Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/261

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249
EAST CENTRAL AFRICAN CUSTOMS.

child she is carrying is a boy or girl, frequently replies, "My child is of the sex that does not speak." The position of woman is practically that of a chattel. Women kneel when addressing men, and go off the public path into the grass or bush when they meet any of the opposite sex as a sign of subordination and subjection. Young girls do not take milk; if they did it would make them barren. Women, especially Makololo, wear a lip-ring the size of a small table napkin-ring in the lip, not suspended, as earrings are, but inserted into the lip as the "eyes" through which "reef points" pass are inserted between the canvas of the sail and its "bolt-rope." It causes the lip to project an inch and a half in front of its natural position, and at right angles to the teeth and gums. A small brass or lead ornament is suspended from the side of the nose, which is pierced for the purpose as the lobe of the ear is for earrings. Some of the front teeth are knocked out as a beauty mark, and the arms, cheeks, breast, and shoulders are tattooed with strange and fantastic devices. Necklets of teeth, shells, or bits of wood are common, and brass wire is in great demand for bracelets and anklets. The dress consists of a loin-cloth of skin, cotton, or bark. The latter is made by stripping a piece of bark from a tree, and then beating it with an ebony hammer till soft and pliant. It is easily torn, and even when treated with the greatest care does not last long. On the Shire and round Lake Nyassa the people have hardly any stock except fowls and a few goats, and are thus precluded from having the comfortable sheepskin garments so common among the Kaffirs. Domestic animals are precious in Central Africa, so when chickens are hatched the abandoned egg-shells are collected and hung up in the house to protect the brood from hawks and accidents of all kinds.

The principal industries among the tribes whose customs I am considering consist of pottery and working in iron.[1] They manufacture clay pots of beautiful design, and burn them with considerable skill. There is a tradition lingering in odd corners that once upon a time their ancestors used hollow stones as pots before the art of pottery was discovered. If this is true—of which there is no adequate proof, however—it effectually disposes of Don Santos's idea that the East Central African had gradually degenerated from a higher civilization, and points rather to a record of progress. And there seems to be beyond question steady, if slow, progress in their skill in working metal and fashioning implements of war and husbandry. There is no question that within a comparatively recent period they tilled the ground with wooden


  1. The Angoni own a tribe of inner Africa which they have reduced to the position of domestic slaves. They are the best smiths in the lake region. Whence they came I do not know, but they were not natives of that region originally.