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David Livingstone;
Missionary Travels

Chapter 11

Contents page

Introduction etc. | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 | Chapter 20 | Chapter 21 | Chapter 22 | Chapter 23 | Chapter 24 | Chapter 25 | Chapter 26 | Chapter 27 | Chapter 28 | Chapter 29 | Chapter 30 | Chapter 31 | Chapter 32 | Appendices etc.

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Chapter 11.

  Departure from Linyanti for Sesheke -- Level Country -- Ant-hills --
  Wild Date-trees -- Appearance of our Attendants on the March --
  The Chief's Guard -- They attempt to ride on Ox-back --
  Vast Herds of the new Antelopes, Leches, and Nakongs --
  The native way of hunting them -- Reception at the Villages --
  Presents of Beer and Milk -- Eating with the Hand --
  The Chief provides the Oxen for Slaughter -- Social Mode of Eating --
  The Sugar-cane -- Sekeletu's novel Test of Character --
  Cleanliness of Makololo Huts -- Their Construction and Appearance --
  The Beds -- Cross the Leeambye -- Aspect of this part of the Country --
  The small Antelope Tianyane unknown in the South -- Hunting on foot --
  An Eland.

Having waited a month at Linyanti (lat. 18d 17' 20" S., long. 23d 50' 9" E.),
we again departed, for the purpose of ascending the river
from Sesheke (lat. 17d 31' 38" S., long. 25d 13' E.).  To the Barotse country,
the capital of which is Nariele or Naliele (lat. 15d 24' 17" S.,
long. 23d 5' 54" E.), I went in company with Sekeletu and about
one hundred and sixty attendants.  We had most of the young men with us,
and many of the under-chiefs besides.  The country between Linyanti
and Sesheke is perfectly flat, except patches elevated only a few feet
above the surrounding level.  There are also many mounds where
the gigantic ant-hills of the country have been situated or still appear:
these mounds are evidently the work of the termites.  No one who has not seen
their gigantic structures can fancy the industry of these little laborers;
they seem to impart fertility to the soil which has once passed
through their mouths, for the Makololo find the sides of ant-hills
the choice spots for rearing early maize, tobacco, or any thing on which
they wish to bestow especial care.  In the parts through which we passed
the mounds are generally covered with masses of wild date-trees;
the fruit is small, and no tree is allowed to stand long,
for, having abundance of food, the Makololo have no inclination
to preserve wild fruit-trees; accordingly, when a date
shoots up to seed, as soon as the fruit is ripe they cut down the tree
rather than be at the trouble of climbing it.  The other parts
of the more elevated land have the camel-thorn (`Acacia giraffae'),
white-thorned mimosa (`Acacia horrida'), and baobabs.  In sandy spots
there are palmyras somewhat similar to the Indian, but with a smaller seed.
The soil on all the flat parts is a rich, dark, tenacious loam,
known as the "cotton-ground" in India; it is covered with
a dense matting of coarse grass, common on all damp spots in this country.
We had the Chobe on our right, with its scores of miles of reed
occupying the horizon there.  It was pleasant to look back
on the long-extended line of our attendants, as it twisted and bent
according to the curves of the footpath, or in and out behind the mounds,
the ostrich feathers of the men waving in the wind.  Some had
the white ends of ox-tails on their heads, Hussar fashion, and others
great bunches of black ostrich feathers, or caps made of lions' manes.
Some wore red tunics, or various-colored prints which the chief had bought
from Fleming; the common men carried burdens; the gentlemen walked
with a small club of rhinoceros-horn in their hands, and had servants
to carry their shields; while the "Machaka", battle-axe men,
carried their own, and were liable at any time to be sent off a hundred miles
on an errand, and expected to run all the way.

