13 – Into Cannibal Country

When Stanley returned to Ujiji, he found Frank Pocock pale and haggard from a long spell of fever.  Frank had been left in charge of the expedition during his absence.  Five of the Wagwara soldiers had died of small-pox, and six others were down with the terrible disease.  It was slowly killing the population of the town. 

Stanley was stricken with fever the day after he arrived, but was again on his feet at the end of five days.  He now decided to cross the lake and push westward as quickly possible, and informed his men of this.  This created much panic among them, for they believed that if they went among the cannibals they would be roasted and eaten. 

There were 38 of them that had deserted in his absence, and many more of them now threatened to do so.  As a precaution against further desertions, he had those whom he suspected of leaving arrested and put into a large hut.  Here they were guarded until he was ready to leave on his journey.

They crossed the lake on August 25th and halted a few days to rest and reorganize.  They then pushed westward toward the Manyuema country for the purpose of exploring the great river that flowed to the northwest through that region.  This was the same river that Livingstone had been prohibited from because there had been a huge war between the Arabs and natives there.

The Manyuema nation was composed of a number of tribes which varied greatly in disposition and general appearance.  Some of them were handsome and intelligent, and others were filthy, ugly and degraded.  With only a few exceptions, though, most were mild and gentle in disposition.  They were all, though, addicted to cannibalism. 

Stanley met with them at the village of Lambo.  He wrote in his diary:  “In these people we first saw the mild, amiable, unsophisticated innocence of this part of Central Africa, and their behavior was exactly the reverse of the wild, ferocious, cannibalistic races the Arabs had described to us.”

In passing through the country, they came to a village.  It consisted of a number of low, conical grass huts that ranged around a circular common.  In the center of the huts were three or four fig trees that were kept for the purpose of supplying shade, and also bark-cloth to the chief.  The doorways to the huts were only 36 inches high.

When Stanley came into the circle and presented himself, he found himself in the center of a population of naked men, women, children, and infants.  Though he had come here to study the people and become friends with the chief, the villagers thought of him as merely coming to make an exhibition of himself as some natural monstrosity. 

There were hundreds of them that crowded around him and gazed with open mouths at his wonderful white skin.  One of the natives pushed close in to his face, and Stanley thrust some beads into his hand and asked him to sit down and talk.  The man’s hands were huge and extremely rough.  His face resembled an extravagant mask.  When Stanley asked why his nose was so flat, he said that his mother had bound him too tight to her back when he was a baby. 

Stanley felt, though, that there was a kindly disposition and sly humor about him as he looked him over.  The man’s naked body had strange pricks all over it of circles, squares and crosses.  There were also many hard lines and puckers that had been created by age, weather, ill-usage, and rude keeping of his body.

The man’s feet were monstrous with soles as hard as hoofs.  His legs, as high up as his knees, were plastered with thick dirt, and his loin-cover was filthy beyond description.  Stanley felt that even the most appalling beggar that he had ever seen on the streets was sumptuously clothed compared to this African king. 

The subjects of this village wore around their waists tags of monkey skin, bits of gorilla bone, goat horns, and shells.  Around their necks were strung skins of vipers, and other hideous contrivances. 

The younger natives in the camp seemed to be speechless, and showed their natural expressions by hopping on one leg, thrusting their right thumbs into their mouths to repress the rising scream, and slapping the hinder side of the thighs to express or give emphasis to what was speechless. 

While the youths were in this process, one of them stumbled over a long heavy pole that was leaning insecurely against one of the trees.   The pole fell on the head of one of Stanley’s men.  All at once the women sent up a genuine and unaffected cry of pity, while their faces expressed a lively sense of tender sympathy with the wounded man.  Stanley could see their sincere cries though the disguise of filth and nakedness and could see that they really cared about what happened to him. 

They tenderly cared for his wounds,  until Stanley and his men left the village.  On leaving, the people loaded them down with bounties of bananas, chickens, Indian corn, and palm-wine.  Then they escorted them far beyond the precincts of the village, and parted with them on the assurance that if they ever returned, the second visit would be much more agreeable than the first had been.

The Manyuema had several very noteworthy peculiarities.  Their weapons were a short sword scabbarded with wood.  Small brass and iron bells were hung to the sword.  They also had a light, beautifully balanced spear that was one of the most perfect that Stanley had seen in all his travels.  Their shield looked like a wooden door. 

Their dress consisted of a narrow apron of antelope skin or finely made grass cloth.  They wore knobs, cones, and patches of mud attached to their beards, back hair, and behind the ears.  The old chief had rolled his beard in a ball of dark mud, and his children wore their hair in braids with mud fringes. 

His drummer had a great crescent-shaped patch of mud at the back of his head.  At another village, the natives had horns and cones of mud on the tops of their heads.  Still others of them covered the entire head with a crown of mud.

The women were blessed with an abundance of hair, and manufactured it with a stiffening of light cane into a bonnet-shaped head dress.  This allowed the back hair to flow down to the waist in masses of ringlets.  They seemed to do all the work, and at all hours they could be seen with their large wicker baskets behind them as they walked toward the river or creek to catch fish.

Cannibals and Dwarfs

Some of the tribes of the Manyuema were addicted to cannibalism in its most horrid features.  They carried on wars against their neighbors just for the purpose of slaying and eating the dead bodies.  In their mad frenzies, they would impale infant babies on their sharp spears and tear them limb from limb.  Even the women took a prominent part in the terrible orgies.

Cannibal Orgies-Stanley'sTravelsinAfrica

Near the middle of October, Stanley arrived at Mkwanga.  It was only 8 miles from the confluence of the Luama and Lualaba rivers, with the latter being the one that Stanley intended to explore.  While they were camped, two Wangwana arrived with the news that a party of Arabs were camped at the village Mwana Mamba, that was 18 miles away.  Stanley decided to join them, and got there on the following day.

He was met with a very cordial welcome, and the leader of the Arabs named Tipo-Tib.  He was dressed in clothes of spotless white, with his waist being encircled by a rich dowle on which hung a splendid dagger with silver filigree.  His head was also adorned by a beautiful new fez, which gave him the air of a sultan or rich Arab gentleman. 

Previously, Livingstone had been painfully disappointed because he could not procure canoes from the Manyuema to explore the Lualaba river.  This was even after he had saved many of them massacred at the hands of the Arabs.  Stanley anticipated similar trouble, and decided that he would give Tipo-Tib a very liberal offer to accompany him a certain distance to the north with his entire company. 

Tipo-Tib listened respectfully to Stanley’s proposition.  Then he called in one of his officers who had been to the far north, and asked that he give Stanley the information that he had found out on his journeys.  The man told a marvelous tale that rivaled the wonderful creations of the Arabian Nights.  Stanley found out as he traveled, that much of what the man had said was true.

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About Cathy Deaton


My name is Cathy Deaton, Owner of Fan the Flame Ministries. God has radically changed my life, and He has shown me that I am to share the awesome things I am learning especially with the Millennial Generation (1981 – 1996), but I love connecting with Christians of all ages. I have found that the Holy Spirit is an awesome teacher when I listen to, obey, and apply what He teaches to my life. You truly can make a difference for God in an uncertain world.