Baptist History Homepage

Africa for Christ.
The Congo Mission.
By Revs. T. J. Comber AND George Grenfell
From The Missionary Herald of The Baptist Missionary Society
January, 1885

      THE following graphic account of the first long voyage of the S. S. Peace cannot fail to deepen and strengthen the interest of our readers in the Congo Mission, revealing, as it does, the marvellous way in which the road into the very heart of this long-neglected and degraded continent is opening up. Surely the call to prosecute the grand enterprise of winning Africa for Christ with truer earnestness and larger self-sacrifice is loud and distinct. The road is indeed ready, “and the path made straight.” We cannot draw back - we dare not. Shall we not rather resolve to carry on this work with intenser zeal and completer consecration? Reinforcements are most urgently called for - the fields are “white already to harvest.” Who will come forward to the help of the Lord - to the help of the Lord against the mighty? Both men and means are needed, and the need is urgent and immediate. Brothers and sisters, we appeal to you; we beseech you help us, and help us quickly.

      “Stanley Pool, Congo River,
     “August 2lst, 1884.

      “DEAR MR. BAYNES, - You will have been expecting further news of the steamship ‘Peace,’ and also of her first journey before this; but you will allow that her having been built, launched, having made the necessary trial trips, and run a journey of 1,200 miles all within a few days more than four months, has not left much time for letter-writing. Then, again, until we had really given our little craft a thorough trial, we were not in a position to speak of our success as amateur shipwrights and engineers; but now that we have safely returned from Mangala, a point midway between the Pool and Stanley Falls, we feel we can speak more confidently about our work, and better calculate the possibilities before us.


      “Friends at home will be glad to learn that the Peace answers every expectation in the matters of speed, simplicity, and comfort. We need never be afraid of being caught by canoes if we have only good firewood on board and wish to keep out of the way. As to simplicity of management, I think it will suffice for us to tell you that we ran the whole distance without any mishap that involved delay, or even the stoppage of the engines. Shaw and Scott, who both figure in

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the picture in the July HERALD, doing all the engineering. Thanks to our exceptionally light draught, and the warnings given by the lead, the sand bunks gave us very little trouble, there being no place where, after a little searching, a channel could not be found. Even with four days’ fuel on board, and our multifarious stores of barter goods and food, we only drew 0. little more than fifteen inches. One thing that helped us not a little was the experience gained in the small boat at the commencement of the year, Ebokea, who pulled stroke oar on that occasion, doing most of the steering.



      “It was our pleasure, during the first ten days of our journey, to have the company of Col. Sir Francis de Winton, Administrator-in-Chief of the Inter- national Association, and also that of our good friend Mr. Gill, of Stanley Pool, who was acting as his secretary, Sir Francis was almost agreeable fellow- tzaveller, taking a. very real and sympathetic interest in every phase of our work, from the establishment and modes of procedure at our stations, down to “king his turn at the wheel, wood-cutting, and bread-making. He is a thorough-going campaigner, and so can manage to enjoy life anywhere. You may be sure we enjoyed his company.


      “In addition to ourselves, Mr. Moloney, who had come up from Wathen, our passengers, our crew of a dozen, and three men, we were taking to prepare the ground for building at Lukolela, we ventured to take with us eight of our schoolboys, thinking that to take them on a long journey would tend to enlarge their ideas of things: the world is a very little place to some of their minds. But, however desirable it may be to enlarge their ideas, we very much question if either of us will ever again face the responsibility of personally conducting a party of eight unruly young cubs for a twelve- hundred-mile tour. In the cold mornings the stoker was their very dear friend; in fact, so attached did they become to the stoke-hole that most of them left bits of their skin sticking to the steam-pipes, contenting themselves for a time with a few swathes of bandaging, with rolls of which we were fortunately fairly well provided. In the middle of the day when the stoke- hole had lost its charms, the water became a great temptation to them, and a constant source of anxiety to us; for not only there were the risks consequent upon their not being able to swim, but the grave possibility of hungry crocodiles being on the prowl. On one occasion we came very near to a disaster, by a boy, while playing, falling overboard, dragging another with him, who, like himself, could not swim. Happily, the small boat was able to reach them without much loss of time, and we are now rejoicing in the fact that notwithstanding the risks of fire, water, and rapidly revolving machinery, by God’s good favour we have brought them all safely back again.


      “Though our youngsters were such a trouble to us, yet they could be very helpful at times, especially when firewood had to be carried from some little distance in the forest. Cutting wood was our big work from day to day. Everybody joined in it, and we did fairly well if we managed to get enough in three or four hours to suffice for the remainder of the day. On these occasions quantity was not the only desideratum: if we had bad wood it meant going at three to four miles an hour; with good wood we managed ten.

      “But though fire-wood was a constant care, and involved many an

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anxious look out as we wended our way between apparently interminable sand banks, travelling in the Peace was luxurious compared with journeying in our twenty-six feet boat, which sufficed for the journey to the equator at the commencement of the year. We were especially grateful for the awning, furnishing, as it does, such a splendid protection from both sun and rain, ever present contingencies on the Congo; for though we start in the cold season we are not half way along the Congo before we are into the hot, and though we start in the dry, as we did this time, before we reach Mangala we find the rainy season in full swing.