Sekeletu is always accompanied by his own Mopato, a number of young men
of his own age.  When he sits down they crowd around him;
those who are nearest eat out of the same dish, for the Makololo chiefs
pride themselves on eating with their people.  He eats a little,
then beckons his neighbors to partake.  When they have done so,
he perhaps beckons to some one at a distance to take a share; that person
starts forward, seizes the pot, and removes it to his own companions.
The comrades of Sekeletu, wishing to imitate him in riding on my old horse,
leaped on the backs of a number of half-broken Batoka oxen as they ran,
but, having neither saddle nor bridle, the number of tumbles they met with
was a source of much amusement to the rest.  Troops of leches,
or, as they are here called, "lechwes", appeared feeding quite heedlessly
all over the flats; they exist here in prodigious herds,
although the numbers of them and of the "nakong" that are killed annually
must be enormous.  Both are water antelopes, and, when the lands
we now tread upon are flooded, they betake themselves to the mounds
I have alluded to.  The Makalaka, who are most expert
in the management of their small, thin, light canoes, come gently toward them;
the men stand upright in the canoe, though it is not more
than fifteen or eighteen inches wide and about fifteen feet long;
their paddles, ten feet in height, are of a kind of wood called molompi,
very light, yet as elastic as ash.  With these they either punt or paddle,
according to the shallowness or depth of the water.  When they perceive
the antelopes beginning to move they increase their speed, and pursue them
with great velocity.  They make the water dash away from the gunwale,
and, though the leche goes off by a succession of prodigious bounds,
its feet appearing to touch the bottom at each spring,
they manage to spear great numbers of them.

The nakong often shares a similar fate.  This is a new species,
rather smaller than the leche, and in shape has more of paunchiness
than any antelope I ever saw.  Its gait closely resembles
the gallop of a dog when tired.  The hair is long and rather sparse,
so that it is never sleek-looking.  It is of a grayish-brown color,
and has horns twisted in the manner of a koodoo, but much smaller,
and with a double ridge winding round each of them.

Its habitat is the marsh and the muddy bogs; the great length of its foot
between the point of the toe and supplemental hoofs enables it
to make a print about a foot in length; it feeds by night,
and lies hid among the reeds and rushes by day; when pursued,
it dashes into sedgy places containing water, and immerses the whole body,
leaving only the point of the nose and ends of the horns exposed.
The hunters burn large patches of reed in order to drive the nakong
out of his lair; occasionally the ends of the horns project above the water;
but when it sees itself surrounded by enemies in canoes,
it will rather allow its horns to be scorched in the burning reed
than come forth from its hiding-place.

When we arrived at any village the women all turned 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!" etc.  The men utter
similar salutations; and Sekeletu receives all with becoming indifference.
After a few minutes' conversation and telling the news,
the head man of the village, who is almost always a Makololo,
rises, and brings forth a number of large pots of beer.
Calabashes, being used as drinking-cups, are handed round, and as many
as can partake of the beverage do so, grasping the vessels so eagerly
that they are in danger of being broken.

They bring forth also large pots and bowls of thick milk;
some contain six or eight gallons; and each of these, as well as of the beer,
is given to a particular person, who has the power to divide it
with whom he pleases.  The head man of any section of the tribe
is generally selected for this office.  Spoons not being generally in fashion,
the milk is conveyed to the mouth with the hand.  I often presented
my friends with iron spoons, and it was curious to observe
how their habit of hand-eating prevailed, though they were delighted
with the spoons.  They lifted out a little with the utensil,
then put it on the left hand, and ate it out of that.

