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"El Negro of Banyoles"

El Negro: 1831 press report

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1831 press report

Le Constitutionnel, Journal du Commerce, Politique et Litteraire (Paris, rue Montmartre), no.319, 15 Nov. 1831

Two young people, Messieurs the Verreaux brothers, have recently arrived from a voyage to the ends of Africa, to the land of the Cape of Good-Hope. One of these interesting naturalists is barely eighteen years old, but he has already spent twenty months in the wild country north of the land of the Hottentots, between the latitudes of Natal [Port Natal 30 degrees South] and the top of St Helena Bay [33 degrees South]. How can one possibly imagine what deprivations he had to endure? Our young compatriots had to face the dangers of living in the midst of the natives of this zone of Africa, who are ferocious as well as black, as well as the fawn-coloured wild animals among which they live, about which we do not need to tell. We want to speak only about the triumphs of their collecting, and do not know which to admire more, their intrepidity or their perseverance. Humans, quadrapeds, birds, fish, plants, minerals, shells--all of these they have studied. Their hunting has given them tigers [leopards], lions, hyenas, an admirable lubal [scavenger??], a crimson antelope of rare elegance, a host of other small members of the same [antelope] family, two giraffes, monkeys, long pitchforks [fouines??], very-curious rats, ostriches, birds of prey which have never been described before, a great quantity of other birds of all sizes, colours and species. They also have a collection of [bird's] nests, which could be the object of a charming descriptive essay; roots like onions, and other plants of remarkable shape and extraordinary size, snakes, a cachalot [??], and a crocodile of a type previously unknown.

But their greatest curiosity is an individual of the nation of the Betjouanas. This man is preserved by the means by which naturalists prepare their specimens and reconstitute their form and, so to speak, their inert life. He is of small stature, black of skin, his head covered by short woolly and curly hair, armed with arrows and a lance, clothes in antelope skin, [with a bag??] made of bush-pig, full of small glass-beads, seeds, and of small bones. Another thing that we are rather embarrassed to find a suitable term to characterise, is the very special accessory of modest clothing worn by the Betjouanas, which we find most striking.

Messieurs Verreaux have deposited their scientific riches at the stores of Monsieur Delessert, rue Saint-Fiacre, n.3. There they are generously put on display for the public, without charge. It would be well if the Jardin des Plantes (Botanical Gardens) took this opportunity to extend its collections, already so beautiful, to become even more desirable -- and to use the skills which they do not already possess of Messieurs Verreaux with the time, the talent, and the energy necessary to go out Africa to catch nature in the act.

Extract courtesy of Jacinto Anton de Vez, Culture editor, El Pais newspaper, Barcelona,


The arrows were missing from later displays of the body. The lance presumably refers to the long fishing-spear with barbs that he was exhibited with. The bag with small glass beads, seeds, and small bones, was probably buried with him. It could indicate that he was some kind of ngaka (traditional doctor). None of the grave goods were returned with the body sent to Gaborone in October 2000.

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