      “A reviewer, criticising the account of a recent voyage up the Congo, refers to it as a ‘thrice-told tale,’ and the newspapers just to hand are so full of Congo news that we can easily imagine it possible that by the time this reaches you, our friends at home may be tired of the whole business. But whatever M.P.’s and merchants may do with the Congo, the Congo mission, as a Baptist Missionary Society question, remains the same; nay, with increasing light and better knowledge of the people and country, our work appears as more and more imperative, and we are thus constrained to lay the matter even more fully before you, our brethren, at home.

      “Having decided we could devote five weeks to a prospecting tour in the Peace, we were enabled to get under weigh by nine o’clock on the 7th July, and by the time for dropping anchor in the evening, we found ourselves right beyond the Pool, and well into the narrow portion of the Congo, which extends for about 100 miles. (We trust our friends who read this letter will do so with our map before them, as it will greatly help them to form an idea of what we have done and what we propose to do.) The next day brought us almost to Mswata, which, counting Kinshasla and Kimpoko, on the Pool, is the third International station beyond Leopoldville. Having passed Mswata and proceeded five miles, we come in sight of the French station at Gauchus, on the opposite - the right - bank. Another five miles brought us to the next International station, at Kwa-ruonth.


      “At this point we determined to forsake the Congo for awhile, and started the following morning to go up the Kwa, or the Hari Nkutu - which the natives call the Bochini - as far as the junction which it makes with the Kwango. This furnished us with some little excitement, for we were rather uncertain as to the temper of the people, and knew nothing of the character of the river. So far as we could learn, it had only once previously been visited, and that time by Mr. Stanley, some two years ago. A map, which appeared in Mr. Johnston’s recent book, gives the distance to the junction as twenty-five or thirty miles east of the point where the Kwa falls into the Congo. We found it fully three times as far, and had. many and many an anxious look across the miles of sandbanks from the awning top before we got a glimpse of the water-way we sought. It’s being so much farther than we had expected resulted in a greater curtailment of the time we had at our disposal for the main river than we had bargained for. However, we were well repaid for making the detour by our coming into contact with the chieftainess of the Wabuma, a strong-minded woman, who rules one of the most important trading communities on the Congo.

      “The Kwa for the first thirty miles has a mean course of N. E., between steep grass and scrub covered

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sandy hills, of from 200 to 500 feet in height, and having narrow fringes of timber along the water’s edge and in the valleys. Along this reach of the river, which has a width varying from a quarter to three quarters of a mile; navigation involves great care, by reason of the many rocky reefs which stretch themselves out into nearly mid-stream. From N. E. the course gradually wears round into an easterly one for another thirty miles or so; but where the course changes near the kindly town of B0, the river takes upon itself the character of the higher reaches of the Congo, widening itself out among sandbanks and islands into lake-like expansions, of from two to five miles wide, and five to fifteen miles long.


      “It was after journeying about fifty miles, and passing the second of these expansion, that we came in sight of Nga Nkabi’s Mushie town (the capital of the Wabuma country), which is a series of hamlets, extending some two or three miles along the north bank. We rather hurt her ladyship’s feelings by not steaming straight away till we came opposite her residence. However, by getting up anchor again, and accepting her personal pilotage, we were able to comply with her nations as to what was the proper thing to be done, and to drop anchor within a stone's-throw of her house. She is a very capable, energetic woman, of but few words, but who evidently knows her own mind and rules her subjects, though she made but few pretensions in the way of state ceremony. Whatever her rule may be, her people are, without exception, the best specimens of the African we encountered on our journey. Well formed, intelligent, and, by comparison, industrious, it is not surprising that they are among the most successful traders on the river. It is not at all unusual to encounter a fleet of from ten to twenty canoes all heavily laden and bound down to the Pool, where all trade has to forsake the water-way and take to the land. We often met these canoes weatherbound, for when the strong westerly breezes spring up, the water becomes altogether too rough for their canoes, nearly laden down to the gunwale. These breezes were so strong sometimes as to send the water flying right across the deck of our steamer, compelling us once or twice to ease down the speed lest we should tow the boat under. As we lay at anchor at Mushie, we often had as many as thirty canoes alongside, each one containing somebody anxious to sell something. Besides being good traders, they are good handicraftsmen, making not only their own canoes, but a considerable number for sale. We saw between one and two hundred canoes along their beach, and several new ones in course of being finished. They are roughly made in the forest, then brought home to have the final touches put upon them. There is always hope for people who do not think it beneath their dignity to labour. Our Bateke neighbours cannot carry their own brass rods when they go to make a small purchase, or their fowls or eggs, if they have them to sell. They must have a boy or two dangling at their heels. Even Nga Nkabi herself, who posed with an air quite ‘Napoleonic,’ as she came to visit us, standing among her crew of stalwart men, wielding paddles whose shafts were completely overlaid with brass, did not seem to think it out of order, when she went on shore again, to get into a little canoe with another woman to go fetch a present of a goat and some plantain, and bring it alongside for us. We were prepared for a favourable

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impression of the Wabuma people from our experience of them at Kintamo, where there is mostly a settlement of their traders. They come down and sometimes stay for months, and we thus have time to become intimate with them. Many of these people recognised and welcomed us. A very noticeable feature among them is the number of bright-eyed little folk they have both in their towns and trading camps, contrasting forcibly in that matter with their Bayansi neighbours, and speaking not only in their favour socially, but to those who know the details, very forcibly in their favour morally.


