THE NATIVE RACES OF SOUTH AFRICA
GEORGE W. STOW, F.G.S., F.R.G.S.
21. THE AGRICULTURAL AND PASTORAL BACHOANA AND BASUTU TRIBES OF THE NORTH
We have now arrived at a portion of our inquiry when we have to treat of men of a widely different race from those whose history we have passed under review, men of more robust build and of a fiercer and more warlike appearance, speaking a language altogether different in its construction, and therefore indicating an independent origin from that of the Bushman branch of the human family. It was the peculiar construction of their language which led the late Dr. Bleek to term those speaking it the Bantu group. Upon this subject Professor Sayce makes the following remarks : " If we turn our eyes to South Africa, there too we shall find a clearly marked group of tongues spoken by Kaffir tribes from Mozambique to Sierra Leone, and termed Ba-ntu by Dr. Bleek. It is to this scholar that we owe our present knowledge of the family, and his untimely death must be deplored by every student of language."
Mr. H. Charles Schunke states that " the Ba-ntu extend a few degrees north of the equator, that is in the north-east to the country of the Gallas and the northern part of the Lacustrine regions, in the north-west to the Gaboon territory, and even the inhabitants of Fernando Po belong to this class. The most northern tribes are the Wakuafi, Wapocomo, Wacamba, Benga, Bakeli, and Fernandians. The most southern the Amamfengo, Basuto, Ovaherero, and Ovambantieru. The whole of the Ba-ntu may be divided into a South-Eastern, Middle, and Northern branch."
Belonging to the northern branch we have the Bakeh, Benga, and the inhabitants of Fernando Po.
The middle branch consists of —
1. The Mozambique tribes, the Makua, Ma-'syao, and the Sena and Tete tribes on the Zambesi.
2. The Zanquebar or Zangian tribes, Wakumba, Wanika, Wasuahih, Wasambara, Wa'nyamuezi, Wajiji (of Ujiji), Warua, etc. Probably all the tribes on the Lualaba found by Livingstone and Cameron may, judging from the nature of their names, belong to this division.
3. The tribes of the Interior, Bayeyi and Baukxoba.
4. The Bunda tribes, Ovaherero (with Ovambantieru), Ovambo, Okavangari, Ovakuambi, Ovakuandyera, the Vanano (of Benguela), and the tribes of Angola.
5. The Congo and Mpongwe tribes.
The southern branch is divided in its turn into Kaffirs, Zulu, Bechuana with Batlapin and Basutu. and the tribes near Delagoa Bay.
It is with this last branch that we are concerned in our examination of the intrusion of the stronger races into the hunting grounds of the Bushmen of Southern Africa. Numerous and wide-spread as these tribes are at the present day, there appears but little doubt that they have all descended originally from the same stock ; the greater or less diversity in the different dialects spoken by them marking the various periods when the offshoots separated from the main trunk ; and these again subdividing into minor branches, which will, when carefully examined, be found to mark, although in a less degree than the great offshoots, by certain degrees of divergence from one another the sequence in which the tribal divisions took place.
The Rev. W. B. Boyce writes that " in the present state of our information, it appears probable that the languages of South Africa may be classed under two divisions or families. The second division comprises the sister dialects spoken by the Kaffir and Bechuana tribes to the east and north of the Cape Colony. That the relationship subsisting between the Kaffir and Sechuana is that of descent from a common parent is evident, not only from the many words common to both, but from an almost perfect identity in the leading principles of grammatical construction. Of the two sister languages the Sechuana appears to be by far the most extensively spoken, comprising a variety of dialects only slightly differing from one another. It appears to be a branch of an extensive language spoken through all South Africa from the north-eastern boundary of the Cape Colony to the equator."
“There is reason," writes the Rev. H. H. Dugmore, " from the affinity of language and the similarity of national customs, to believe that the Kaffirs, Fingos, and Bechuana are the offshoots of some common stock ; but the stock itself can be little more than a matter of conjecture until the interior of Eastern Africa shall have been more fully explored and ethnographical researches more extensively prosecuted in relation to this region. The variations in dialect among the tribes above mentioned appear generally to have followed the rule of relative geographical situation, the chain of mountains which separates the various tribes of Bechuana from those of Kaffraria marking the respective boundaries of the two great divisions of the language. Each of these comprises several varieties of dialect, which appear to favour the theory that the languages have diverged from their original point of separation in about the same degree that the tribes themselves have done. Taking the dialect spoken by the Kaffir border-tribes as the starting point, and proceeding eastwards through the Abatembu and Amampondo till we reach those spoken by the Zulus and Fingos, we find a gradual approximation to some of the dialects of the Basutu and Bechuana tribes. Nor is it an extravagant supposition that the languages may be substantially blended among tribes yet to be discovered."
The Rev. Richard Giddy, who has spent his life among the native tribes, gives the following outline of the divergent character of the language spoken by these natives : " All the pure Kaffir tribes have on the whole the same language, although the variations are so many and so wide as almost to render it a hopeless task to identify the words, or to trace them up to a common origin. The construction of the various dialects is the same. The concord, or alliteration, or harmony of euphonic sound is found in all, the language being modified or shaped according to sound. The farther north the traveller goes, the rougher and more rugged he finds the language ; the nearer he approaches the southern coast the more musical it becomes, the Sesuto being more musical than the Serolong, and the Kaffir more musical than the Sesuto. The southern sounds are deeper and more bass-like than the northern. In the north the S is used, in the south Z. The lighter sounds are in the north, the heavier in the south. Metsi, water, in the north, becomes Manzi in the south. The language is an exceedingly regular one, accommodating itself to the harmony of sound, hence the concord where the noun repeats its prefix in the pronoun, thus giving to the speech a pleasant, mellifluous, and somewhat rhyming character. Where a letter, or a letter-sound, interferes with the musical beauty of the word, it is cast out or elided."
The different clans of the two great branches of this southern family of the Ba-ntu group may be distinguished by the prefix to their tribal appellations, thus those of the Bachoana and Basutu tribes are known by the prefix Ba, while the coast tribes, such as the Amazulu, Amampondo, Amaxosa, etc., have that of Ama, both, however, having the same meaning, viz. those of, the sons of, or the men of.
