the invitation of old M'ganwazam, insisting, however, that
On entering a village, we proceeded, as all strangers do, at once to the Boalo: mats of split reeds or bamboo were usually spread for us to sit on. Our guides then told the men who might be there, who we were, whence we had come, whither we wanted to go, and what were our objects. This information was duly carried to the chief, who, if a sensible man, came at once; but, if he happened to be timid and suspicious, waited until he had used divination, and his warriors had time to come in from outlying hamlets. When he makes his appearance, all the people begin to clap their hands in unison, and continue doing so till he sits down opposite to us. His counsellors take their places beside him. He makes a remark or two, and is then silent for a few seconds. Our guides then sit down in front of the chief and his counsellors, and both parties lean forward, looking earnestly at each other; the chief repeats a word, such as "Ambuiatu" (our Father, or master)--or "moio" (life), and all clap their hands. Another word is followed by two claps, a third by still more clapping, when each touches the ground with both hands placed together. Then all rise and lean forward with measured clap, and sit down again with clap, clap, clap, fainter, and still fainter, till the last dies away, or is brought to an end by a smart loud clap from the chief. They keep perfect time in this species of court etiquette. Our guides now tell the chief, often in blank verse, all they have already told his people, with the addition perhaps of their own suspicions of the visitors. He asks some questions, and then converses with us through the guides. Direct communication between the chief and the head of the stranger party is not customary. In approaching they often ask who is the spokesman, and the spokesman of the chief addresses the person indicated exclusively. There is no lack of punctilious good manners. The accustomed presents are exchanged with civil ceremoniousness; until our men, wearied and hungry, call out, "English do not buy slaves, they buy food," and then the people bring meal, maize, fowls, batatas, yams, beans, beer, for sale.
The Manganja are an industrious race; and in addition to working in iron, cotton, and basket-making, they cultivate the soil extensively. All the people of a village turn out to labour in the fields. It is no uncommon thing to see men, women, and children hard at work, with the baby lying close by beneath a shady bush. When a new piece of woodland is to be cleared, they proceed exactly as farmers do in America. The trees are cut down with their little axes of soft native iron; trunks and branches are piled up and burnt, and the ashes spread on the soil. The corn is planted among the standing stumps which are left to rot. If grass land is to be brought under cultivation, as much tall grass as the labourer can conveniently lay hold of is collected together and tied into a knot. He then strikes his hoe round the tufts to sever the roots, and leaving all standing, proceeds until the whole ground assumes the appearance of a field covered with little shocks of corn in harvest. A short time before the rains begin, these grass shocks are collected in small heaps, covered with earth, and burnt, the ashes and burnt soil being used to fertilize the ground. Large crops of the mapira, or Egyptian dura (Holcus sorghum), are raised, with millet, beans, and ground-nuts; also patches of yams, rice, pumpkins, cucumbers, cassava, sweet potatoes, tobacco, and hemp, or bang (Cannabis setiva). Maize is grown all the year round. Cotton is cultivated at almost every village. Three varieties of cotton have been found in the country, namely, two foreign and one native. The "tonje manga," or foreign cotton, the name showing that it has been introduced, is of excellent quality, and considered at Manchester to be nearly equal to the best New Orleans. It is perennial, but requires replanting once in three years. A considerable amount of this variety is grown in the Upper and Lower Shire valleys. Every family of any importance owns a cotton patch which, from the entire absence of weeds, seemed to be carefully cultivated. Most were small, none seen on this journey exceeding half an acre; but on the former trip some were observed of more than twice that size.
The "tonje cadja," or indigenous cotton, is of shorter staple, and feels in the hand like wool. This kind has to be planted every season in the highlands; yet, because it makes stronger cloth, many of the people prefer it to the foreign cotton; the third variety is not found here. It was remarked to a number of men near the Shire Lakelet, a little further on towards Nyassa, "You should plant plenty of cotton, and probably the English will come and buy it." "Truly," replied a far-travelled Babisa trader to his fellows, "the country is full of cotton, and if these people come to buy they will enrich us." Our own observation on the cotton cultivated convinced us that this was no empty flourish, but a fact. Everywhere we met with it, and scarcely ever entered a village without finding a number of men cleaning, spinning, and weaving. It is first carefully separated from the seed by the fingers, or by an iron roller, on a little block of wood, and rove out into long soft bands without twist. Then it receives its first twist on the spindle, and becomes about the thickness of coarse candlewick; after being taken off and wound into a large ball, it is given the final hard twist, and spun into a firm cop on the spindle again: all the processes being painfully slow.