      “Altogether Nga Nkabi’s town was the most promising position we saw for a mission station; and we trust our numbers will soon be sufficiently augmented to allow of our occupying this point, where we are assured of a welcome. Of course, they have but very indistinct notions concerning our object, though we tried to tell them. It is not to be expected from a single visit. They are quite expecting us.

      “The country about Mushie is very picturesque, the town itself being built on the slight elevation which lies parallel with the course of the river and the hills behind, from which latter it is separated by a strip of low-lying land where they have their corn, sugar cane, and cassada farms. The people, perhaps, number three thousand, without estimating the population of the many separate towns which acknowledge Nga Nkabi’s sway. Their language appears to be quite a distinct one, though they understood Kikke, the language which commences at the pool, and is altogether different from the Kishi-Congo dialects which obtain from the lower liver up to Kintamo.


      “After leaving the two or three miles of hamlets constituting Mushie the river trends S. by E. for about thirty miles to its junction with the Kwango, which comes from the S.S.E., and is a fine stream of 400 to 500 yards wide, with an average depth of two fathoms and a mean current of a mile and a-half per hour. Though this is every considerable river (Livingstone speaks of it as very swift and 150 yards wide at a point 500 miles south of where we saw it), yet we judge it to be very much smaller than the one from the N. E. explored by Mr. Stanley as far as Lake Leopold in 1° 30’ S. lat. We should have liked to push our way up both these streams, but had to be content with going a mile or two up the Kwango. Here we noticed that instead of the hitherto universal four-walled houses, the natives built round ones, which denoted pretty plainly our having reached the border-land of a distinct people. Not only did we notice that these houses were similar to those found by the Portuguese travellers, Capello and Ivens, some 200 miles south, but we also recognised the same peculiar hat-like mode of dressing the hair as depicted in their sketches. Unfortunately, we were unable to open communication with these people, as they were too nervous to reply to our questions or respond to our salutations. They simply ran along the bank, spear in hand, dodging behind the trees, as though afraid of harm we might possibly do them. By the next time we pay them a visit they will have heard of our peaceable' character, and lost all fear, and very likely have become as impudent and overbearing as many of their neighbours become as soon as they have recovered from their surprise at the sudden apparition of white men in their midst. From that point of the

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Kwango which we saw to that where Capello and Ivens last saw it, some 180 or 200 miles, there is a fall of about 1,000 feet, or, say, an average of five feet per mile, a fact that pretty plainly indicates that the available waterway is comparatively short, and that we must not expect any extensive area of country to be opened up thereby. Capello and Ivens speak of the place they reached as ‘an immense desert over which the silence of death reigned supreme.’

      “Having just had a look at the Kwango, we set out upon our return to the point of our departure, calling at our friend Nga Nkabi's, and spending an hour or two there on the way, occupying in coming down a little more than a day and a-half in covering a distance that had required five days for the ascent. By the time we reached Kwa mouth, Sir Francis found one of the expedition steamers waiting to convey him to the Pool, whither he at once proceeded. The following morning we resumed our Congo voyage, leaving Kwa mouth, which we determined by observation to be in 3o 14' south latitude, and proceeding northward. Our next stage, like our previous one on the Congo, was characterised by few or no people on the right bank, though we passed a whole series of towns on the left.


      "The chief of Chumbiri’s town, which was our first stopping place, we had heard had been deposed and killed by his son; so we were quite prepared to find mother ruling in his stead, but hardly prepared for the son’s version of the matters - that his father had gone up river to buy ivory! We were unable to decide upon its truth, and had u, put up with his oily pretensions of friendship for ourselves, and the grease and powdered redwood which be transferred from his person to our clothes, as he persistently took our arms and squeezed himself in between us as we walked the narrow paths of his town. Here it was that we found a San Salvador man, who had been sold away as a slave. He was very glad to see some one who knew his country, and recognised in that fact that he had an extra claim upon our generosity, and we had not the heart to dispute it with the poor stranger in a strange land. San Salvador lies very near all our hearts.

      “About four miles beyond Chumbiri’s, we saw a remarkable stony hill, common enough in the cataract region, but conspicuous here where all the hills on both sides for the previous hundred miles had the smoothly-rounded contours peculiar to the sandy ranges of this part of the continent. These hills, of from 200 to 700 feet in height, for the most part rise immediately out of the water on the right bank, while on the left bank the ascents are commenced by gentle slopes which, together with the rocky points jutting far out into the water, afford sites for the numerous towns we passed. Some of these points were extremely picturesque, and run out so far and so acutely into the water that the towns built on them front the river both up and down, but generally these rocks are quite steep, and some run up to thirty and fifty feet in a perpendicular line, and thus afford no landing-place. The natives, however, have ample beaches and water approaches within the beautiful bays which stretch from point to point.