The northern tribes, of which we shall now treat, belong to the former division, which, although frequently spoken of by some writers under the collective name of Bachoana, or the men who are all equal, is again subdivided into two or three minor groups of tribes, viz. the Bachoana proper, including the Batla-pin, Barolong, etc., speaking the Sechoana and Serolong, and the Basutu whose dialect is called Sesuto. It is to the former of these subdivisions that our present remarks are directed. They lived to the north of the Vaal, and a multitude of their tribes at one time filled the territory of the present province of the Transvaal with a dense population, stretching westward to the border of the Kalahari and in a northerly direction to the lake Ngami.
Before the commencement of the great wars which broke out among these tribes about 1820-21, and subsequently devastated the entire country, numerous groups of tribes were occupying it whose very name long before their close was blotted from the face of the earth, and all their traditions had been lost. Fortunately in the year 1820 the observant Campbell travelled through the Batlapin territory, and noted down the position in those days of the various tribes which surrounded it, and which, if compared with a list of those at present existing, will show how many of them have disappeared ; thus in the more immediate neighbourhood were the Tamaha, the Barolong, the Batlou, the Bakuena, the Bahurutsi, the Bangwaketse, the Bamangwato, the Batlaru, and the Mampua, to the south-east of the Kalahari.
To the north-east and east the Makalaka, Bapalangi, Mashoona, Bapula, Bapuana, Bapiri, Baadtpu, Mulile, Matshakwa, Morimuzane, Ba-a-tshou, Ba-pugi, Ba-pu, Ba-kohe, Maribana, Babuklola, Maheheru, Baperi, Bachacha, Omaribe, Bamuhopa, Bapuhene, Selutana, Ma-ko-ti, Sebatya, Ba-ha-tya, and Basia.
To the south-south-east the Bapo, Bamatou, Baliciana, Bahoba, Bapiri, Baklokla, Mulihe, Muhubilu, Mumanyana, Bahoupi, and Bamaliti.
Besides these there were also the Bataung, Bakatla, Batau-ana, Banoga, Bakaa, Batoka, Batlokua, Bakhahela, and Baputi, besides many others.
All these tribes had a distinguishing sign, or emblem, which was called Siboko, from which they derived their various tribal appellations. Thus among the Bachoana, the Fish is the siboko of the clans of the Batlapin, the Crocodile that of the tribes under Sechele and Moshesh, the Lion that of the people under Molitsane, and the Wild Cat those of Sinkoniella, called Ma-Intateesi, from the mother of the last-named chief.
These symbolic emblems in more advanced stages of civilisation would doubtless have become the emblazonments on their tribal standards. Even now each tribe prides itself upon the emblematic sign thus adopted by their remote forefathers.
Mr. Charles Sirr Orpen, who has paid considerable attention to matters connected with these tribes, informed the writer that the general name Bachoana signifies the men who are equals, those who are all the same, and seems to have arisen from the belief that they are all offshoots of one common stem. Early travellers who made inquiries with regard to the various branches of this section of the Bantu race received the answer that they were men who were all equal, or as the natives themselves expressed it, we are all the same, i.e. descended from the same stock. The prefix Ba, as we have before explained, signifies they or those of, the men, sons, or children of.
Frequently the chief, under whom the separation took place, had for his name that of the animal which afterwards became the siboko or glory of his tribe. As native chiefs were in the habit of changing their names at different periods of their lives, it is not clear whether the chief adopted the name of the siboko his people had chosen for their great glory, and thus became far excellence the Mo-kuena or Motaung, the man of the crocodile or the man of the lion, as the case might be, titles of which the great chiefs boast ; or whether the tribe took their siboko from the accidental name of their leader at the time of their separation from the parent branch. If we are to judge from their other ideas and customs, the former appears the more probable solution of the mystery. With all the head or main tribes the prefix Ba was placed before the name of their siboko, which thus became that of the tribe itself, as —
Ba-letsatsi = the Men of the Sun ;
Ba-pula = the Men of the "Rain ;
Ba-pulana = the Men of the Showers ;
Ba-fukeng = the Men of the Dew, or Mist ;
Ba-tlapin = the Men of the Fish ;
Ba-kuena : = the Men of the Crocodile ;
Ba-noga = the Men of the Serpent ;
Ba-tlaru = the Men of the Python ;
Ba-taung = the Men of the Lion ;
Ba-tlo-kua = the Men of the Wild Cat ;
Ba-tlou = the Men of the Elephant ;
Ba-piri = the Men of the Hyena ;
Ba-kha-tla = the Men of the Baboon ;
Ba-nyati. = the Men of the Buffalo ;
Ba-nuka = the Men of the Porcupine ;
Ba-kubuon=: the Men of the Hippopotamus ;
Ba-haole = the Men of the Rhinoceros ;
Ba-tauana := the Men of the Young Lions ;
Ba-morara = the Men of the Wild- Vine ;
Ba-puti = the Men of the Little Bluebuck ;
Ba-kuru := the Sons of the Corncleaners or Cornshellers ;
while the Ba-rolong take tsipe, iron, for their glory, and are accordingly called Ba-bena-tsipe and Bena-tsipe, the sons of the dancers of iron and the dancers of iron.
We have already seen that the great cave of a Bushman tribe, and the tribe also living in it, took their name from the great symbol which was therein depicted, and although this representative figure was their pride and their boast, like the flags of more civilised nations or like the war-standards of our Saxon forefathers, the writer has been unable to discover that they evinced towards it any superstitious regard similar to that shown by these northern tribes to their special " glory."
The origin of these observances of the Bachoana is involved in much obscurity and mystery. The natives have either lost the traditions concerning them, or they are known only to a few initiated who will not divulge the hidden mysteries of their race. To swear by the siboko of his tribe is the most solemn oath a native of this group can take. These names also, which are those of their great tribes or families, do not change, while those of the minor subdivisions or clans, but still frequently called tribes, are very variable.
The latter are formed from the names of petty chiefs, who only ruled over portions of one of the great families of the special group to which they belonged, generally from the names of the chiefs under whom the separation from the parent stock took place ; while the former include all the minor subdivisions which are descended from a common parent. The one, the name for the minor subdivisions, is called Sechaba, and would be applied to such sections of a great sept as the people of Sechele, chief of the northern Bakuena, those of Moshesh, chief of the Bakuena of Basutuland, of Sikoniella, chief of the Batlokua, a branch of the Bapiri, or of Molitsane, the chief of the Bataung, a portion of the Leghoya. If, on the contrary, they speak of the ancient families to which they respectively belong, the word siboko would be used, which signifies literally the Glory, and in such a case the caste, tribe, or family of a people ; thus the name Bamokotedi, the clan to which Moshesh belonged, does not give the title of the great tribe from which they sprang, but merely the name of the chief under whom they became a separate clan.