Iron ore is dug out of the hills, and its manufacture is the staple trade of the southern highlands. Each village has its smelting- house, its charcoal-burners, and blacksmiths. They make good axes, spears, needles, arrowheads, bracelets and anklets, which, considering the entire absence of machinery, are sold at surprisingly low rates; a hoe over two pounds in weight is exchanged for calico of about the value of fourpence. In villages near Lake Shirwa and elsewhere, the inhabitants enter pretty largely into the manufacture of crockery, or pottery, making by hand all sorts of cooking, water, and grain pots, which they ornament with plumbago found in the hills. Some find employment in weaving neat baskets from split bamboos, and others collect the fibre of the buaze, which grows abundantly on the hills, and make it into fish-nets. These they either use themselves, or exchange with the fishermen on the river or lakes for dried fish and salt. A great deal of native trade is carried on between the villages, by means of barter in tobacco, salt, dried fish, skins, and iron. Many of the men are intelligent-looking, with well-shaped heads, agreeable faces, and high foreheads. We soon learned to forget colour, and we frequently saw countenances resembling those of white people we had known in England, which brought back the looks of forgotten ones vividly before the mind. The men take a good deal of pride in the arrangement of their hair; the varieties of style are endless. One trains his long locks till they take the admired form of the buffalo's horns; others prefer to let their hair hang in a thick coil down their backs, like that animal's tail; while another wears it in twisted cords, which, stiffened by fillets of the inner bark of a tree wound spirally round each curl, radiate from the head in all directions. Some have it hanging all round the shoulders in large masses; others shave it off altogether. Many shave part of it into ornamental figures, in which the fancy of the barber crops out conspicuously. About as many dandies run to seed among the blacks as among the whites. The Man ganja adorn their bodies extravagantly, wearing rings on their fingers and thumbs, besides throatlets, bracelets, and anklets of brass, copper, or iron. But the most wonderful of ornaments, if such it may be called, is the pelele, or upper-lip ring of the women. The middle of the upper lip of the girls is pierced close to the septum of the nose, and a small pin inserted to prevent the puncture closing up. After it has healed, the pin is taken out and a larger one is pressed into its place, and so on successively for weeks, and months, and years. The process of increasing the size of the lip goes on till its capacity becomes so great that a ring of two inches diameter can be introduced with ease. All the highland women wear the pelele, and it is common on the Upper and Lower Shire. The poorer classes make them of hollow or of solid bamboo, but the wealthier of ivory or tin. The tin pelele is often made in the form of a small dish. The ivory one is not unlike a napkin-ring. No woman ever appears in public without the pelele, except in times of mourning for the dead. It is frightfully ugly to see the upper lip projecting two inches beyond the tip of the nose. When an old wearer of a hollow bamboo ring smiles, by the action of the muscles of the cheeks, the ring and lip outside it are dragged back and thrown above the eyebrows. The nose is seen through the middle of the ring, amid the exposed teeth show how carefully they have been chipped to look like those of a cat or crocodile. The pelele of an old lady, Chikanda Kadze, a chieftainess, about twenty miles north of Morambala, hung down below her chin, with, of course, a piece of the upper lip around its border. The labial letters cannot be properly pronounced, but the under lip has to do its best for them, against the upper teeth and gum. Tell them it makes them ugly; they had better throw it away; they reply, "Kodi! Really! it is the fashion." How this hideous fashion originated is an enigma. Can thick lips ever have been thought beautiful, and this mode of artificial enlargement resorted to in consequence? The constant twiddling of the pelele with the tongue by the younger women suggested the irreverent idea that it might have been invented to give safe employment to that little member. "Why do the women wear these things?" we inquired of the old chief, Chinsunse. Evidently surprised at such a stupid question, he replied, "For beauty, to be sure! Men have beards and whiskers; women have none; and what kind of creature would a woman be without whiskers, and without the pelele? She would have a mouth like a man, and no beard; ha! ha! ha!" Afterwards on the Rovuma, we found men wearing the pelele, as well as women. An idea suggested itself on seeing the effects of the slight but constant pressure exerted on the upper gum and front teeth, of which our medical brethren will judge the value. In many cases the upper front teeth, instead of the natural curve outwards, which the row presents, had been pressed so as to appear as if the line of alveoli in which they were planted had an inward curve. As this was produced by the slight pressure of the pelele backwards, persons with too prominent teeth might by slight, but long-continued pressure, by some appliance only as elastic as the lip, have the upper gum and teeth depressed, especially in youth, more easily than is usually imagined. The pressure should be applied to the upper gum more than to the teeth.