      “Soon after leaving Chumbiri’s, too, we came in sight of the Lone Island, which, though apparently standing all by itself, as we proceed We discover to be only the first of the countless islands which are the ever-present feature of

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the river from this point to Stanley Falls. Hereabouts, too, we exchange the deep water and the dangerous reefs of rocks for shallows and sandbanks so numerous and channels so intricate that we often lose sight of the main land and have to rely upon our compass for the course. The current certainly tells us whether we are going up or down, but when the channel is two miles wide to ‘go up' or ‘down,’ is not always sufficient. It is important to steer a straight course, and hit the right bank, and not to wander about in a maze at haphazard, and find oneself on the wrong one. After thirty miles or so among these islands and sandbanks, the hills once more approach the river, and on the slope of these hills on the Eastern bank, ranging for about a couple of miles, we find the Bolobo towns, of which Ibaka is the supreme chief. On the quarter of a mile or so of debateable land which lies beyond these towns, and before reaching the Moie district, we find the Bolobo station of the International Association. With the exception of Ilebu and of the Bangala towns of Liboko, we found no place containing so large a population in so small an area as Bolobo-Moie. To estimate the population is very difficult, but we think it may safely be put down as over 5,000.


      “In Bolobo, as in Chumbiri - and indeed, having scattered themselves everywhere, right down to the cataracts below the Pool - we find the Bayansi, or, as they call themselves, the Babangi people, all having emigrated from Ubangi, opposite Ngombe (see map). In adjacent Moie we find Banunu people, the Banunu being probably the indigenous race. Inland are said to be the Batende. Bolobo has, as we have said above, about two miles of villages composing its town. Moie is rather bigger than Bolobo, and its villages, each under its separate chieftain, extend further back from the river and higher up the sides of the 100 feet hill which backs them. Between Bolobo and Moie there is generally enmity, and one can generally reckon too on internal dissensions in each district, one chief of Bolobo frequently not being “on speaking terms” with his fellow chief. Although Ibaka is the special and perhaps biggest chief of Bolobo (being the white man’s chief or friend), he is not by any means the only one. There are Lingenji, Yambula, Katula, Oruru, Yinga, Biangala, Itumba, etc., etc. - in all eighty chiefs! The chief characteristics of Bolobo people appear to be drunkenness, immorality and cruelty, out of each of which vices spring actions almost too fearful to describe. In hearing of these, one living out here almost gets to feel like calling the people terrible brutes and wretches rather than poor miserable heathen. The light of their consciences must condemn them in most of their sins.


      “On the afternoon of our arrival, accompanied by Lieut. Liebrecht of the Association Internationale, we walked through all the towns of Bolobo and Moié. In Bolobo it was a great day, a gala day, indeed. The wife of one of the chiefs had died somewhere away, and, of course, there must be four or five days and nights of orgies - any amount of dirty sugar-cane-beer swilling, unbridled license in every species of sensuality, and a grand finale of fair human sacrifices, each victim, mark you, being a poor wretch of a slave bought for the purpose! Drums beating briskly, circles of “fine” women, wearing the great heavy brass collar (25 to 30 lbs.!), dancing and clapping

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rythmically, and plenty of people about in all the streets. The victims were tied up somewhere; of course, they Would not tell us where; but were said to be apathetically and stolidly awaiting their fate - bowstring or knife - both being Babangi ways of killing. Remonstrances and pleadings on behalf of these poor victims were all in vain. Another cruel tragedy was also to shortly take place. Prices of certain food were to be arranged, and, as a sign or seal of such arrangement, a slave was to be killed thus - a hole was to be dug between the two towns, and the victim’s arms and legs broken, and he thrown into the hole to die, no one being allowed to give him food or drink. Oh, Christians at home, think of this! Very few children are seen in any Babangi town, and this may easily be explained by the immorality of the people. The towns are kept large, and the population sustained chiefly by the purchase of slaves, who frequently receive the tribal mark - two rows of raised blebs along the forehead from ear to ear. In most countries and tribes, owners of male slaves have to provide their slaves with wives; but among the Babangi, it would seem that the chiefs keep an extra-large number of wives, and allow their slaves permission to consort promiscuously with any of them - except, probably, favourite ones.


      “The Moie towns look very pretty from the river, many of them being very picturesquely laid out. The Banunu inhabitants are at present shyer than the Bolobo Babangi, and communication with them has hitherto been more difficult. The women and children (the Banunu have more children than the Babangi) frequently ran away; one young woman especially, whom we noticed, actually showed her teeth at us viciously, like a wild animal, as our glance turned towards her. Banunu houses are built in rows of four or six houses, in form the same, but larger than Babangi houses, a small yard between each two, but the whole row or set under one roof. A few of the houses are ornamented with human skulls, one having as many as thirteen. Circling round the bases of large trees here and there were many hippopotamus’ skulls; we counted as many as thirty, showing that these people hunt (probably harpoon) the hippopotamus.

      “Of course, in walking through these towns, we tried to make friends with the people as much as possible. We know scarcely any of their language, and can do very little with them more than make friends on these first short prospecting visits. But we have said a great deal about Bolobo-Moie district, because here we are desirous of having one of our stations ; in fact, have provisionally decided so to do, the population being dense, and the people appearing as friendly as anywhere - save Nga-Nkabe’s on the Bochini River.

      “At Bolobo we got further observations for latitude, and place it in 2° 13' 0” S.