To speak of their great tribal siboko, it would be necessary to say the glory of the crocodile (kuena), for this was the reptile which they and their forefathers, before any division of the tribe took place, revered, that is they sang the praises of the crocodile, from which circumstance they designated themselves the men of the crocodile. The name of this animal is the greatest oath by which any of their tribe can swear. They say also, without being able to give a reason why, that it is one of them, their master, their father ; in fact they represent the elongated form of its mouth in marking the ears of their cattle, not only as a distinctive mark for their cattle, but in some measure as a family coat of arms.
Dr. Casalis says that " the Bakuena call the crocodile their father, they celebrate it in their festivals, they swear by it, and make an incision resembling the mouth of this animal in the ears of their cattle, by which they distinguish them from others. The head of the family which ranks first in the tribe receives the title of 'Great Man of the Crocodile.' No one dares to eat the flesh, or clothe himself with the skin of the animal, the name of which he bears. If this animal is hurtful, the lion for instance, it may not be killed without great apologies being made to it and its pardon being asked. Purification is necessary after the commission of such a sacrilege."
Should any of the Bakuena of the north, who reside in a country where many of the rivers swarm with crocodiles, happen to approach one of these great reptiles, Livingstone informs us that they immediately " spit on the ground, and indicate its presence by saying Boleo-kibo, there is sin ; and if a man, either among the Bakuena or Bamangwato, is bitten by a crocodile, or even has had the water splashed over him with its tail, he is expelled his tribe." Mr. Thomas Baines whilst hunting through that country had the misfortune to lose one of his companions, who died from the bite of one of these monsters which had seized him by the thigh. Mr. Baines had to carry the corpse of his friend a long distance before he could find a spot where he was allowed to bury it. They imagine that the mere sight of one of these creatures will give inflammation of the eyes, if some charm is not immediately used to prevent its evil influence.
Livingstone also mentions another strange aversion these people have, viz. that though they eat the zebra without hesitation, if a man be bitten by one he is obliged to take his family away to the Kalahari. He imagines that the adoption of tribal sibokos may indicate that in former times they were addicted to animal worship, like the ancient Egyptians. When wishing to ascertain what tribe they belong to, the question is asked, " What do you dance ? " from which it may be inferred that dancing was also a part of their ancient rites. From this Dr. Livingstone evidently imagines that they have degenerated from some higher type, but to pursue our enquiries from such a point of view would only lead us to unsubstantial and unsatisfactory conclusions, and prevent us from arriving at any correct solution of the question.
All nature tells us in the most unmistakable language that both through long past geological time, as well as the present, everything has been in a state of development and progression ; some forms have become obsolete and extinct, but they have been superseded by others of a higher grade in the scale of existence. All that we know of the human race from positive facts shows that from the very beginning they have been in this gradual state of progression from the most degraded condition, with a language even more uncouth than that of the Bushman, when they could only exchange the few ideas they possessed by the attempted imitation of natural sounds. All the most eminent students of philology inform us that such must have been the condition of the speech of primeval man, and all history demonstrates to us, if we will but read it rightly, that all the modes of thought, and even religious beliefs, of the present day are but the elaborations and development of others more ancient. Thus if we would pursue our inquiry with the least hope of arriving at a solution of any portion of the problem of past life upon our earth, we must dismiss from our minds the old idea of the savage races found on it being a degenerated portion of humanity, who have fallen from some previous state of excellence.
The only safe and philosophical course for us to pursue is to take up the reverse of such a position. We shall then see in them people who have been groping darkly onwards for unknown ages, and that, while the more intellectual races of mankind have been progressing in the arts of civilisation, they have preserved in an almost stereotyped form the ideas and superstitions of their remote ancestors at the time when they were first separated from the main current of life and became embayed in the remote portions of the earth, preserving relics of the different stages of progress by which the rude superstitions of the savage became gradually developed to the more elaborate system of animal worship of such nations of antiquity as the Egyptians. We have already suggested that in all probability it was in a similar manner that the animal- and bird-headed deities of such races had their original germs in the hunting disguises of some primitive race which had manners and customs, mystic dances, and mysteries known only to the initiated, analogous to those of the Bushmen of South Africa in their undisturbed state.
The Bahurutsi, although an offshoot of the Bakuena, do not dance to the Crocodile or Kuena, but to the Baboon. The Rev. Roger Price writes as follows upon this subject : " Tradition says that about the time the separation took place between the Bahurutsi and the Bakuena, baboons entered the gardens of the former and ate their pumpkins before the proper time for commencing to eat the fruits of the new year. The Bahurutsi were unwilling that the pumpkins which the baboons had broken off and nibbled at should be wasted, and ate them accordingly. This act is said to have led to the Bahurutsi being called Ba-chwene, Baboon-people, which is their siboko to this day, and their having the precedence ever afterwards in the matter of taking the first bite of the new year's fruits." " If this story be the true one," continues Mr. Price, " it is evident that what is now used as a term of honour was once a term of reproach."
The Bakuena too are said to owe the origin of their siboko to the fact that their people once ate an ox which had been killed by a crocodile. Mr. Price is strongly inclined to think that the siboko of all the tribes was originally a kind of nickname, or term of reproach, but, he adds, " there is a good deal of mystery about the whole thing. The siboko of the Bangwaketse, another branch of the Bakuena, is still the Kuena or Crocodile. The Bamangwato, another offshoot of the same parent stem, however, changed their siboko at the time of the separation from the Bakuena. The chief Mathibe, under whom the separation took place, had for his head wife a woman of the tribe of Seleka, living near the Limpopo. The forbidden animal or siboko of that tribe being the Phuti or Duiker, the Bamangwato adopted that instead of the Kuena."
