CHAPTER VI  -  Continued



The four royal drums, representing the four fingers on the hand.

Bikula õuaci ku muntu ku fua bikula ku cikila mpe una ba cikila fumu ci.

"The drums that are heard by man only on the death of a great prince, and not at other times."

Ma Ku Ku.

The three lumps of ant-hill-earth, which women place under their pots to support them while their food is being cooked.

Ma Ku Ku ba tatu nzunga ku duku ka mpe.

"A pot on three stones does not upset."

When a woman comes with a matet [1] upon her head in which bottles of water are carried, she places them at her husband's feet, and if well educated, salutes him by clapping her hands three times, and says "makuku batu nzunga kuduku ka mpe."

One day an old lady visited me. She had taken nkasa, the poisonous bark, to prove to the world that it was not she who had caused death. She was wearing the red collar to show the people that she had taken nkasa and that successfully.

On one side of this red neck-scarf or collar, which is bound with white tape, were represented the moon, a native axe and a native hoe, and at the bottom the sun. This picture gives us the idea of the moon's place in creation, as the woman working with hoe and axe to supply man with food. On the other side were roughly represented the death-drum "Bikula," and a woman carrying a load upon her head, above the three makuku (or tops of small ant-hill) upon which the woman's cooking pot is placed. And where the two ends of the collar are joined together, a negro bell is attached.

Now when the BAVILI make a solemn oath (KU LEVA MPECI) they wet their finger and make the sign of the Cross upon the earth and then touch their earth-covered finger with their tongue.
General as this custom is even far inland, I have always

[1. Long native basket made of palm leaves.]

looked upon it as one possibly introduced into the country by the early Portuguese.

Mr. Bentley translates the word cross EKULUZU, while Père Derouet gives the word KRUSSU, these are of course derived from the Portuguese word "Cruz."

Now in the capitals of all Kongo's once great provinces (now Kingdoms) four roads called NZILA NZAMBI or God's roads meet, and where they cross or rather separate they are called MAVAMBA, and these roads come from the East and West and North and South and represent the four great winds, MABILI the East from whence their religious ideas come, SENZA the strong West wind representing morality, XIKAMACI the North wind representing matter, reason and evil, and BUNZI the South wind representing the deep of the nervous system, the rain giver.

The signs by which the natives represent the Cross they call ZILA (or way), and it is of the TAU form              with the additions at the lower extremity of the inverted

horns of the Antelope                called MBAMBISA. It is used on the collar of red saved list, worn by those who have taken the powdered bark "NKASA," the ordeal to prove that they are not witches. It says "We were of one . . . . stock and travelled by one way until this palaver parted us."

On Friday, January 5, 1900, Matueka came to see me, he informed me he had taken "casca." He was wearing the usual red collar round his neck and I asked him to explain the symbols worked in patchwork on it.

The sign near the top of the right shoulder, he said, we call nzila mavamba,              , and it means that we were born of one mother, and were one until strife divided us.

The next sign, xala mioko,                  is a seed that opens and separates easily, and shows that I was open handed and
generous. Then the bellows, nsakaso,                 points to the fact that it was my relations that caused me to treat them

as I have done. The nozzle to the bellows,           , called nxelo, explains that we were sons of one father, and that I, the son of one wife, had to contend against my three half brothers, sons of another wife, The three ant-hills,

makuku matatu,                    tell you that I called witnesses, saluted them three times, and told them all about the palaver.
The mat, mbonda fulla ,                         says that I put my accusers on one side just as they have placed me on one

side.;                   , ntanji or chair, points out that I was given a nice place in the town where I took casca, and was well

treated. Then Mbambisa,           the horns of an antelope, explains

that I asked the question, "What did I do to cause this dividing of the ways of the children of one father." And the

smaller drums "bikula,               , say,
" Why was I forced to beat the Bikula and so let all the world know that I was an outcast from my family?" Then when I had taken the bark and proved my

innocence, I beat the drum ndungu ilo, as the sign                            big drum, shows, to let the world know that I was innocent. And I sent the

ngonje,                          , or bell to my people to announce the day of my return to town. And the Ximpaba,                      or knife of office was sent to my
accusers to demand damages.[1]


The Batexi, or Bateki, who say they are from the same Mother as the Bavili, file their front teeth to two points, and mark each side of their face with three marks.

The Bakuni file their front teeth to six points, and mark their face with six strokes .

The Bavili file their front teeth to four points, and mark their stomachs thus:-

The Bakamba file their front teeth to six points, and have from one to three crocodiles tattooed on their stomachs.
The Bayaka and Basanji file their front teeth to two points, and have six keloids, in the form of lizards, on their stomachs.


In 188r, we in Landana heard of the wreck of the mail steamer Ethiopia off Luango, sixty or seventy miles away, one or two hours after its actual occurrence, in Luango, by drum message.

[1.These rough diagrams represent as nearly as possible the very rough patchwork figures on the red collar.]

This wonderful drum is called NKONKO, and is formed of a log of wood some six feet long. This log is then rounded; pieces at each end of what is destined to be the top side of the drum are left in the rough, to be carved and ornamented. From these pieces (nearly from end to end that is) a long thin slit or cut is made. This incision is about two inches deep and three finger-widths broad in the middle, narrowing at each end to two finger-widths. The rounding is then continued to the depth of the incision, then the drum is hollowed out by means of long chisels or gouges.

The drum being made, a good operator with his drumsticks can say anything he likes upon it in his dialect. The drum-language (so-called) is not limited to a few sentences but, given a good operator and a good listener, comprehends all a man can say.

I. The sound I (ee) is formed by operator striking the side of the drum nearest to him, just in the centre of the drum, on the line of the incision.
U is formed by hitting the belly of the drum on both sides at the same time, when they say the sound comes out at either end of the incision.
A is sounded by beating the line of incision to your left, near to that end of the drum.
O, by beating the line of incision to the right of the I.
E, by striking the line of incision on both sides of the drum between the letters A and I.
The other letters are formed in combination with these vowel sounds by striking the line with a second drum stick with more or less of emphasis or precision.

The call to arms:-In yako-in yako-i zi fula i me yela.

Here (we are ready)-(get ready) there both powder and ball.

To call the men who are in the bush to town:-Beno boso nu duka.

You all (gather) together (in town) caution.

And when the native hears that an enemy is approaching, he advises him to come well prepared, or he will suffer:-Nu ba intu for bantu.[1]

You men.

In the early part of 1895 I sent the schooner Olhanensa from Luango to a place some sixty miles north, called Konkwatti, for the purpose of picking up some cargo there.
One morning about ten o'clock my head man came to me, and after some hesitation told me that he had heard that the schooner was ashore. I could get nothing more definite out of him except that he had heard the "news." I knew enough about the rapidity with which bad news travels to believe that this misfortune must have occurred, and set about making the necessary preparations for despatching boats and implements to her rescue, so that the next day, when the messenger confirming the news arrived, all was ready and immediately forwarded. It appeared that the schooner had come ashore during the night previous to the arrival of the unofficial news, which probably had not been communicated to me until some time after it was the common property of the natives; that is to say, the news had travelled the sixty miles or so in three or four hours.

[1. This is particularly interesting, as giving the key to a perennial puzzle, revived during the Boer war, viz: How does news travel among the natives in the speedy way it does?]

At the Back of the Black Mans Mind

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