      “From Bolobo we steamed on past some very pretty hill scenery, passing Moie Nkunju and Sakamimbe, charmingly situated on spurs of rocky tree-clad hills, and prettily embowered in trees. These people seem to have picked all the best sites. On this stage (as between Kwa Mouth and Bolobo) we had a passenger, Lieutenant Liebrecht, 'accompanying us to Lokolela. For the whole of the distance, one hundred miles, we saw absolutely nothing of the opposite bank of the great river we were ascending; but, keeping somewhat near the eastern

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shore, and a general N.E. direction, we passed among the islands in channels of from 150 to 1,500 yards wide, in generally shallow water. Towns were very few, as the map will show. Hippopotami were more plentiful than we have ever before seen them, several which we shot we left for the natives to follow and tow on shore, and they must have had grand ‘feeds.’ One we sent our boat after and landed, thus obtaining fat for the engines, and any amount of meat for ourselves and people (hippo steaks, if fat, are very agreeable, as we found). We also saw three elephants, but the rate at which the Peace was going prevented our getting near them. As, on the third day, we approached Lokolela, we found the current much stronger; and at. last, the first time for 120 miles, we saw the opposite shore. Just above Lokolela the river narrows from its hitherto un- known width to a mile and a half.


      “Lokolela, you will remember, was fixed upon as a site for our sixth station (Liverpool), and was described in the letter of July. The whole of Lokolela and its vicinity is densest forest, from the water’s edge up its gentle slope reached to a height of about sixty feet. Giants of trees - cotton trees, African oak, &c., - with a girth that takes the edge off your axe almost at sight of it. We being already so few in number, that while we were away only six brethren were distributed over our five stations, there was no brother, of course, to take charge of our new Liverpool station, which will probably wait for Mr. Bentley; but friends at home will be glad to hear that although so short-handed, we have actually commenced our new and sixth station of Liverpool. Three men from Victoria and Bimbia (of our West African Mission) are placed there with three months’ stores of food, a great cross-cut saw, and six good axes, and, after clearing a little ground in the great forest, they will build a temporary house. Our station there, as here, will adjoin that of the Association. Of course, it is very likely that in the future, as we get to know the towns and peoples better, sites of up-river stations may be altered, as we have had to alter them below on finding others more suitable, i.e., Underhill, from Mussuca to Tunduwa, Bayneston; from Isangila to Vunda and Wathen ; from Manyanga to Ngombe. For such alteration, of Liverpool or other up-river stations, we must be prepared.

      “The villages of Lokolcla are smaller and somewhat more scattered than those of Moie, Bolobo, and other Babangi towns below, although Lokolela people too belong to the same enterprising tribe. They differ very much, however, from their more wealthy fellow-tribesmen at Bolobo and Chumbiri, and are much milder and more pleasant in disposition.

      “The chiefs are three in number, two of whom have the name of Yuka, and the other - apparently the principal - Mangaba. As was the case in the other stations of the Association, the gentleman in charge of Lokolela station, Mr. Glave, accompanied us in our first walk through the town. At Lokolela We stayed two days, fixing our site, ‘wooding up’ for the steamer, and making good friends With the people. They seemed all very glad to hear that we were coming to live amongst them, and to teach them, and the chief, Mangaba, with whom we made special friendship, promised to go on with us to Bangala, to introduce us to the chiefs there. All is promising for our work there.


      “Leaving Lokolela on the 23rd July,

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we slept just below Ngombe, which we reached early the following morning. Here the river narrows again, having expanded, as usual, between the two places. Opposite Ngombe, a little above, is the Albangi River, evidently a considerable body of water of a light clay, whitey-brown-paper colour, contrasting strongly, for many miles refusing to mix with the dark brown water of the main river. The two bodies of water flow side by side, always with a great deal of commotion and spIashing waves at their edges of contact, as if jostling with each other on their way down. The same is very noticeable, too, at the Lulango River much higher up, the water of which, flowing alongside that of the big river, is inky black.

      “At Ngombe, where there is a ‘post’ of the International Association, we have a little branch of Bangala people who seem to have pushed down past Ilebu, but who probably come via Albangi. Ngombe point is very rocky, masses of ferruginous conglomerate cropping up on the point, and forming a hill of some fifty feet high. There are plenty of people at Ngombe, and they appeared very friendly.

“About twelve miles further on and we came to a splendid set of towns, of which mention was made in the July letter - viz, Bathunu, Boshende and Ilebu. In this set of towns, especially the last two, which are separated from each other by a stretch of country of about a mile in length, we have probably the densest population yet seen by us on the Congo, not excluding Bangala towns. The people literally swarmed, the crowd coming to one point of beach numbering about 500 people. Here, as at Ngombe, and in fact almost all further towns on as far as Liboko, there are isolated stretches o,- rocky banks where the overlying soil seems particularly fertile, and where the people have built. Sometimes this rocky bank, washed by the current, assumes the form of a squared and artificially constructed quay for distances of twenty to fifty yards. The towns, especially Ilebu ones, go extensively back, away from the river, an unusual thing, as if the suitable building land along the river front was not sufficient for the people.