As the Makololo have great abundance of cattle, and the chief is expected
to feed all who accompany him, he either selects an ox or two of his own
from the numerous cattle stations that he possesses at different spots all
over the country, or is presented by the head men of the villages he visits
with as many as he needs by way of tribute.  The animals are killed
by a thrust from a small javelin in the region of the heart,
the wound being purposely small in order to avoid any loss of blood,
which, with the internal parts, are the perquisites of the men who perform
the work of the butcher; hence all are eager to render service in that line.
Each tribe has its own way of cutting up and distributing an animal.
Among the Makololo the hump and ribs belong to the chief;
among the Bakwains the breast is his perquisite.  After the oxen are cut up,
the different joints are placed before Sekeletu, and he apportions them
among the gentlemen of the party.  The whole is rapidly divided
by their attendants, cut into long strips, and so many of these
are thrown into the fires at once that they are nearly put out.
Half broiled and burning hot, the meat is quickly handed round;
every one gets a mouthful, but no one except the chief has time to masticate.
It is not the enjoyment of eating they aim at, but to get as much of the food
into the stomach as possible during the short time the others
are cramming as well as themselves, for no one can eat more than a mouthful
after the others have finished.  They are eminently gregarious
in their eating; and, as they despise any one who eats alone,
I always poured out two cups of coffee at my own meals, so that the chief,
or some one of the principal men, might partake along with me.
They all soon become very fond of coffee; and, indeed, some of the tribes
attribute greater fecundity to the daily use of this beverage.
They were all well acquainted with the sugar-cane, as they cultivate it
in the Barotse country, but knew nothing of the method of extracting
the sugar from it.  They use the cane only for chewing.  Sekeletu,
relishing the sweet coffee and biscuits, of which I then had a store,
said "he knew my heart loved him by finding his own heart warming to my food."
He had been visited during my absence at the Cape by some traders and Griquas,
and "their coffee did not taste half so nice as mine, because they loved
his ivory and not himself."  This was certainly an original mode
of discerning character.

Sekeletu and I had each a little gipsy-tent in which to sleep.
The Makololo huts are generally clean, while those of the Makalaka
are infested with vermin.  The cleanliness of the former
is owing to the habit of frequently smearing the floors with a plaster
composed of cowdung and earth.  If we slept in the tent in some villages,
the mice ran over our faces and disturbed our sleep, or hungry prowling dogs
would eat our shoes and leave only the soles.  When they were guilty
of this and other misdemeanors, we got the loan of a hut.
The best sort of Makololo huts consist of three circular walls,
with small holes as doors, each similar to that in a dog-house;
and it is necessary to bend down the body to get in, even when on all-fours.
The roof is formed of reeds or straight sticks, in shape
like a Chinaman's hat, bound firmly together with circular bands,
which are lashed with the strong inner bark of the mimosa-tree.
When all prepared except the thatch, it is lifted on to the circular wall,
the rim resting on a circle of poles, between each of which
the third wall is built.  The roof is thatched with fine grass,
and sewed with the same material as the lashings; and, as it projects
far beyond the walls, and reaches within four feet of the ground,
the shade is the best to be found in the country.  These huts are very cool
in the hottest day, but are close and deficient in ventilation by night.

The bed is a mat made of rushes sewn together with twine;
the hip-bone soon becomes sore on the hard flat surface, as we are not allowed
to make a hole in the floor to receive the prominent part called trochanter
by anatomists, as we do when sleeping on grass or sand.

Our course at this time led us to a part above Sesheke, called Katonga,
where there is a village belonging to a Bashubia man named Sekhosi --
latitude 17d 29' 13", longitude 24d 33'.  The river here is somewhat broader
than at Sesheke, and certainly not less than six hundred yards.
It flows somewhat slowly in the first part of its eastern course.
When the canoes came from Sekhosi to take us over, one of the comrades
of Sebituane rose, and, looking to Sekeletu, called out, "The elders of a host
always take the lead in an attack."  This was understood at once;
and Sekeletu, with all the young men, were obliged to give the elders
the precedence, and remain on the southern bank and see that all went orderly
into the canoes.  It took a considerable time to ferry over
the whole of our large party, as, even with quick paddling,
from six to eight minutes were spent in the mere passage from bank to bank.

