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- People of Africa - 4/7 -

Some of the Baganda fish in the lake, and when they go on journeys it is often quicker to travel by boat on the lake. Many Africans can only make boats out of rough tree-trunks with the inside scooped out, but the Baganda had learnt to build long, narrow boats with high carved wooden ends. These canoes shot through the water very swiftly, as twenty or thirty men paddled together in each boat. It is well they learnt to travel quickly, because the lake is very wide and distances are great. Often there are sudden, violent storms, which would overturn a clumsy boat. The carving on the boats and the beautiful reed-work on the chiefs' houses were different from the work of other African tribes. When people begin to try to make things beautiful as well as useful it is a sign that one day they will become wise and great.

3. Europeans Come to Uganda

In the old days the Baganda, like other African people, thought there were spirits in all the rivers and lakes and trees and everywhere, which could help or hurt men. The chief spirit they feared and to whom they offered sacrifice was the spirit of their lake, Victoria Nyanza. Their witch-doctors told the people when they thought this spirit was pleased or angry. These witch-doctors were often bad and cruel, and really cared more about getting all the power they could over the king and people than for anything else. Sometimes they said that people must be killed as a sacrifice to the Spirit of the Lake.

When Europeans first went to Uganda, a few went to trade, but most went to teach the Baganda about the Christians' God. Many boys went to their school near Mengo and were taught. But the witch-doctors grew frightened and persuaded the king to drive away all the Europeans, and to kill the Baganda who would not worship the Lake Spirit because they were Christians. Mutesa the king did this, killing the Christian Baganda boys very cruelly by burning them to death, and killing the European, Bishop Hannington, when he came. But in a few years there were more Christians than before, and now in Uganda the king and nearly all the chiefs and people are Christians, as well as many of the tribes living near them to whom the Baganda have sent teachers. All through the Christian African kingdom there are schools and hospitals. The Baganda were always strong, and now so many are Christians they have stopped fighting the other tribes and killing and making slaves, and instead they spend their time learning to make useful and beautiful things, which make their homes happier and more comfortable to live in. They quickly learn all they can from Europeans and Indians, and to-day, in Mengo and in the other large towns of Uganda, there are trains and motor-cars and stores, while steamers on the lake bring European and Indian things quickly from the coast towns. There are many Europeans and Indians living in Uganda, and this is a good thing, because when many people of different races meet, they learn from one another and so grow wiser.

4. Europeans help Africans

In this chapter we have read about one of the wisest tribes of the dark-skinned African people. The Arabs in the north came to Africa long ago from their own home in Asia, and the Europeans in the south came from their home in Europe. Both these races had learnt by themselves a great deal more than the African race has done. This is partly because their homes were not so hot, and so they had to think hard to get enough food and to keep warm. It is partly due, too, to the way in which for hundreds of years the people of Europe and Asia have been able to read and write, and have met and learnt from one another. The Africans never found out how to write, and so could only learn from each other by listening, never by reading. They were shut off from the rest of the world until one hundred years ago, and all they knew they had found out for themselves. But among the Africans some learnt more than others, and the Baganda are a tribe who used their minds as well as their bodies in becoming strong. So by thinking and learning they grew wise as well as powerful, and now Europeans and Indians have come to their country they are able to learn all these other races can teach them, which is far more than any one race could find out alone.


1. Towards the Sunset

In the last chapter we read about some of the people who lived in the Eastern lands south of the desert. They were among the wisest of the dark-skinned African tribes. In this chapter we shall read about some of the people who live in the Western part of Central Africa. If the Baganda walked day after day towards the sunset, they would reach the land of the great River Congo. This is not a narrow strip of land along one river, like Egypt, but a very large country with many great rivers, but all of these at last pour their waters into one very large one, which is called the Congo. Then the Congo takes all the water from the whole land to the great salt sea. Like Uganda this country is very hot, and so, because there is so much sun and so much water, there are great forests. In places where there are no trees the grass and maize grow much higher than a man's head. In the forests there are wild beasts--lions, leopards, elephants, and hippopotami--as well as deer which are good to eat. Many of the people spend most of their time hunting in the forests for food and skins.