      “We anchored off, and went ashore at Boshende, walked to the chief’s house, he in turn paying us a return visit on board, and bringing a present of goat, &c. At Ilebu we slept, of course, going on shore to make friends with the people. The principal chiefs are Ipaka, Mbeka, Makwala, and Mangombo, and we made special friends with Ipaka, an old man. We walked about the towns, and found each chief sitting on his stool outside his house, ready to give us a welcoming shake of the hands. Talking to the people of Ilebu and Boshende was very difficult, whether on shore or when they came to see us on board the Peace. There was always a. deafening din of voices. Mayango, chief of Boshende, and Ipaka of Ilebu, as well as almost every friendly disposed man of importance, from Chimibiri up to Iboko, were very desirous to seal friendship by the ceremony of blood-brotherhood, which, among the Ilebu, Babangi, and Bangala people, is very, very common; but the rite is so meaningless and empty, and appears to have no binding force, that up to the present we have always refused to drink blood with any one; and our arms, unlike those of a few upper river travellers, and notably the arms of all Ilebu and Bangala chiefs, are not covered with a lot of marks, scars of blood-brotherhood.

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Ilebu, or Ilebu-Boshende, is the third fresh site we have chosen for one of our future stations.

      "Our choice was determined by the extreme populousness of the district, and the appearance of the people, who seem less rowdy and overbearing and more friendly than the Bangala higher up. Since fixing upon llebu, however, we have not seen the people, and so they as yet know nothing of our wish to build in their country, although there is no doubt they will be very glad to have us.

      "The people about llebu are always spoken of as a distinct tribe, which includes llebu proper, Boshende, Butunu, and Mantumba, up the river of the same name. Their origin is at present, however, a little uncertain, and they are possibly immigrants, like the Babangi.

      "From llebu, forty miles, up to the towns of the Inganda district, we saw no signs of population. These towns, commencing from Bojungi, may be called the Congo Equatorial towns, running from about six miles S. of the Equator to and up the Ruki River six miles N. of the Line; and the station Mr. Stanley has established there he calls Equatorville. It is again difficult to assign the people to a special tribe, although we believe them to be indigenous.


      "The Congo equatorial towns are divided up into districts as follows: - Bojungi, Mbongo, Inganda, and Bwangata. The population is very scattered, and many of the villages, specially in lower Inganda, consist of only a few tumble-down lopsided houses. In the Bwangata section, however, the villages were better. At the Mbongo below, the people seemed very rudely-bold and troublesome, and it seemed almost as if they wanted to fight us because we would not stop and go ashore at their rocky beaches. Inganda was especially interesting to us, because our Livingstone Inland Mission brethren are going to build there. They have a fair sphere above the Bwangata towns, but a small diocese below. These people about the great Ruki River (hitherto known as the Ikelemba) are the most primitive of the people we have hitherto met. They are the only people we met who use the bow and arrow. Here, too, we first saw an African shield, and found most men walking about with bow and arrows and shield, or spears and shield, or else a murderous knife, of which more presently,

      "They also, for the most part, wore hats of monkeys' skins; the head of the animal coming to the front of their heads, and the tail hanging down behind. In spite, however, of their coiffure and arms, they did not appear wild or savage.


      "That they are cruel, curiously and ingeniously cruel, we know from the description given us by Lieut. Vangele, the chief of Equatorville station, of the methods of execution obtaining amongst them. Certain victims die by the knife alluded to above, and others have to afford to the bloodthirsty spectators the pleasures of the chase. These last are given a certain start across country, and then are pursued in full cry by all the people armed with spears and bows and arrows. An obstinate victim who will not run well causes disappointment, but others are said to make a 'fine run' before they full, pierced with arrows and spears.

"The death by the knife is given thus. The victim is tied down to stakes driven into the ground, in a squatting position, his arms behind

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him, and his head bent well forward. Round the chin and coming to a loop at the top of the head is a strong plaited rope. Four feet or so in front is a strong young sapling, which with great force is bent down until its top reaches the loop at the head of the victim, to which it is made fast. The sacrificial knife (a strange sickle-shaped affair, the hollow fitting the curve of the neck) is brought, and, after a little playing about with the miserable doomed man, a smart deft stroke is given which never fails to sever the head, which springs high in the air by the relieved tension of the sapling. Indeed, interior Congo is one of the 'dark places of the earth, full of the habitations of cruelty.' We have been told that among the Babangi, on the death of a chief, scores of victims are sacrificed.


      "Strangely contrasting with these revolting descriptions, we saw at Equatorville a very pretty little performance by children, lasting several hours, and consisting firstly of clever dancing and then of a little bit of operatic acting, after the style of a Greek play, the chorus part of which was very prettily rendered by little girls of eight to twelve years old. A strange-looking bier was carried in on the shoulders of four men. On the top of it was somebody or something covered over with red baize cloth. Sitting up at one end and looking along it was a pretty little girl, looking sad and mournful. This bier (a native bamboo bed) was placed on the ground and surrounded by the chorus'—six little girls. A plaintive song was chanted by a woman who came to the side of the bier, which was chorused by the little girls. It was really sweet and sad; in fact, the idea of drama in Central Africa surprised us altogether. We could understand but little of the words sung, but caught the frequent repetition, at the end of the chorus, of 'Ka-wa-ka,' he is not dead. After a time the spells of incantation were considered to have worked, and there was a noticeable heaving and shuddering in the covered mass at the girl's feet. The red cloth was drawn aside, and a girl was discovered, her chest heaving quickly and her limbs trembling as if in a paroxysm of epilepsy. Two pmwons came forward, and taking her by her arms, raised her to her feet. The whole was so curious for Africa that we thought it worth describing. The little performance was enacted to please the white man.

