker, and likewise the mallet, which is used for beating it. This cloth
is also made here ; but the finer, handsomer pieces, those in particular
with black patterns, which only Kabrega wears, come only from Uganda,
where the people excel in the manufacture of these goods.
A Celebrated Witch.
I saw an elderly woman, wearing a fantastic head-dress of feathers and
skins, sitting in an isolated hut ; I was told that she was a very famous
witch; she would not, however, enter into conversation, but went on
patching up her torn dress perfectly unconcerned.
About midnight I was awakened by a great commotion, and saw two
houses in the village in flames. Fortunately there was no wind blowing.
Everything was damp from the daily rains, and therefore the men soon
succeeded in subduing the fire. No excitement of any kind was percept-
ible, fires being of too frequent occurrence. As before stated, the floors of
the houses are padded with a thick layer of hay, and the fireplace stands in
the middle of the house. Very often, too, the master of the house lies
down to sleep intoxicated, with his pipe alight, and so the mischief is done.
When two families are on friendly terms, and wish to make a match
between their children, the two fathers, in the first place, visit each other
twice or thrice to drink mwenge, and on such occasions many guests are
invited. Then the bride's father goes to the father of the bridegroom,
and offers him his daughter " for friendship's sake." After this, the price
of the bride is discussed and fixed, and a great feast follows, to which
both parties contribute. A few days after the stipulated sum has been
paid, the bride is fetched in the midst of a large procession ; amidst sing-
ing and dancing, and copious libations of mwenge, the way is taken to the
bridegroom's house, where she is handed over to the bridegroom, and the
whole company spends the night in singing, dancing, and drinking.
The father of the bride receives for himself and his people the two
hindquarters of the ox slaughtered on this occasion by the bridegroom's
father. On the third day after the completion of the marriage, the whole
village assembles to pad the hut of the newly wedded couple with hay,
when fresh libations follow. On the sixth day after the wedding, the
young wife visits her parents, and during this visit, of three or four days'
duration, the husband keeps aloof Fresh drinks given by the father of
the bride bring the ceremonies to a conclusion. The young wife then
returns to her house, and if her husband is in good circumstances, passes
her time in smoking, coffee-chewing, idling, and paying visits.
Paying for a Wife by Installments.
If a man marries, and his wife falls ill and dies during a: visit to her
father's house, the husband either demands a wife a sister of the deceased
in compensation, or receives two cows. There are instances of a man
putting away his wife and afterwards taking her back again, a cow being
killed on her return. When a poor man is unable to procure the cattle
required for his marriage at once, he may, by agreement with the bride's
father, pay them by installments ; the children, however, born in the
meantime belong to the wife's father, and each of them must be redeemed
with a cow.
Should the head of a house die without children, his brother inherits
everything, even the wives ; if there are several brothers, the younger
ones receive small shares in goods and wives, according to the good
pleasure of the eldest, who is the chief heir. When there are no brothers,
the chief of the tribe inherits. But when there are sons, the eldest in-
herits all that is left by his father, the wives included, who, with the
exception of his own mother, become his wives. The younger sons
receive two women, two cows, and as much of the other property as the
principal heir will give them. Wives and daughters have no share in the
inheritance under any circumstances. If at the death of the head of the
house there is a daughter left under age, the principal heir brings her up,
and marries her. In default of male relations, the chief of the tribe fills
their place, and usually takes such girls into his harem.
How Crime is Punished.
Theft is punished in Unyoro by confiscation of cattle or women for the
benefit of the person robbed. When a man is killed, the nearest relatives
of the murdered man have the right to seize the murderer and kill him
with a spear, and they receive, besides, a cow from the family of the mur-
derer. But should the murderer escape, and they apply to the chief of
the tribe to procure the punishment of the guilty man, the chief receives
from them nine cows and three sheep or goats as his due, in return for
which he causes the murderer to be seized and killed, and exacts pay-
ment of the cow. Adultery, provided the injured man surprises the
offender, is atoned for by a fine of four cows. If the chief is called upon
to interfere he receives a cow. The guilty wife is beaten, and she may
also be divorced, in which case a very curious ceremony takes place.