The greatest oath natives can take is, as already pointed out, that of swearing by the siboko, and also by the great chief or the representative man of the siboko of their tribe. Thus the great oath of the Malekutu, or Banuka, is " ka nuka," by the porcupine, because the majority of them sing, to use the consecrated phrase, intimating that they feast, or revere that animal. From this comes the common designation Banuka, those, or the men of the Porcupine, applied to one branch of the Bapiri. When they see anyone maltreat that animal, they afflict themselves, grieve, collect with religious care all its quills, if it has been killed, spit upon them, and rub their eyebrows with them, saying, " they have killed our brother, our master, one of ours, him whom we sing."
They fear they will die if they eat the flesh of one. Nevertheless they believe it to be beneficial for a nursling to introduce near the joints of its body certain parts of the stomach of the porcupine, mixed with the juice of plants, said to possess some virtue equally occult. The mother then gives the child the remainder of this setlari, or medicament, to drink. All the Malekutu venerate their ancestors almost to devotion.
Instead of the porcupine, another branch of the Bapiri, the Bakhabo, revere the monkey, a species however only found to the north, whence their ancestors originally came, and the Bakhatla swear by the baboon. At the new moon the Bapiri stop at home, and do not go out to the fields, acting in this respect like those who sing the sun. This probably indicates some ancient connection between the two tribes. They believe that if they should set about their labour at such a season, the millet would remain in the ground without sprouting, or that the ear would fail to fill, or that it would be destroyed by rust.
The Ba-letsatsi, or the men of the sun, when the brilliant star of day rises in a cloudy heaven do not work, saying that it afflicts their heart. The food prepared the night before is all given to the matrons, or aged women, who alone may touch it, and who give part to the children under their care. On such mornings these people go down in a crowd to the river, there to wash their whole body. Every one casts to the bottom of the water a stone which they have carried from their hut, and which is replaced by another taken from the bed of the river. On their return to the town after their ablution, the chief kindles a fire at his house, and all his subjects go to get fire from it. This therefore represented a consecrated, or sacred fire, that is the sun, from which all receive their warmth. After this ceremony begins a general dance in a public place. He who has lost his father raises his left hand towards heaven, on the contrary he who has lost his mother raises his right, while the orphan who has lost both raises neither, but crosses both his hands upon his breast.
This dance is accompanied by a monotonous song, when every one says —
Pina ea Morimo, u ee gae !
Song of the Shades of the Departed (Morimo) go home !
Ki lema ka lefe ?
Which is it that I raise ? (i.e. which hand)
U ee gae ! U ee gae !
Go home ! Go home !
The word gae, translated "home" in the above, is strictly speaking where one has dwelt or where one dwells, thus corresponding with the English word employed.
Some old men belonging to a branch of the Baputi, the men of the duiker, called Maputi-Maloi, informed the writer that their name had special reference to their tribal siboko, the duiker, in allusion to a custom which they observed at the burial of the great chief of their portion of the tribe. They said, as soon as his death was made known a hunting party was sent in pursuit of one of these representative animals. When a duiker was thus obtained, it was carefully skinned, and the hide was brought to the place where the dead chief lay ; his body was then enfolded in the skin of the tribal siboko, and in this state committed to the grave with the usual solemnities. One of the chief informants, when questioned as to whether the same customs obtained among those tribes which had a different siboko, stated that he believed they ought to do the same ; but upon the subject being mentioned to the Bakuena chief Mapeli, he affirmed that as far as he knew none of the others had a similar custom.
This therefore must be one exclusively confined to this branch of the Baputi, or if ever such a custom existed among the others, it had evidently fallen into disuse from the impossibility, in many cases, of obtaining the special hides which were necessary for the ceremony. The remainder of the Baputi, if by accident they touched a piece of the skin or bones of a dead duiker, immediately spat upon the ground, and then wiped the eyes both of themselves and every member of their family who was within reach, to prevent them from losing their sight.
The ancestors of Makuana and Molitsane selected the lion as the object of their reverence, which is still held in the same estimation by their descendants ; hence comes the ancient and celebrated designation of Bataung, or the men of the lion, but commonly called Leghoya, a denomination which came from a powerful chief, whose subjects did him the honour to assume his name, although by doing so they did not change their tribal siboko.
Among these people, as among other tribes, there were many who revered some other animal, instead of the lion, but the majority of the nation were Bataung, and of course did not recognise as sacred any other animal than the king of the forest. They never killed one except with extreme regret, with the false fear of losing their sight should they look towards him when he was dead ; but if the thing must be done, they carefully rubbed their eyes with a piece of his skin, in order thereby to avert the imaginary danger as well as to perpetuate a superstitious reverence. They carefully abstained from touching his flesh as other people did, for they said how could one think of eating his ancestor ? Whilst the powerful chiefs of other tribes were proud to clothe themselves in his skin, which they ostentatiously threw over their shoulders by way of a royal mantle, at Entikoa, the great place of this tribe, and throughout the territories of the Leghoya and Bataung, no one would have dared to use it as fur.
The chief branch of the Bafukeng, itself the royal tribe of the southern Bakuena, was called the Bapatsa, also Mangole and Ba-morara, the first being derived from the name of the great chief under whom they separated from their parent stem, the last from their tribal siboko, hence they were styled the Ba-morara, or the men of the wild vine. M. Arbousset informs us that they were recognised for their veneration of the rietbok, and above all for that which they displayed for the wild vine, called by them morara. This plant grows without culture in the woods of the Malutis, the stalk, which does not exceed a few inches in diameter, climbs to the top of the highest trees, and overspreading them with its branches, sometimes seems to smother them in its embraces. The Mangole, the Bapatsa clan of the Bafukeng, although they do not disdain to take advantage of its shade, always do so without touching its grapes, still less using its wood for any purpose. Should any other person employ any of it for fuel, although they would not like to go and make application for the fire, they gather the ashes and cinders religiously together, and place them on their foreheads and temples in sign of grief.
From the foregoing facts it would seem possible that the origin of the siboko among these tribes arose from some sobriquet that had been given to them, and that in course of time, as their superstitious and devotional feelings became more developed, these tribal symbols became objects of veneration and superstitious awe, whose favour was to be propitiated or malign influence averted by certain rites and ceremonies, more or less elaborate, with ablutions and purification, with solemn dances and singing, the kindling and distribution of the sacred fire, and placing ashes on the forehead as a sign of grief.