      "Equatorville appears to be the prettiest and best built and best kept of any of the upper International Association statiens, and really reflects great credit on the chief of station, M. Vangela,who was most kind to us. We spent a pleasant quiet Sunday here, and on the Monday morning, July 28th, continued our journey up the river. Our midday observations (we got a water horizon here as in many other places) gave us 4' 20" N. of the Equator.


      "The Ruki River we found to be just the magnificent affluent Stanley has described it, quite 1,000 yards wide, and with several islands at its embouchure. Up above the Ruki River we found Bangala towns, stretching right away to 10 50' 0" N. (our farthest point) to Liboko, where Stanley had his great battle in 1877. We went, however, forty-five miles above Equatorville before we arrived at Lulanga, the first Bangala town on the eastern bank Meanwhile, nothing was to be seen of the opposite bank of the great river we were ascending, and there was the same monotonous and uninteresting series of islands of all lengths, covered with forest, and swarming with gadflies by day and mosquitoes by night. 'How I love

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their bosky depths,' writes Mr. Stanley in describing them. It is more than we do. What great lumps the flies raised on suffering leg and ancle [sic] as one traced one's chart, or studied the native languages in the comfortable cabin of the Peace! But, as Mr. Stanley explains, his love for the interminable islands of the Congo arose from the protection they afforded him from his bloodthirsty cannibal pursuers. The islands are very low, as is also the eastern bank, except just above the Ruki River, where the ' terra' is really ‘firma,' although the banks are only about four to six feet high. No grass is to be seen, and so there are no hippopotami, pasture being nil. The calamus creeping palm, with its sharp hooks, lines the banks almost everywhere, and one has often to cut through it to effect a landing, and get into the forest to cut firewood. On many trees which we cut down for fuel, we found the gum copal of commerce oozing out of, or solidified on, its bark. Coffee in plenty was discovered growing everywhere on the previous journey of July. But after leaving the Ruki River, until we arrived at Lulanga, we really saw no point on the eastern shore where a town could be built: all was so low and muddy.

      "At Lulanga we had our first real introduction to Bangala people, and we found them out and out the most boisterous, wild, noisy, troublesome, worrying lot of people either of us has ever met We were introduced by our friend Mengaba, of Lokolela, who all the journey had made himself very interesting to us, although we have said nothing about him. Like all Babangi people, Mangaba was very superstitious, and carried his fetishes with him on board. His toilet was never complete without the application of his face powder and rouge—not used however, to improve the complexion, but to make mysterious red and white (chalk) marks about his body, in which his boy assisted him. A white line up his back, from hip to left shoulder, to the left of the median line, and carried down thence along the outer part of the arm to the hand. Red and white lines on the left foot, ditto across forehead, but all drawn with the most religious care.


      "Old Mangaba was very active in his communicating with the people, shouting at every canoe we met, and that long after they had ceased to hear what he said. He seemed to claim kinship with almost everyone, found that he had a wife at every town we stayed at, met at least three mothers, and introduced nearly every chief of importance as his own father, until his family tree was, to say the least, perplexing. From Mangaba and his little boy, Mbuma (who, by the bye, he has allowed us to bring down to Arthington), we tried as much as possible to learn the Babangi dialect spoken at Lokolela. Mr. Glave also was kind enough to give us a number of words.

      "To converse with these people was very difficult, but we sometimes tried it when, in the evening, we had prayer, and gathered round us our boys to sing our Congo hymn. ‘God hears us when we speak to Him,' we said to Mangaba. Indeed !' said he, not much surprised. 'Yes, He is our Father, and He is very very good, and loves us all very much,' said we. But to this Mangaba objected. . 'God was not good. Why was He always killing people' (by death). And then we had to try and explain the resurrection and the home in heaven, but it was difficult to remove his sceptical objections.

      "Lulanga is very populous, perhaps as much so as Ilebu proper. Altogether, going and returning, we spent

p. 19
two good days at this place. The towns are built on the top of a fifty feet hill, composed of conglomerate iron, as at Ngombe, Ilebu, &c, masses of which cropped out on the beaches. We, of course, walked about in the town accompanied by large crowds of people. A wild lot they evidently were, especially one old chief, Ikafaka by name.

      "They swarmed out to the steamer in good canoes, and crowded on deck, almost taking possession. The difficulty was to get the noisy rowdy lot back in their canoes, and not even our steaming ahead a little, or blowing our whistles, would induce them to leave us. A dozen canoes would hang on to the sides of the steamer, even when we were fully under weigh. There was no fear.


      "Once we half feared, from their wild noise and the beating of a sort of signal gong, that they might attack us and seize the steamer. Any little indiscretion on the part of any of our people might have led to grave results, as most of our unruly guests were armed with spears and knives. We bid to exercise the greatest tact, keep a most constant genial good-tempered manner, faces wreathed with perpetual smiles, until even the facial effort was quite a strain; and we felt intensely relieved when we were under weigh again - the last canoe left behind. One of us immediately went down with a flight fever after the excitement at Lulanga.

      "We found here, just above Lulanga, a considerable river. It is called the Lulongo River, and is about 700 yards wide; the water being inky black. There is a town up this river of the same name.

      "From here to Liboko, the last of the Bangala towns, is eighty miles, and we were surprised to find it nearly two degrees north of the equator.