The injured husband cuts a piece of bark in two, half of which he
keeps himself, and the other half is sent with the wife to her father.
When the cows formerly paid as the price of the bride are restored, this
piece is returned to the husband, who then burns both pieces. Wives
are seldom put away because they are childless, and the man is always
blamed who does it. I have myself seen a curious punishment. One of
the men who had been assigned to me here as servants had tied a string
round his wife's neck, and fastened her to a tree, where she had to remain
the whole night ; and this because she had told him a lie.
The whole of Unyoro is divided into large districts, over each of which
a makungo, temporarily appointed by the king, presides, whose duty it
is to collect the contributions of cattle, corn, etc., due to the sovereign,
and to administer justice; but he does not possess the right of pronounc-
ing the sentence of death, which belongs to the monarch alone not as
in Uganda, where every makungo may put a man to death. Appeals are
often made to the king by those sentenced by the makungo. The peti-
tioner kneels down before Kabrega's door at a distance often paces, and
sets forth his requests. Kabrega then decides not always in favor of
the makungo. A makungo is dependent for provisions for himself and
those belonging to him on the district he administers, in which he culti-
vates large tracts by means of his own slaves, and has his own herds.
If he acquits himself of his duties well, he remains in office ; if not. a
small executive force is sent by the king, his zeriba is surrounded, an J
everything it contains wives, children and herds, with the exception of
grown-up sons is confiscated on behalf of the king. Another makungo
is, appointed, who immediately enters into his office. They are bound to
present themselves from time to time at the king's court with presents.
Punishments consist for the most part in the confiscation of girls,
women, and cows ; a sentence of death is but seldom decreed by the
king, for, as Kabrega very justly observed to me, " a dead man pays no
taxes." Here, as in Uganda, the bodies of those who are put to death
may not be buried, but are thrown into tall grass.
The King's Cattle.
The only place in the Upper Nile district where I have seen smooth,
fat cattle, is Kabrega's capital. They pass by to the watering-place every
afternoon, about 1,500 in number, most of them humpless, with enorm-
ously long horns. It is a pleasure to see the stately animals climb the
steep mountain like goats ; most of them are gray, but some are entirely
The cows, which supply milk for Kabrega's personal consumption, are
kept quite separate; they are milked in his presence in the morning, and
then go to pasture, escorted by a man and a boy. The boy goes before
them calling out loudly " the king's cattle; " and every one who happens
to be near must withdraw as quickly as possible if he does not wish to
be killed. When I asked the reason, I was answered, there were people
whose look could turn milk into blood.
The daughters of Kabrega's subjects are unconditionally at his dis-
posal, but he marks his approval of any particularly attractive girl by
giving her father a present of cattle. He possesses also, in accordance
with the universal Wahuma custom, all the wives of his deceased father.
Should the monarch die, all the tutors of the princes at once assemble
and determine which of the sons of the deceased king is the best and
fittest to be his successor. Naturally, the decision is seldom unanimous,
but parties are formed, and war breaks out, and continues until one of
the princes overcomes his rivals, and gains possession of the throne,
standing in the mortuary hut of his father, whereupon his authority is
recognized. Then his brothers and nearest relations, with few excep-
tions, are killed, for so custom demands ; in Uganda they are burned.
Legend of the Creation.