Although at the present time all the great coast tribes are distinguished by the name of some renowned ancestor, there are still traces to be found which seem to indicate that a similar custom once existed among at least a portion of those with the Ama-prefix, of which Ama-langa (the sons of the sun), Ama-zulu (the sons of the heavens), Ama-geba (the sons of the shadows of the setting sun), will be sufficient examples.
It was not only, however, that these tribes of the Bachoana group were distinguished for this peculiar mode of nomenclature combined with superstitious observances, but they were equally characterised by intense love of agricultural pursuits, which formed such a striking trait in the occupations of the Bachoana and Basutu tribes that the early travellers were filled with admiration and astonishment at the wonderful proofs of industry which the extent of the cultivated land surrounding their great towns exhibited. Some of the latter contained a teeming population of some eight to ten thousand inhabitants, some, in fact, being stated to have held double that number. At the time of Mr. Campbell's visit to Lithako, the great place of the Batla-pin, he remarks that on approaching the town they passed through extensive cornfields spreading out on both sides of the road. Even the Hottentots who accompanied him were amazed at the extent of land under cultivation, never having seen so much before in one place.
The only vegetable productions cultivated by the Bachoana and their forefathers were varieties of the native grain, holcus sorghum, the sweet-reed, the sorghum saccharatum, pumpkins, a small kind of kidney bean, and watermelons, which appeared to be a cultivated variety of the cucumis caffer. Maize or Indian corn was perfectly unknown to them, and was introduced from the east coast (the Portuguese settlements) through the Matabili invasion.
From native tradition, as well as from positive evidence, there can be little doubt that when their fathers first migrated into the country, it was one which was highly adapted for agricultural pursuits, and therefore formed a fitting home for such tribes to settle in. The Batlapin declare that in ancient times there were great floods in the country, and incessant showers which clothed the very rocks with verdure ; and they speak of giant trees and forests which once studded the brows of the Hambana hills and neighbouring plains. They boasted of the Koeromanie (Kuruman of the English) and other rivers, with their impassable torrents, in which the hippopotami played. In addition to these traditions handed down by their fathers, they had before their eyes at the time of Mr. Moffat's arrival amongst them the fragments of more fruitful years, in the immense number of roots and stumps of enormous trunks of the Acacia Giraffe, which requires an age to become a tree. Some of the trunks met with were of such enormous size that he supposed if the time were calculated necessary for their growth, as well as their decay, one might be led to conclude that they must have been in existence several thousand years. ' ' Now, one," Mr. Moffat adds, " is scarcely to be seen raising its stately head above the shrubs."
As according to geological evidence the last extreme in our South African climate was the very opposite to that recorded in the northern hemisphere, viz. a tropical and subtropical one, in lieu of the Arctic severity of the last glacial period of the latter, it may therefore be possible that these traditions may be from some vague recollection of the times when the last tropical rains still lingered about the regions to which their ancestors migrated.
It is certain that the country in question was such as would develop and foster their agricultural proclivities, and therefore induced more settled habits and a concentration of population around favourable localities, which led to the formation of their great agricultural settlements or towns, showing a more advanced state of society than that exhibited by the more primitive kraals of the coast tribes, who, until their contact with the white race, appear to have placed their chief dependence for subsistence on pastoral occupations.
Such an improved mode of life, combined with the industrious habits which are inculcated by the necessary regularity in labours of the field, enabled them to apply their leisure profitably in improving their manufactures, and thus it is that among these tribes not only were their habitations larger and more comfort- able, their towns laid out with greater regularity as well as exceeding all others in magnitude, but the most skilful smiths of all South Africa were found amongst them ; they far excelled all others in their pottery, and their wood-carving, as displayed in the ornamentation of their spoons and various wooden vessels, was unequalled, while even their superstitions had become more elaborated and defined, they having instituted certain symbolic representative figures, called Madula and Setswantu, which they preserved in their huts as their tutelar deities, which were to ensure to their possessors prolificness to their household and general prosperity in their affairs.
There can be little doubt, however, but that this very improvement in their mode of life from the more purely pastoral pursuits of their ancestors tended in the course of long generations to modify very considerably their wandering and warlike propensities ; and as the benefits of peace became every generation more and more apparent, as essentially imperative to enable them to carry out successfully their favourite agricultural pursuits, so it became more and more cultivated by them until ultimately by making a decided impression upon their national character they became, in comparison with the more robust coast tribes, a timid, pusillanimous, vainglorious race, while the latter, although they had not made the advance towards social comfort the Bachoana had done, still retained much of the martial fire and savage energy of their common ancestors. Thus numerous as the Bachoana had become, they fell an easy prey to every enemy who chose to invade their country, while their accumulated herds afforded the most insatiate marauders ample spoil.
As soon as we commence to investigate the history of these tribes minutely, we discover that they, similar to every other native race we may have to study, are divided into various groups of tribes, and that the members of these groups migrated in a certain sequence, somewhat akin to that we have described in the early movements of the border tribes of the west coast. The pioneers appear to have been comparatively insignificant tribes, the advanced guard of the still greater body which was following, and which, when it overtook them, swept over them, and reduced the greater portion of the fugitives to a state of vassalage. In order therefore to obtain a clearer view of our subject, we shall divide it into the three following heads, viz. : —
(a) The Pioneer Tribes of the Bachoana in the migration to the Southward.
(b) The Tribes of the Second Period of the Bachoana migration ; and
(c) The great Bakuena Branch, or the Bakone Tribes to the East and North.
The Pioneer Tribes of the Bachoana in their Migration to the Southward.
Before entering upon an inquiry with regard to the more powerful and numerous tribes of the Bachoana group, it may be as well to investigate, as far as the available materials at our disposal will allow us, the probable relation between several minor tribes which were found fifty or sixty years ago not only along the western border of the area then occupied as Bachoana territory, but scattered in small communities throughout the country itself. They were evidently in a far more defenceless state than the stronger tribes, and generally in a more degraded condition, many of them being reduced to such a state of abject serfdom that they were perfectly at the command of their exacting and more powerful neighbours. Such a condition would appear to indicate that they are the descendants of a conquered race, who having formed the vanguard of the great southern migration of the Bantu, had occupied the country previous to its invasion by the main body of the Bachoana hordes, who, after a considerable interval, must have followed them, and by whom they and their fathers were brought into the state of subjection in which they were discovered by the early travellers.
