Part 4 out of 4
was taken of "passive resistance."
The native villages, exactly resembling those of the Gaboon, are
all built near the strip of fine white sand which forms the
shore, and upon the sweet water channels which cut deep into the
limestones. They are infested with rats, against whose
depredations the mango trees must be protected with tin ruffs;
yet there are six kinds of reptilia upon the island, including
the common black snake and cobras, from six to seven feet long:
these animals, aided by the dogs, which also persecute the
iguanas, have prevented rabbits breeding. In Barbot's time (1700)
there were only thirty or forty inhabitants, who held the north-
eastern point about a league from the wooding and watering
places. "That handful of blacks has much ado to live healthy, the
air being very intemperate and unwholesome; they are governed by
a chief, who is lord of the island, and they all live very
poorly, but have plenty enough of cucumbers, which grow there in
perfection, and many sorts of fowl." In 1856 the Rev. Mr. Wilson
reckons them at less than 2,000, and in 1862 I was told that
there were about 1,100, of whom 600 were Bengas. In look, dress,
and ornaments they resemble the Mpongwe, but some of them have
adopted the Kru stripe, holding a blue nose to be a sign of
freedom. They consider themselves superior to the "Pongos," and
they have exchanged their former fighting reputation for that of
peaceful traders to the mainland and to the rivers Muni and
Mundah. They live well, eating flesh or fish once a day, not on
Sundays only, the ambition of Henri Quatre: at times they trap
fine green turtle in seines, but they do not turn these "delicate
Mr. Wilson numbered the whole Benga tribe at 8,000, but Mr.
Mackey reduced the figure to half. Besides Corisco they inhabit
the two capes at the north and south of the bay. The language is
used by other tribes holding the coast northward for a hundred
miles or more, and probably by the inner people extending in a
northerly direction from Corisco Bay: the same, with certain
modifications, is also spoken at Săo Bento, Batanga, and perhaps
as far north as the Camarones River. On the other hand, the
tribes occupying the eastern margin of Corisco Bay, such as the
Mbiko, Dibwe, and Belengi, cannot understand one another, and the
tongues of the southward regions differ even more from the Benga.
Yet all evidently belong to the great South African family.
Mr. Mackey, who explored Corisco Island in 1849, assures us that
scarcely any of the older inhabitants were born there; they came
from the continent north or north-east of the bay, gradually
forcing their way down. The characteristic difference of the
Benga, the Bákele, and the Mpongwe dialects is as follows: "The
Mpongwes have a great partiality for the use of the passive
voice, and avoid the active when the passive can be used. The
Bákele verb delights in the active voice, and will avoid the
passive even by a considerable circumlocution. The Benga takes an
intermediate position in this respect, and uses the active and
passive very much as we do in English."
The Corisco branch of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions
was established by the Rev. James S. Mackey in 1850. It made as
much progress as could be expected, and in 1862 it numbered 110
scholars and 65 communicants; the total of those baptized was 80,
and 15 had been suspended. The members applied themselves, as the
list of their publications shows, with peculiar ardour to the
language, and they did not neglect natural history and short
explorations of the adjoining interior. They had sent home
specimens of the six reptilia, the six snails and land shells,
the seventy-five sea shells, and the 110 fishes, all known by
name, which they collected upon the island and in the bay. It is
to be presumed that careful dredging will bring to light many
more: the pools are said to produce a small black fish, local as
the Proteus anguineus of the Styrian caves, to mention no other.
I was curious to hear from Mr. Mackey some details about the Muni
River, where he travelled in company with M. du Chaillu. It still
keeps the troublous reputation for petty wars which made the old
traders dignify it with the name of "Danger." The nearest Falls
are about thirty miles from Olobe Island, and the most distant
may be sixty-five. Of course we had a laugh over the famous
Omamba or Anaconda, whose breath can be felt against the face
before it is seen.
Late in April 24th I returned the books kindly lent to me from
the mission library, shook hands with my kind and hospitable
entertainers at the mission house, mentally wishing them speedy
deliverance from Corisco, and embarked on board the "Griffon." We
quickly covered the "great water desert" of 160 miles between the
Gorilla Island and Fernando Po, and at noon on the next day I
found myself once more "at home."
[FN#1] Paul B. du Chaillu, Chap. III. "Explorations and
Adventures in Equatorial Africa." London: Murray, 1861.
[FN#2] Rev. J. Leighton Wilson of the Presbyterian Mission,
eighteen years in Africa, "Western Africa," &c. New York.
[FN#3] Barbot, book iv. chap. 9.
[FN#4] This word is the Muzungu of the Zanzibar coast, and
contracted to Utángá and even Tángá it is found useful in
expressing foreign wares; Utangáni's devil-fire, for instance, is
a lucifer match.
[FN#5] "Abeokuta and the Camaroons Mountains," vol. ii. chap.
i. London: Tinsleys, 1863.
[FN#6] See "Zanzibar City, Island, and Coast," vol. i. chap. v
[FN#7] "Observations on the Fevers of the West African Coast."
New York: Jenkins, 1856. A more valuable work is the "Medical
Topography, &c. of West Africa," by the late W.F. Daniell, M.D.,
1849. Finally, Mr. Consul Hutchinson offered valuable suggestions
in his work on the Niger Expedition of 1854-5 (Longmans, 1855,
and republished in the "Traveller's Library").
[FN#8] M. du Chaillu ends his chapter i. with an "illustration
of a Mpongwe woman," copied without acknowledgment from Mr.
Wilson's "Portrait of Yanawaz, a Gaboon Princess."
[FN#9] Everywhere on the lower river "hard dollars" are highly
valued. The Spanish, formerly the favourite, and always worth 4s.
2d., command only a five-franc piece at Le Plateau; moreover, the
"peseta," like the shilling, is taken as a franc.
[FN#10] "The British Jews," by the Rev. John Mills. London:
Houlston and Stoneman, 1853.
[FN#11] For further details see "Zanzibar City, Island, and
Coast," vol. ii. chap. iv.
[FN#12] See "Zanzibar City, Island, and Coast," vol. ii. chap.
[FN#13] See part ii. chap. xxii. "Hans Stade," translated by Mr.
Albert Tootal, annotated by myself, and published by the Hakluyt
[FN#14] Captain Boteler (v. ii. p. 374) gives a sketch of the
"Fetiche dance, Cape Lopez," and an admirable description of Ndá,
who is mounted on stilts with a white mask, followed by negroes
with chalked faces.
[FN#15] See "Zanzibar, City, Island, and Coast," vol. i. chap.
[FN#16] I have discussed this subject in my "Zanzibar," vol. i.
[FN#17] M. du Chaillu's description of the animal is excellent
(p. 282), and the people at once recognized the cut.
[FN#18] I did not see the Iboko, which M. du Chaillu (chap,
xvi.) calls the "boco;" but, from the native description, I
determined it to be the tsetse. He names the sandfly (chap, xvi.)
"igoo-gouai." His "ibolai" or "mangrove fly" is "owole" in the
singular, and "iwole" in the plural. The wasp, which he terms
"eloway," is known to the Mpongwe people as "ewogoni."
[FN#19] "Introductory Remarks to a Vocabulary of the Yoruba
Language." Seeleys, Fleet Street, London.
[FN#20] Hutchinson's "Ten Years' Wanderings, p. 319.
[FN#21] "Journal of the Ethnological Society," April, 1869.
[FN#22] "Zanzibar City, Island, and Coast," vol. ii. chap. ii.
[FN#23] See chap. ii.
[FN#24] First Edition, Illustration VI. (p. 71), and XLIII. (p.
End of Volume 1 of Two Trips to Gorilla Land.