In primeval times, says the Wanyoro, people were numerous on the
earth. They never died, but lived forever. But as they became pre-
sumptuous, and offered no gifts to the " great Magician," who rules the
destinies of men, he grew angry, and, throwing the whole vault of
heaven down upon the earth, killed them all. But in order not to leave
the earth desolate, the " great Magician " sent down a man and woman
" from above," both of whom had tails. They produced a son and two
daughters, who married. One daughter bore a loathsome beast, the
chameleon ; the other a giant, the moon. Both children grew up, but
soon disputes arose between them, for the chameleon was wicked and
spiteful, and at last the " great Magician " took the moon up to the place
whence it still looks down upon the earth. But, to keep in remembrance
its earthly origin, it becomes large and brilliant, and then decreases, as
though about to die, yet does not die, but in two days passes around the
horizon from east to west, and appears again, tired from its journey and
therefore small, in the western sky. But the sun was angry with the new
rival, and burnt it so that the marks are still visible on its face. The
chameleon and its progeny peopled the earth, the tails were lost, and the
originally pale color of the skin soon became dark under the glowing
sun. At the present time the heavenly spheres are inhabited by people
with tails, who have many herds. The stars are watchmen which the
"great Magician " posts during the night. The sun is inhabited by
The belief in magic and amulets, as well as in the possibility of mak-
ing people ill, or even compassing their death by means of charms and
incantations, is widely diffused in Unyoro and Uganda. Naturally no
trace is to be found of the idea of a future life. In both countries the
women are buried in the court of the house they have- occupied to the
right-hand side of the door, the men to the left of it. The graves are
horizontal, and three to four feet deep. The corpse lies on the right
side, as is usual in sleep. The Wanyoro, however, who live on the
Albert Lake, bury their dead, men or women, in the middle of the court-
yard, and erect above the grave a miniature hut, in which tobacco, pipes,
bananas, etc., are deposited. Young children are everywhere buried in
the garden which adjoins each house.
Africa seems to be the original home of superstition. If an owl
screeches near the house, its master dies. If a hyena or a jackal repeat-
edly approaches the house, misfortune is at hand ; when the rhinoceros-
bird croaks, rain may be looked for. If a wagtail sings on the thresh -
old, guests or presents arrive. If a man kills wagtails in the house, fire
breaks out in it. If a wagtail forsakes its nest made in the house, misfor-
tune is near. Vultures and ravens are chiefs among the birds, and their
slaughter causes illness. If vultures alight on the top of a poor man's
house, he will receive rich gifts and presents. A piece of the hide of the
white rhinoceros, worn on the body, makes a man invulnerable. If a
woman is the first to enter the house in the morning, it is a good sign ;
if a man, the contrary. An eclipse of the sun announces the death of
the. ruler. If on moving from one house to another, anything is broken
or a woman falls on the way, the family returns to the house it has just
left. If, on starting for a campaign, a buffalo runs across the path, or a
guinea-fowl flies up before the warriors, this portends the death of many
men, and everyone turns back. The bat, which flies into the house
brings news. The Wanyoro spit three times whenever they see a shoot-
According to the Unyoro traditions, elephants and chimpanzees were
once men, and the dog too was gifted with speech, but spoke only to his
master. I give a literal translation of some of these legends.
Legend of the Elephant.
In ancient times a man had an honest son,
but he himself was violent, and had taken many cattle from his neigh-
bors. Once upon a time he ordered his son to go and occupy a neigh-
bor's house; if he did not do so he threatened to kill him. The son
went and slept in that house, but found in the early morning that the
inhabitants had fled. He durst not return home, whilst by himself he
would have starved; so he prayed the "great Magician " to rescue him,
and was thereupon, together with the house, turned into an elephant.
Legend of the Chimpanzee.
An honest man had an only daughter,
and she was wooed by a neighbor for his son, who had turned out badly.
The young couple lived happily for a short time, but when the young
wife absented herself occasionally from the house to visit her parents,
her husband reproached her with availing herself of this excuse to go
after other men. Each day he treated her worse ; so she fled, and
returned to her father, to whom she related her misfortune, and he, angry
at the stain that had fallen on his own and his daughter's honor, killed
himself. At this moment the son-in-law arrived, and was transformed by
the " great Magician " into a chimpanzee. But the wife, who would not
desert him in spite of all that had happened, followed him, and from them
are sprung the chimpanzees, who still talk among themselves like men,
and have a fondness for women.
EMIN PASHA'S PERILOUS SITUATION.
INTRODUCTION :: CONTENTS
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