These tribes therefore in all probability represent the phase of the earliest intruding Bachoana tribes into the ancient Bushman hunting grounds. And as in every similar instance where other pioneer tribes, comparatively small in number and less warlike in character than those who followed them, have first come in contact with the old hunter race, we shall find that they fraternised more closely with the aboriginal occupiers of the soil, who extended to them a sort of rude hospitality and showed towards them a friendliness of disposition in marked contrast to the hostile and vindictive feelings which were subsequently aroused by the monopolising and grasping appropriation of the finest portions of their country by the formidable multitudes of armed warriors who followed with their numerous herds upon the trail of the pioneers.
These last may now be considered under the following sub- divisions, viz. : —
1. The Leghoya, called by different writers and authorities Ba-coija, Gohas, Goes, Coija, and Lehoya. Of this tribe we shall treat more fully when speaking of the migration of the tribes to the south of the Vaal. They evidently retained possession of their herds of cattle for a longer period than any of the earlier tribes, gradually migrating to the southward and crossing the Vaal with them, until they were attacked there by the emigrant Bakuena, and reduced to a state of extreme want and misery.
2. The Bakalahari, occupying the eastern confines of the Kalahari, whither they retired upon the intrusion of the more powerful Bachoana tribes.
3. The Balala, scattered through the less inhabited portions of the Bachoana territory.
4. The Bachoana Bushmen, living in the same manner.
We will therefore now, omitting the consideration of the Leghoya for the present, pass to that of the second tribe above enumerated.
2. — The Bakalahari.
These are supposed to be the oldest of the Bachoana tribes, and are said to have once possessed enormous herds of cattle. They were driven into the desert by a fresh migration of their own nation, who were evidently stronger and more warlike than themselves. Here, living for centuries on the same plains with the Bushmen, subjected to the same influences of climate, enduring the same thirst, and subsisting on similar food, they seem to supply a proof that locality is not always sufficient to account for difference in races. Amid all their poverty these Bakalahari retain in undying vigour the Bachoana love for agriculture and domestic animals. They are a timid race, and in bodily development often resemble the aborigines of Australia. They have their legs and arms, and large protruding abdomens, caused by the coarse and indigestible food they eat.
The Bushmen live in the Kalahari from choice, the Bakalahari from compulsion. Livingstone, in comparing the two races, states that the Bushmen are distinct in language, race, habits, and appearance ; and are the only real nomads of the country. They never cultivate the soil, or rear any animals save wretched dogs. They are intimately acquainted with the habits of the game, and chiefly subsist on their flesh, eked out by the roots and beans and fruits of the desert. Those who inhabit the hot sandy plains have generally thin wiry forms, and are capable of great exertion and of severe privations.
Such then are the companions of the Bakalahari, whilst the Kalahari, which affords them shelter and protection, is also one of the last places of refuge for the hapless and fast disappearing Bushman race. This great area has been called a desert because, though intersected by beds of ancient rivers, it contains no running water and very little in wells. Far from being destitute of vegetation, it is covered with grass and creeping plants. The quantity of grass which grows in this remarkable region is astonishing, even to those who are familiar with India. It usually rises in tufts with bare spaces between, or the intervals are occupied by creeping plants, the roots of which, being buried far beneath the soil, feel little the effects of the scorching sun. The number of these which have tuberous roots is very great, a structure which is intended to supply moisture during droughts. Besides there are large patches of bushes, and even trees. It is remarkably flat, and prodigious herds of antelopes, which require little or no water, roam over the trackless plains. The beds of the former streams contain much alluvial soil, which being baked hard by the burning sun, rain water in some places stands in pools for several months of the year.
In 1813 the name of the chief of the Bakalahari was Leevekue, who resided principally in the valley called Chue. They neither had, nor in the situation in which they were placed, could have cattle or sheep. They acknowledged themselves dependent to a certain degree on the neighbouring chiefs. They hunted with dogs belonging to them, and the skins of the animals they killed they were obliged to bring to them. If they killed an elephant, the tusks had to be carried to their feudal masters. They not only used the assagai in hunting, but also like the Bushmen dug deep holes in the ground to take animals. They were at that time under the protection of Mothibi and Lahesi, the chief of the Batlaro, in case of an attack ; but they were discountenanced from having intercourse with any tribes nearer the Cape Colony who brought articles of trade. When called out to assist in plundering expeditions against their neighbours, all they captured was handed over to their superiors, who bestowed upon them what they thought proper. They were not permitted to wear jackals' skins, or any dress which indicated rank or fortune ; they could only use such skins as were not worn by the rich. Though numerous, they lived in a scattered manner. A considerable number however remained with their chief.
In 1820 these natives were found to be more numerous than was expected, although they lived in a very scattered way over the desert, and generally fled upon the approach of strangers intruding on their realm. The animals which they hunted were principally elephants, giraffes, elands, steenboks, and quaggas, while the bow and arrow were their principal weapons.
These natives, according to Mr. Freeman, have a daring method of capturing lions. He says that he was assured by the missionary Lemue that they have been known to seize a lion bodily and stab him to death. The lions were not unfrequently extremely dangerous, and from having become accustomed to human flesh they would not willingly eat anything else. When a neighbourhood became infested by these man-eaters, the inhabitants would determine on the measures to be adopted to rid themselves of the nuisance ; then forming themselves into a band, they would proceed to search for their royal foe, and beard him in his lair. Standing close to one another, the lion would make a spring upon one of the party, every man of course hoping that he might escape in the attack, then others would instantly dash forward and seize his tail, lifting it up close to the body with all their might, thus not only astonishing the animal but rendering his efforts powerless for the moment, while others closed in with their spears and stabbed the monster through and through. This was done not for the exciting pleasure of a lion hunt, or as an exhibition of prowess, but merely to rid the vicinity of their villages of a dreadful enemy.
Water was frequently very scarce in this inhospitable region, and the women as frequently had to carry it considerable distances. When they wished to draw water they put it into ostrich eggshells, twenty or thirty of which were carried upon their backs in a bag or net. It was however the great scarcity of surface water which rendered this vast wild such a bulwark of defence against any chance of successful invasion from without. But when befriended by either the Bushmen or the Bakalahari, this so-called desert, besides supporting multitudes of animals, has proved a refuge to many a fugitive tribe, when their lands have been overrun by the ravaging hordes of Matabili warriors.