Several days were spent in collecting canoes from different villages
on the river, which we now learned is called by the whole of the Barotse
the Liambai or Leeambye.  This we could not ascertain on our first visit,
and, consequently, called the river after the town "Sesheke".
This term Sesheke means "white sand-banks", many of which exist at this part.
There is another village in the valley of the Barotse likewise called Sesheke,
and for the same reason; but the term Leeambye means "the large river",
or the river PAR EXCELLENCE.  Luambeji, Luambesi, Ambezi, Ojimbesi,
and Zambesi, etc., are names applied to it at different parts of its course,
according to the dialect spoken, and all possess a similar signification,
and express the native idea of this magnificent stream being
the main drain of the country.

In order to assist in the support of our large party, and at the same time
to see the adjacent country, I went several times, during our stay,
to the north of the village for game.  The country is covered
with clumps of beautiful trees, among which fine open glades stretch away
in every direction; when the river is in flood these are inundated,
but the tree-covered elevated spots are much more numerous here than in
the country between the Chobe and the Leeambye.  The soil is dark loam,
as it is every where on spots reached by the inundation,
while among the trees it is sandy, and not covered so densely with grass
as elsewhere.  A sandy ridge covered with trees, running parallel to,
and about eight miles from the river, is the limit of the inundation
on the north; there are large tracts of this sandy forest in that direction,
till you come to other districts of alluvial soil and fewer trees.
The latter soil is always found in the vicinity of rivers
which either now overflow their banks annually, or formerly did so.
The people enjoy rain in sufficient quantity to raise very large supplies
of grain and ground-nuts.

This district contains great numbers of a small antelope named Tianyane,
unknown in the south.  It stands about eighteen inches high,
is very graceful in its movements, and utters a cry of alarm
not unlike that of the domestic fowl; it is of a brownish-red color
on the sides and back, with the belly and lower part of the tail white;
it is very timid, but the maternal affection that the little thing
bears to its young will often induce it to offer battle
even to a man approaching it.  When the young one is too tender
to run about with the dam, she puts one foot on the prominence
about the seventh cervical vertebra, or withers; the instinct of the young
enables it to understand that it is now required to kneel down,
and to remain quite still till it hears the bleating of its dam.
If you see an otherwise gregarious she-antelope separated from the herd,
and going alone any where, you may be sure she has laid her little one
to sleep in some cozy spot.  The color of the hair in the young
is better adapted for assimilating it with the ground
than that of the older animals, which do not need to be screened
from the observation of birds of prey.  I observed the Arabs at Aden,
when making their camels kneel down, press the thumb on the withers
in exactly the same way the antelopes do with their young;
probably they have been led to the custom by seeing this plan adopted
by the gazelle of the Desert.

Great numbers of buffaloes, zebras, tsessebes, tahaetsi, and eland, or pohu,
grazed undisturbed on these plains, so that very little exertion was required
to secure a fair supply of meat for the party during the necessary delay.
Hunting on foot, as all those who have engaged in it in this country
will at once admit, is very hard work indeed.  The heat of the sun by day
is so great, even in winter, as it now was, that, had there been any one
on whom I could have thrown the task, he would have been most welcome
to all the sport the toil is supposed to impart.  But the Makololo
shot so badly, that, in order to save my powder, I was obliged to go myself.

We shot a beautiful cow-eland, standing in the shade of a fine tree.
It was evident that she had lately had her calf killed by a lion,
for there were five long deep scratches on both sides of her hind-quarters,
as if she had run to the rescue of her calf, and the lion, leaving it,
had attacked herself, but was unable to pull her down.
When lying on the ground, the milk flowing from the large udder
showed that she must have been seeking the shade, from the distress
its non-removal in the natural manner caused.  She was a beautiful creature,
and Lebeole, a Makololo gentleman who accompanied me, speaking in reference
to its size and beauty, said, "Jesus ought to have given us these
instead of cattle."  It was a new, undescribed variety of this
splendid antelope.  It was marked with narrow white bands across the body,
exactly like those of the koodoo, and had a black patch
of more than a handbreadth on the outer side of the fore-arm.

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