2. The Different Tribes

The people of the Congo are all dark-skinned Africans of the same race as the Baganda, except two tribes which are quite different. These other people are called the Pigmies, which means they are very small. None of the Congo people have made a kingdom of their own like the Baganda. They belong to different tribes, each with its own customs and language. Most of them wear a piece of bark-cloth or the skin of an animal for clothing, but some wear very little, and paint or tattoo their bodies. Their houses are built of reeds, some tribes covering the reed-walls with a thick plaster of mud, others leaving them unplastered. The roofs of some are thatched with the long grass of the country, others are made of plaited palm-leaf mats. Each tribe has its own way of making a house, but no one builds very big houses or large villages. None of the houses last more than three or four years; but these people do not want their houses to stand for many years, because they are not like the Baganda who chose a country and stay there always. The Congo tribes move their villages after a few years and live somewhere else. So villages are always shifting, and nothing they make is wanted to last long. Some weave mats and baskets out of palm-leaves or reeds; others make pottery; others make iron-headed spears and hoes for their fields, but only a few things that can easily be carried are wanted to last. When the village moves, most of the things must be left behind. So, until a tribe decides to stay always in one place, it does not as a rule learn to make many useful and beautiful things.

Again, often men of different tribes build their villages near one another, but the people of the two villages keep quite separate. Each has its own chief and follows its own customs. Several villages of one tribe may all obey a great chief, but no tribe has a chief so powerful as the king of Uganda. The Congo tribes have not learnt nearly so much as some other African peoples. The customs of each tribe depend partly on which district of this large country they live in. Those who live near the salt sea eat sea-fish, and get salt by boiling the sea-water in their cooking-pots until the pot is quite dry, and then the salt is left behind after the water has gone. It was clever of those people to find out they could get salt that way. Others, who live near the great rivers, make canoes out of the tree-trunks with the inside hollowed out. In these they go out and catch river-fish to eat. Others live in a country good for goats, and these keep large herds of goats. Some make good earthenware cups and pots, others carve wooden ones. Some wear ornaments made of shells, some of beads, some of berries, some of teeth; everyone uses the things he can get most easily. But each tribe follows its own customs, and despises those of its neighbours. They are afraid and jealous of each other, and there is constant fighting between the various groups of villages.

Some tribes want to be peaceful, and these plant their food, which is maize or millet, or some other grain which can be ground into flour, then made into porridge. Others are hunters or fishermen, and chiefly eat meat or fish. Some live by fighting other tribes, and capturing their food and slaves. Some of these are called cannibals, which means they eat the flesh of human beings. People who do this are despised by all other races in the world, as they are so ignorant that they do not know that it is wrong to eat other men. Many of the people of the Congo are not cannibals, but there is always war and fighting between the different tribes, and it is dangerous to travel because so many are always watching to rob and kill strangers. The lions and other wild beasts are dangerous, but the bands of fighting men are still more to be feared. Everything is wild and unsafe, and there is no law outside the village, so each one has to protect himself. Among the dark-skinned Central African people each village has a chief who keeps order within it, and often a group of villages of one tribe has a great chief. There are old laws and customs of each tribe, and if anyone breaks one of these and injures someone else, the chief calls him and asks all about it, and punishes the man who did the wrong.

3. The Pigmies

Now we will think about the other two tribes who live in this country, but who are of quite a different race from the others. These little red and black Pigmy peoples do not have villages at all. They are all hunters, and each man wanders with his wife and children wherever he chooses. Then, near the village of some chief of another tribe, he collects grass and sticks, and builds a little house which is too small for an ordinary man to stand upright inside. The Pigmy people are not so dark-skinned as the other races of Central Africa, and they are very small, not so high as an ordinary man's shoulder. They live by hunting with a bow and arrow. The Pigmy man respects the chief whose village he settles in, but he does not fight for him or serve him as the other people do in his village. When he chooses, he leaves that village and goes somewhere else. If the Pigmies want fruit or anything the villagers have, they shoot an arrow into it. Then, later, when they come to fetch it, they leave a packet of meat in payment, for these little people never steal. Although they live peaceably with the other races, they speak their own language, and never have anything to do with other villagers, and they only marry among their own people. The Pigmy men wear a small strip of cloth, and the women wear a bunch of leaves for their clothes. Most people of Central Africa like to be clean, and when there is enough water they always wash and bathe, but the Pigmies hate water and are always very dirty. They have no cooking-pots, but roast the meat they have got from hunting on a stick over a fire. These Pigmy people have learnt less than any other tribe in Africa, for they do not even know that it is better to live in villages with others of their own race, which is the beginning of learning most other things.

4. Many still Ignorant

So in this chapter we have read about some other people who live in the very hottest part of Africa. The Baganda are among the cleverest Central Africans, and these Pigmies and the cannibal tribes are among

People of Africa - 4/7

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