This fraternising of the Bushmen and Bakalahari, without amalgamating by intermarrying, is certainly very interesting ; and it is here therefore, in the still almost unknown region of the Kalahari, that these distinct relics of a long-forgotten past are still found in juxtaposition, viz. the scattered tribes of ancient Bushmen, who are undoubtedly the representatives of the true aborigines of the southern portion of the African continent, and who must have gradually migrated thitherward as the severity of the last Antarctic climate which visited this part of the world, equally as gradually ameliorated ; and these Bakalahari, who are the descendants of the remnants of those tribes which formed the first wave of Bachoana emigration in the same direction.
The reality of the previous migration of these earlier tribes is proved not only by the existence of the Bakalahari and of those presently to be mentioned, the Balala, but also that of two well-marked grades — they might almost be termed castes, so clearly and so strongly defined are these two divisions — into which the members of the various tribes are separated, that distinctly indicate the presence of the descendants of not only a conquering but a conquered race also amongst them. Natives of the lower grade were despised by those of the higher, and one of the latter intermarrying with one of the former would certainly have lost caste in the eyes of his more exclusive countrymen.
This therefore accounts for the kind of feudal system which Moffat states prevailed among the Bachoana tribes. There are, he writes, two grades, the rich, who are hereditary chiefs, and the poor. The latter continue in the same condition, and their lot is a comparatively easy kind of vassalage. Their lives are something like those of their dogs, hunger and idleness, but they are the property of their respective chiefs, and their forefathers have from time immemorial been at the mercy of their lords. Keeping this in view, we shall better understand the true condition of the scattered remnants of the people who come next under consideration.
3. — The Balala or Poor Ones, or the Sons of Slaves.
These people, Moffat considers, were once inhabitants of towns, and have been permitted or appointed to live in country places for the purpose of procuring skins of wild animals, honey, and roots for their respective chiefs. The number of these country residents was increased by the innate love of liberty, and the scarcity of food in towns or within the boundaries to which they were confined by want of water and pasture. These again formed themselves into small communities, though of the most temporary character, their calling requiring migration, and they having no cattle of any description. Preferring the liberty of the desert, they would make any sacrifice to please their often distant superiors rather than be confined to the irksomeness of a town life, to which such is their aversion that, as Mr. Moffat states, he has known chiefs take armed men and travel a hundred miles into desert places, in order to bring back Balala whom they wished to assist in watching and harvesting the gardens of their wives. In such seasons they will frequently wander about, and fix their domiciles in the most desert and unfrequented spots, to escape this easy but to them galling duty.
Though in general they are able to state to what chief or tribe they belong, yet from want of intercourse and from desolating wars, great numbers have become from their isolated position independent. They lead a hungry life, being dependent on the chase, wild roots, berries, locusts, and indeed everything eatable that comes within their reach ; and when they have a more than usual supply they will bury it in the earth from their superiors, who are in the habit of taking what they please.
Resistance on their part would be instantly avenged by the deadly javelin. When hunting parties go out to kill game, the Balala men and women are employed to carry grievous burdens of flesh to the rendezvous of the hunters, in return for which they receive the offals of the meat, and are made drudges as long as the party remains. They are never permitted to wear the furs of jackals and other animals they obtain. The flesh they may eat, but the skins are conveyed to the towns, for which they obtain a small piece of tobacco or an old spear or a knife. Indeed all the valuable skins of the larger animals, which they sometimes procure by hunting and pitfalls, as well as the better portions of the meat, they have to yield to their masters, except when they succeed in secreting the whole for their own use. From the famishing life to which they are exposed, their external appearance and stature are precisely to the Bachoana what the Bushman is to the Hottentot.
Their sole care is to keep body and soul together ; to accomplish this is with them their chief end. They are compelled to traverse the wilds often to a great distance from their village. On such occasions fathers and mothers, and all who can bear a burden, often set out for weeks at a time, and leave their children to the care of two or more infirm old people. The infant progeny, some of whom are beginning to lisp, while others can just master a whole sentence, and those still further advanced, romping and playing together, the children of nature, through the livelong day, become habituated to a language of their own ; and thus from this infant Babel proceeds a dialect composed of a host of mongrel words and phrases joined together without rule, and in the course of a generation the entire character of the language is changed.
Their servile state, their scanty clothing, their exposure to the inclemency of the weather, and their extreme poverty, have, as may be easily conceived, a deteriorating influence on their character and condition. They are generally less in stature, and though not deficient in intellect, the life they lead gives a melancholy cast to their features, and from constant intercourse with beasts of prey and serpents in their path, as well as exposure to harsh treatment, they appear shy and have a wild and frequently quick suspicious look. Nor can this be wondered at, when it is remembered that they associate with savage beasts, from the lion that roams about by night and day, to the deadly serpent which infests their path, keeping them always on the alert during their perambulations.
The Tamahas, or the Red People.
Mr. Campbell informs us that in his first journey in 1812-13 from Lithako to Malapitze, the first people he met with after passing a couple of Batlapin outstations were some wandering Bushmen. Then at a place called Marabe they met a small kraal of Bachoana Bushmen, which had the appearance of extreme wretchedness. On the fourth day's journey they came to the hills which divide the Bachoana from the Korana countries. Immediately at the mouth of the pass was a small kraal of the Tamahas, or red people, who on the approach of the travellers fled to the top of a hill behind the kraal ; but seeing Batlapin in the company, the men came down and spoke with them. Their appearance indicated wretchedness in the extreme. Their dwellings were so low as to be hardly visible among the bushes till quite close to them. They were the shape of half a hen's egg, with the open part exposed, an arrangement which must have occasioned considerable inconvenience in rainy weather, unless they were able to turn the enclosed side to the storm. They were so covered with dirt, mixed with spots of very red paint, that it appeared probable none of them had any part of their bodies washed since they were born.
These people appear to have intermarried so much with the Bushmen, that at the beginning of the present century they were described as a mongrel race between the Bachoana and Bushmen, and they painted themselves red, from which circumstance they in all probability obtained the distinctive name of red people. Their houses were made of rushes like those of the Koranas, but were better constructed and kept cleaner. They were not so tall as the Batlapin of Lithako. They had cattle, sheep, and goats, and lived together in towns, but not so large as those of the Batlapin. They planted millet and pumpkins. The nearest of their kraals in 1812-13 to the Batlapin were at a distance of four days' journey from Lithako. At that time the name of their chief was Keebe.