      "Mangaba informed us that Bangala was divided into five districts: Lulanga and Bolombo on the left, and Mungundu, Bukolela, and Loboko on the right bank.

      "About twelve miles above Lulongo River we crossed over to the other side of the river, thus obtaining an idea of its width at this place, although we crossed very obliquely. We passed three Bukolela towns - Lobengo, Munsembe, and Bombimba, each one built on one of the few raised plots here and there obtaining on the banks. These banks were of clay, and from four to six feet above the water. Along the beach were broad double ladders, a sort of landing steps reaching down into the river. The people here seemed quieter and milder and quite ready to welcome us.

      "At last, on the 1st August, we reached Liboko, and after steaming along seven miles of towns, more or less close to each other, we came to that of the great chief Mata Mayiki (i.e. plenty of guns), where the International Association has built fine a house.


      "The chief of station is Lieut Coquilhat, who seems to manage the people very well considering their wildness. One fancied that a certain maniacal irresponsible sort of wildness showed itself in their eyes. Here it was that Stanley had his great battle in 1877, when sixty-three canoes came out to attack him, and for five hours he had to sustain the fight The brave young chief mentioned by Stanley was Mata Mayiki's son, who afterwards died from his wounds. The old chief, a fine-looking tall fellow, with failing sight, fancied one of us was with Stanley on that occasion (Frank Pocock). The people crowded on the beach, most of them armed, with the idea (so M. Coquilhat afterwards

p. 20
informed us) that we were enemies, and prepared to fight us. In the first place, our flag was strange to them, and they have got to understand that flags are very significant; secondly we did not steam right close into the beach as Stanley's steamers had always done, being smaller, but anchored as usual fifty yards from the shore ; thirdly we had two Bangala men on board from a capsized canoe, and they fancied these their two countrymen were prisoners.

      "All was explained, however; we came in closer, just to oblige them, and made fair friendship with them. Thanks to M. Coquilhat's very kind and efficient efforts, and acting on his suggestion, not to permit anyone but chiefs and principal men on board the steamer, we did not have to endure again the worry and almost siege of Lulanga. We stayed a day here, and walked into the town, which was better arranged than any Bangala town we had yet seen. Although said to be great traders, we saw no signs of wealth at Liboko, scarcely a gun, no brass ornaments, and very little cloth, all the women wearing a thick fringe, dyed various colours, round their loins, which was very becoming, and the men, many of them, wearing bark cloths. Their tattooing is not so extensive as the Babanji's, being transverse raised lumps down the centre of the forehead to between the eyes, rosettes lrom the eyes back to the ears, and also down the middle of the breast-bone. Other people, however, living at Bangala, and hailing from an interior country called Ngombe, are hideously tattooed with great raised lumps down the cheekbones. The Bangala, like the Babangi, universally pull out their eyelashes. Their language is probably much the same as that of the Babangi, although many words are different. But our time was so short that we could not only go no further, but could not make a prolonged stay in any place.


      "The journey was a prospecting one, and has resulted in our being able to choose three very important and valuable sites for stations - viz., MUXIE, BOLOBO, and ILEBU.

      "The Peace, too, has had a splendid trial, and the little we have said about it shows how little trouble it gave in its management and working.

      "At Liboko we were half way to Stanley Falls. On setting out from Arthington we had given ourselves five weeks, and, had this time been sufficient, there was nothing to prevent us going the whole distance of 1,000 miles. There was nothing to obstruct; the road was open and most inviting; the Peace working well; the people above Bangala reported us 'all good,' and warmly welcomed us: the only thing making any lengthening of our journey impossible was the fact that we had left only Mrs. Grenfell at Arthington, and one of us was overdue to go down to the coast and home to England. Our gang of Loangos, too, were due to go home. So we had, albeit most reluctantly, to start back.


      "Such, dear Mr. Baynes, is the first journey of the Peace into countries new and among peoples strange. It was our constant regret that we could not make it more of a missionary journey - that is, in teaching and preaching, but that was impossible, chiefly because we knew so little of the language. We have, however, done a little more preliminary work, which is none the less our 'Father's business.' Oh for the time when, settled amongst these people, there shall be servants of God, teachers of His word, to show these heathen the

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Christian life, and to try to draw them courage our friends, and, above all, home to God! Oh! will kind friends incline the hearts of some young men in England respond. We can but appeal, to seek for part and lot in a work and plead, and cry. We can only pray, which, though not without its dangers 'The Lord hasten it in His time.' and arduousness, is a glorious one, But what can we do, so few in number? Our new brethren, Darling and Cruickshank, have joined us; but we still need at least three more brethren to fill our stations thus far, before anyone can accompany Bentley in his approaching forward work.

      "This will be a troublesomely long letter, we fear, but not, we hope, without interest. We must conclude it now, and hope its news will encourage our friends, and, above all, incline the hearts of some young men to seek for part and lot in a work which, though not without its dangers and arduousness, is a glorious one, which we would exchange for no other, taking, for the first time, the light of life into those regions of darkness, cruelty, and death.
     "With affectionate regards,
     "We remain, dear Mr. Baynes,
     "Your fellow-servants in the Master's work,

     ”To A. H. Baynes, Esq.”


[The Missionary Herald of The Baptist Missionary Society, January, 1885, pp. 6-21. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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