Page images

hunting, living mostly in the open air of a fine salubrious climate, and eschewing all sedentary and laborious occupations, tend to produce in them the most perfect development of which the human frame appears susceptible; and could a less satyr-like and repulsive expression of countenance be placed on such a "torso," a Kaffir warrior might be considered the living image of those bronze statues of antiquity, which still serve as models for the sculptor. Similar to many of those classical imitations of the human "form divine," his shape is concealed by no superfluous drapery; the "kaross" and "noutchee" constituting his only garments; the former, during war, in the exertions of the chase, or the heat of summer, is usually cast aside; and the scanty dimensions of the latter will not even bear description to ears polite.' Whilst the Kaffir thus,

[ocr errors]

God-like erect, with native "bronze" well clad,
In naked majesty seems lord of all—

far different is the aspect of his poor Helot wife, who visibly bears on her features and person, the degrading stamp of that cruel slavery to which she is irrevocably doomed.

The Kaffir women are generally speaking, spare in shape, small of stature, and, in my humble opinion (notwithstanding the eulogies so lavishly bestowed on their attractions by some poetic writers), fully deserving the epithet "of hideous females of Caffraria," given them by Goldsmith; but they nevertheless are said to possess the full amount of vanity for which the sex-whether with foundation or not-has universally the credit; and according to the relations of some travellers, their spirit of coquetry is often carried far beyond, what we consider the usual bounds of innocent flirtation.† However that may be-or whether such conduct towards strangers is merely considered by them in the light of hospitality -there is most assuredly nothing immodest in either the costume or appearance of the Kaffir ladies, for their sable charms are as securely shrouded in the thick folds of an ample kaross, as the persons of their lords and masters are ever shamelessly exposed to the view of every spec


From the remotest era of which history makes mention, the dress of all nations in an uncivilised state has generally been composed, either of the skins of domestic animals, or of the spoils of the chase; thus Hercules is represented with a mantle torn from the Nemean lion, which probably, likewise, occasionally served as a shield,-whilst the garment of a Kaffir chief similarly consists of the leopard skin kaross; and if when divested of this, the classical spectator be-in the naked African warrior—reminded of the bronze Perseus of Benvenuto Cellini, a sight of the Kaffir when enveloped in his coriaceous covering, will no less call to recollection those old Etruscan sculptures, similarly draped, and executed during the earliest and most barbaric infancy of the art.


Though without any apparent religious belief, the Kaffirs, like most other barbarous nations, are superstitious to a degree; they suppose the very elements to be under the controul of their Amaquira, "rain-makers," or "witch-doctors," who are consulted on every occasion, particularly when a prolonged drought endangers the produce of their fields and gardens.

For an account of this part of the Kaffir dress, the inquisitive reader is referred to Le Vaillant's " Travels in Southern Africa."

† See Rose's "Four Years in Southern Africa," p. 185.

The "doctor" is then bribed with a present of cattle to obtain the desired showers; if the latter come not, he says the cattle offered through him to the spirit of the clouds were either too poor, or else insufficient in number to propitiate his favour; a further donation is then exacted, but should at the end of a given period, the flood-gates of heaven still continue closed, he fixes the blame on some unfortunate wretch, whom he accuses of magic, and who is mercilessly sacrificed for this imputed offence, which is supposed to consist either in the power of driving away rain-in causing sickness,— holding nocturnal intercourse with wolves, and sending them amongst cattle-exerting an influence over monkeys and baboons, by directing them to plunder the fields and gardens, with other things equally puerile

and absurd.

This accusation of magic or witchcraft, however frivolous it may appear, is amongst the Kaffirs made the excuse for robbery and extortion, committed under circumstances of the greatest atrocity, and most refined cruelty.

If a Kaffir chief takes a fancy to the wives or herds of one of his dependents, he consults a witch doctor on the subject; this worthy soon finds out some real or imaginary case of sickness in the tribe-he next conceals in the cleft of a rock, or under a stone in some remote spot, small pieces of hide—a handful of hair-a few bones, or other similar objects. Having taken these preliminary measures he goes to his employer, the aforesaid chief, and officially reports that such or such a case of sickness attributable to witchcraft has come to his knowledge, whereupon the "Father of the tribe," with a laudable anxiety to repress so abominable a crime, congregates all his children at a given place. The doctor (in some cases an old woman) attends the gathering, gravely inspects the assembled multitude, and invariably points out as the culprit, the unfortunate individual, whose fat oxen or beauteous wives have excited the cupidity or lust of the great man.

The accused is instantly seized, and desired to declare how he has caused the sickness alluded to? He in vain protests his innocence of the charge, and ignorance of every thing relating to it; but the doctor is inexorable, and persists in the accusation; the victim is thrown on the ground, his arms and legs are extended, and securely fastened to pickets driven into the earth. The poor wretch's miseries now commence, and are usually borne with the most unflinching endurance: long needles used in sewing their karosses are thrust by dozens into his flesh-yet he still perseveres in averring his innocence. Honey is next brought, with which his face and body are smeared, and a nest of the large black ant is broken up and thrown upon him. The venomous sting of one of these insects is of itself excruciating, but when myriads are at the same time inflicted, their effect can be more easily imagined than described.