Such then is a description of these people, who were a branch of the Balala, and who were at one time found scattered over different portions of the country. Molehabangwe, the chief of the Batlapin and father of Mothibi, used to employ them on his marauding commandos for the capture of cattle, when they became so well trained to this employment that they commenced capturing cattle on their own account. These, Molehabangwe allowed them to keep, after which they became an independent tribe, but remained faithful allies of the Batlapin. They lived on the banks of a river which ran into the Vaal from the northward, and which was probably either the present Schoon Spruit, or Mooi River. In 1820 they were so noted for their boldness and fierceness that no other nation dared to attack them ; they were nevertheless reported to be friendly to strangers. They spoke the Sechoana language, but many of them could speak those of both the Korana and Bushmen. They possessed abundance of cattle, but sowed no corn like the other Bachoana tribes, which deficiency, however, they supplied by their great expertness in hunting. With the skins of the animals killed they were able to purchase grain from their neighbours.
They were formerly a poor scattered people like the Bachoana Bushmen, but they formed a union with each other, probably under the guidance of some more warlike and gifted chief than ordinary, whose name has been lost. They joined their neighbours, as we find was the case with the Batlapin chief Molehabangwe, in their cattle-lifting expeditions, and as on these occasions they acted with courage and fierceness they were often invited to lend assistance to others. Thus from their continued successes they acquired in the end more cattle than most of the other surrounding tribes. At one time, however, the Koranas attacked one of their captains, named Inkapetze, and carried off all his cattle. In 1820 they were under several chiefs, the principal of whom was named Takiso.
To assist them in securing game, extensive series of pitfalls used to be excavated by them. One of these consisted of twelve pits, arranged in the form of a crescent, each being about twenty feet long, ten broad, and five deep, besides the height of the earth thrown out of them. At the bottom of each large pit, there were two rows of smaller ones, nearly filled up. The design of these large excavations was to ensnare game. Laborious they must have been, considering the feebleness of the instruments employed, a sharpened stick of hard wood and a wooden dish. It is probable that in 1820 they had been dug forty or fifty years, as a karree tree of that age was growing from the bottom of one of them.
Up to the present time the writer has been unable to trace what became of the remnant of this particular branch of the Balala after the Mantatee invasion, or still more terrible and devastating irruption of the Matabili. During the entire time in which he was engaged in the Free State he was not able to discover a single representative of this tribe, and all native tradition with regard to them appears to have been blotted out of the memory of those who fled across the Vaal to seek refuge in the rugged mountain ranges to the south. It is therefore not improbable that the Tamahas were entirely broken up, and the scattered fugitives have since found shelter by amalgamating with other branches who were fortunately living farther to the westward, and nearer the confines of the Kalahari.
4. — The Bachoana Bushmen.
These people would seem to differ from the Balala in having a greater admixture of Bushman blood, caused doubtless by more frequent intercourse with the original proprietors of the soil than any of the other tribes of Bachoana origin.
Travelling as far to the northward as 26° south latitude, Mr. Campbell found in 1820 that there was a mongrel race called Bachoana Bushmen, whose little kraals were scattered over the countries through which he passed. This circumstance explains the fact mentioned by Livingstone in his travels, when he states that at a place called Mathlo-ganyana, which appears to be still farther north, he found many families of Bushmen unlike those on the plains of the Kalahari, who are generally of short stature and light yellow colour, that is of purer breed. These were tall strapping fellows of dark complexion. In making these remarks he has evidently either been unaware of the existence, or lost sight of this mixed race mentioned by Mr. Campbell, and puts down the great physical dissimilarity not to its true cause, the intermixture of blood, but to heat with moisture, insuring the deepest hue.
We have already seen that a mixed breed sprang up between the advancing Abatembu and the Tambuki Bushmen on the north-eastern frontier of the Cape Colony, and as we proceed we shall discover that another similar mixed race originated in the Zuurveld from intermarriages between the pioneer Coast Kaffirs and the aboriginal inhabitants whom they found occupying the country. And this we shall find has ever been the case at all points where the stronger races have come in contact with the Bushmen, and as long as the latter remained in the ascendency fraternisation and intermarriage ensued, but the case was reversed as soon as the intruders gained the upper hand, when persecution and annihilation followed.
Mr. Campbell informs us that some of these Bachoana Bushmen were subject to Mothibi, the Batlapin chief, and were bound to bring him all the jackal-skins they could procure, while all the rest of the game they could use as they pleased. On the 30th of April 1820 this traveller passed many old cattle enclosures built of stone, some parts as neatly done as if they had been erected by European workmen. From this description of the skill shewn in the erection of these walls, it would seem probable that the town which once stood on the spot mentioned of which the remains of the ruined kraals marked the different divisions, may have belonged to the old Leghoya race, as some of the ruins of their ancient towns are to be still seen near' the Marikwa. The one mentioned by Campbell must have been very extensive, the ruins occupying a length of two miles, and they were also of considerable breadth.
In the same locality two or three villages of Bachoana Bushmen were found, "a people greatly despised by all the surrounding tribes." Sometimes these unfortunates were reduced to such straits for food, that their children were met collecting gum from the mimosa trees in order to sustain life. During the return journey several other villages of these poor people were passed. The inhabitants met with were complete exhibitions of starvation, and seemed to be under considerable apprehensions for their safety. Their men had been absent on a hunt for three weeks, and of course the situation of the unfortunate females left behind must have been very distressing. Their black fingers appeared as hard as bones, and were probably rendered so by digging roots out of the ground for food.
These Bachoana Bushmen must at that time have been very numerous, from the number met with where there was no beaten track. Hence it may be inferred that whatever direction had been chosen, an equal number of their villages would have been found. One of these contained seventy huts. They spoke the same language as the surrounding nations, by whom they were despised on account of their poverty. Like most of the Bushmen of the south, they literally possessed nothing. Having thus drawn together as much information as we have found at our disposal upon the subject of the condition of the minor pioneer tribes, we will pass on to the consideration of those more powerful clans which appear to have followed on the trail of the former, thus forming what might be termed the second tidal wave of the Bachoana emigration.
The Native Races of South Africa
01. Editor's Preface
15. The Koranas
17. The Griquas
24. The Barolong