The Manganja are not a sober people: they brew large quantities of beer, and like it well. Having no hops, or other means of checking fermentation, they are obliged to drink the whole brew in a few days, or it becomes unfit for use. Great merry-makings take place on these occasions, and drinking, drumming, and dancing continue day and night, till the beer is gone. In crossing the hills we sometimes found whole villages enjoying this kind of mirth. The veteran traveller of the party remarked, that he had not seen so much drunkenness during all the sixteen years he had spent in Africa. As we entered a village one afternoon, not a man was to be seen; but some women were drinking beer under a tree. In a few moments the native doctor, one of the innocents, "nobody's enemy but his own," staggered out of a hut, with his cupping-horn dangling from his neck, and began to scold us for a breach of etiquette. "Is this the way to come into a man's village, without sending him word that you are coming?" Our men soon pacified the fuddled but good-humoured medico, who, entering his beer-cellar, called on two of them to help him to carry out a huge pot of beer, which he generously presented to us. While the "medical practitioner" was thus hospitably employed, the chief awoke in a fright, and shouted to the women to run away, or they would all be killed. The ladies laughed at the idea of their being able to run away, and remained beside the beer-pots. We selected a spot for our camp, our men cooked the dinner as usual, and we were quietly eating it, when scores of armed men, streaming with perspiration, came pouring into the village. They looked at us, then at each other, and turning to the chief upbraided him for so needlessly sending for them. "These people are peaceable; they do not hurt you; you are killed with beer:" so saying, they returned to their homes.
Native beer has a pinkish colour, and the consistency of gruel. The grain is made to vegetate, dried in the sun, pounded into meal, and gently boiled. When only a day or two old, the beer is sweet, with a slight degree of acidity, which renders it a most grateful beverage in a hot climate, or when fever begets a sore craving for acid drinks. A single draught of it satisfies this craving at once. Only by deep and long-continued potations can intoxication be produced: the grain being in a minutely divided state, it is a good way of consuming it, and the decoction is very nutritious. At Tette a measure of beer is exchanged for an equal-sized pot full of grain. A present of this beer, so refreshing to our dark comrades, was brought to us in nearly every village. Beer-drinking does not appear to produce any disease, or to shorten life on the hills. Never before did we see so many old, grey-headed men and women; leaning on their staves they came with the others to see the white men. The aged chief, Muata Manga, could hardly have been less than ninety years of age; his venerable appearance struck the Makololo. "He is an old man," said they, "a very old man; his skin hangs in wrinkles, just like that on elephants' hips." "Did you never," he was asked, "have a fit of travelling come over you; a desire to see other lands and people?" No, he had never felt that, and had never been far from home in his life. For long life they are not indebted to frequent ablutions. An old man told us that he remembered to have washed once in his life, but it was so long since that he had forgotten how it felt. "Why do you wash?" asked Chinsunse's women of the Makololo; "our men never do."
The superstitious ordeal, by drinking the poisonous muave, obtains credit here; and when a person is suspected of crime, this ordeal is resorted to. If the stomach rejects the poison, the accused is pronounced innocent; but if it is retained, guilt is believed to be demonstrated. Their faith is so firm in its discriminating power, that the supposed criminal offers of his own accord to drink it, and even chiefs are not exempted. Chibisa, relying on its efficacy, drank it several times, in order to vindicate his character. When asserting that all his wars had been just, it was hinted that, as every chief had the same tale of innocence to tell, we ought to suspend our judgment. "If you doubt my word," said he, "give me the muave to drink." A chief at the foot of Mount Zomba successfully went through the ordeal the day we reached his village; and his people manifested their joy at his deliverance by drinking beer, dancing, and drumming for two days and nights. It is possible that the native doctor, who mixes the ingredients of the poisoned bowl, may be able to save those whom he considers innocent; but it is difficult to get the natives to speak about the matter, and no one is willing to tell what the muave poison consists of. We have been shown trees said to be used, but had always reason to doubt the accuracy of our informants. We once found a tree in a village, with many pieces of the bark chipped off, closely allied to the Tangena or Tanghina, the ordeal poison tree of Madagascar; but we could not ascertain any particulars about it. Death is inflicted on those found guilty of witchcraft, by the muave.
The women wail for the dead two days. Seated on the ground they chant a few plaintive words, and end each verse with the prolonged sound of a-a, or o-o, or ea-ea-ea--a. Whatever beer is in the house of the deceased, is poured out on the ground with the meal, and all cooking and water pots are broken, as being of no further use. Both men and women wear signs of mourning for their dead relatives. These consist of narrow strips of the palm-leaf wound round the head, the arms, legs, neck, and breasts, and worn till they drop off from decay. They believe in the existence of a supreme being, called Mpambe, and also Morungo, and in a future state. "We live only a few days here," said old Chinsunse, "but we live again after death: we do not know where, or in what condition, or with what companions, for the dead never return to tell us. Sometimes the dead do come back, and appear to us in dreams; but they never speak nor tell us where they have gone, nor how they fare."
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