The only virtue of the Kaffir is a stern stoical fortitude, and that pride in being capable of unshrinkingly bearing pain, which sustains the Cheroquee Indian at the stake. The sufferer still stoutly resists every exhortation to admit his guilt, and mild expedients having thus failed, recourse is had to more rigorous measures.

A fire is therefore kindled at his feet-and lest by the time they are reduced to seared, smoking, and shapeless stumps, he should continue obdurate-large stones are heated in readiness for the perpetration of further horrors. The poor maimed and tortured wretch, though still disallowing the charge, so far quails beneath his protracted sufferings, which have now

lasted for hours, that he entreats for the "coup de grace," but no! the ends of justice must be fulfilled; by means of forked sticks, the stones now calcined by heat, are taken from the fire and studiously applied to the most sensitive parts of his body; but the very stones, as it were in pity, glide off the writhing flesh, slipping under the unctuous animal matter drawn by their burning influence from the quivering mass; they are, however, instantly replaced, and kept by these infernal fiends against the now crackling, shrivelled, and smoking carcase; exhausted nature is at her last gasp-life holds on by a thread, but that thread is not allowed to snap until the "Witch Doctor" obtains the required avowal from the expiring sufferer. This being at last effected, he is then asked if the proofs of his guilt are not buried in a certain spot? "They are," is the reply. The desired object is thus obtained; the convicted culprit either dies from the effects of the torture he has undergone, is put out of pain by strangulation, or brained as he lies, by a blow of the "Knob Kerrie."

[ocr errors]

The assembled multitude follow the "sage" to a place already previously decided upon by him,-the pretended magic spells, here concealed, are now exposed to view, the doctor is extolled for wisdom, the chief for his justice, and they both share the spoils of the murdered man!

Such scenes as these, are not mere matters of tradition-events of bygone times; they are every day occurrences with this "pastoral" people, in this most enlightened and "philanthropic" age;-occurrences which, moreover, constantly happen close to the colonial border. As an instance in point, a disgraceful transaction, such as the one above described, took place on occasion of the illness of Kona, the son of Macomo; and that "good and intelligent chief" tried hard to award a like fate to the "great wife," or rather widow of Gaïka, his step-mother Sutu, who had a most narrow escape of being burnt to death as a witch! The mother of the only Kaffir convert to Christianity, the chief Kama, bore through life the marks of such an ordeal; and all classes, without regard to age or sex, appear liable to similar cruelties, sometimes inflicted through interested motives, or a spirit of revenge, but often the result of mere whim and caprice.

Cruel to such a degree towards each other, it is not matter of surprise if the Kaffirs should carry vengeance and barbarity against their enemies to the greatest lengths.

"Death and destruction" are ever during their bloody wars, the watchwords amongst all the Bechuana race, comprising Kaffirs, Fetcani, Mantatees, Zoolahs, and other tribes of this savage people.

These assertions have been fully verified, and that very recently, by the desolating irruptions of Dingan, of Chaka, of Moselekatse, Matiwana, and many other swarthy Attilas, whose footsteps were ever marked by universal slaughter and the most sweeping devastation-sparing neither man, woman, or child in their annihilating course, and converting populous and fertile tracts into vast deserts, now solely covered with ashes and bleaching bones.†

"The misery already inflicted by the wars of Chaka (the Zoolah chief) upon the Kaffir and Bechuana tribes is incalculable, and is far from being confined to the massacre and destruction directly occasioned

A kind of club used by the Kaffirs in the destruction of game, or in war, to put an end to a wounded or vanquished foe.

See Harris's "Travels in Southern Africa," pp. 236, 309.

by his arms. By plundering and driving off the adjoining nations, he has forced them to become plunderers in their turn, and to carry terror and devastation through the remotest quarters of Southern Africa. In short, the people dispossessed by Chaka, became the marauding and cannibal Mantatees."

[ocr errors]

Though starvation may have perhaps, in this instance, driven the Mantatees to devour their enemies, the Kaffir tribes with whom we have lately been at war never had a similar excuse ;-and yet, prompted by an innate ferocity, combined with certain superstitious notions, which lead them to suppose that by eating the vital parts of a fallen foe, his strength and power are thereby inherited-they not only during the late hostilities made a practice of torturing such of our people as fell into their hands,t but it is positively averred that when an officer had the misfortune to be captured-after enduring a cruel and lingering death, and subsequent horrible mutilations being committed on his corpse,—the heart and liver were in some instances, next torn out, and made the materials of a diabolical feast, by these fiends in human shape!

And yet by some writers it has been gravely asserted that the Kaffirs "are not a cruel and vindictive people!" However, Sir Harry Smithwhose long experience in Kaffirland entitles his opinion to some weight on this subject, says that self-interest and fear are the only motives which influence their conduct-" possessing the character natural to uncivilised man-easily pleased-readily offended-cunning-avaricious -treacherous—and vindictive-to which the Kaffir adds a peculiar restlessness of disposition, thirsting for news, and ever seeking a grievance, as he meditates mischief." It is, nevertheless, in favour of such an amiable set of beings, that forbearance and conciliatory measures have been so long preached, and "philanthropy" so strenuously recommended! -though it be true that these Utopian precepts have been, generally speaking, inculcated by disinterested advocates, whose persons and property were perfectly secure from the attempts of so "pastoral and primitive a people !"

This very mistaken sentiment of humanity, carried to a most ridiculous excess, and by which the colony has always hitherto so greatly suffered, prevented us at the outbreak of the last war from availing ourselves of the proffered services of Mosesh, the Basuto warrior; of Faku, the head of the Amapondas, and of Umtirara, the Tambookie chief; who, with their numerous tribes, would willingly have thrown themselves on the flank and rear of our enemies, gladly taken advantage of such an opportunity of "eating them up" (the expressive and characteristic African term for waging war), and only awaited from us the signal for so doing ;§ but our consent was then-as on former similar occasions-withheld, from a delicate apprehension of our bloodthirsty and inveterate foes being too roughly handled by their fellow-barbarians!

Though it was the advice of Colonel Hare, the veteran and experienced governor of the Eastern Province, that we should avail ourselves * Thompson's "Travels in Southern Africa," vol. i. p. 360.

+ See Mrs. Ward's "Five Years in Kaffirland,” vol. i. chap. vii.

See, amongst many other instances of such assertions, that at page 74 of Rose's "Four Years in Southern Africa." Sir Harry Smith's opinion of Kaffir character will be found in the address, made by him at Cape Town on the 20th of Oct., 1837, after throwing up the appointment he held on the Eastern frontier.— Vide "Case of the Colonists," p. 21, by the Editor of the "Graham's Town Journal." § See in "Blue Book," for 1847, at page 181, Despatch, No. 18.

of the offer of the friendly tribes above adverted to, in order to cripple the enemy, his counsel was disregarded; and why? We would answer: from the same mistaken deference to that morbid spirit of would-be philanthropy, emanating from Exeter Hall, which has so long pervaded the public feeling in England, which has directed our naval operations on the coast of Guinea-swayed our proceedings in Southern Africa,and ever caused us to set at nought the lives of our fellow-countrymen, as compared with those of a set of, generally speaking, worthless and ungrateful savages!

I have shown how we have been repaid by the Kaffirs for such misplaced lenity and forbearance,-a system of forbearance which, whilst holding out the strongest encouragement to their lawless depredations, has so continuously placed at their mercy the lives and property of British subjects; for even when nominally at peace, they unceasingly plunder the colony, unhesitatingly murder if opposed in their robberies; and the reader has just had an unexaggerated statement of their conduct towards us when at open war.

I can only advert "en passant,"- —as characteristic of their habits,— to the inhuman practice prevalent amongst the Kaffirs, of exposing their sick and aged relatives to be devoured by wild beasts. Whenever a Kaffir is considered as beyond hopes of recovery, he is carried into the bush, where a living sepulchre (the wolf or the jackal) invariably awaits the unfortunate wretch; for none but the chiefs have the privilege of being interred, and the cattle kraal (considered a sacred spot) is their last resting-place.

Though the limited space of a magazine will not admit of further illustration of Kaffir character and customs, I could say much more on the same subject, tending further to elucidate the real disposition of these barbarians, in every sense of the word.

It has been justly remarked, that, according to Kaffir interpretation, "forbearance is weakness, indecision a want of courage, and liberality a want of understanding;" our own vacillating measures, repeatedly childish conduct, and misplaced generosity towards these robber tribes during the last half century, have fully confirmed their belief in the truth of these maxims; and their deportment towards us has been regulated accordingly.

It is however to be hoped that the reign of "humbug" is-in this quarter-at last come to a close, that a deaf ear will now for ever be turned to the ravings of deluded or deluding philanthropists, of interested intriguers, and other myrmidons of Exeter Hall;* that after all our dearbought experience, the Kaffirs will now, under the vigorous administration of Sir Harry Smith, be dealt with according to their deserts; and should they give any further trouble or molestation to the colony, that they will as a just punishment for past, and a security against future offences-be driven "en masse" beyond the Kye, the boundary originally fixed, in 1835, by Sir Benjamin d'Urban, and the only defensible barrier against these truly "irreclaimable savages."

The reader must ere this, be heartily sick of the many allusions made in these pages, to the above-mentioned classes; but their meddling influence has been so constantly and perseveringly exercised at the expense of the welfare of the colony, and so intimately connected with all its transactions, as to render a frequent mention of them, unavoidable in any subject having at all reference to the Cape of Good Hope.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »