Wanderings in Central Africa – The Experiences & Adventures of a lifetime of Pioneering & Exploration. With Illustrations & Map.
London, Seeley, Service & Co. Limited. 1929. 14 cm x 22 cm. Frontispiece, 284 pages. 25 illustrations. Fold out map at rear showing the Central Africa Region. Hardcover [publisher’s original orange cloth] with gilt lettering on spine. Gilt design on front board. Very good- condition with some signs of external wear. Rubbing to spine and board edges. Some minor foxing occasionally to an otherwise bright and clean interior.
Includes, for example, the following: Through Angola to the Belgian Congo / Sunworshippers of Lubaland / The Batetela & Moon Worship / Sketches of Cannibalism / Smoke-Drying the Dead & Burial Rites / Cannibal Philosophy & Folklore / Abecher, The Metropolis of Ouadai / The Moslem Menace and Its Limit / The French Conquest of the Chad Regions / Through the Southern Sahara etc.
Campbell’s account of his travels and experiences across the region is that of “Darkest Africa,” with all the inherent connotations: the “haunt of fear, and fetishism” the thin veneer of civilization under which or just beyond lies war and witchdoctors, “age old customs and hoary superstitions.” A sense of medieval menace pervades this book written by a man who spent “the past thirty-six years of life and labour in this land” and who has “crossed the Continent three times at a point two hundred odd miles south of the present path” (pp.17-32)
The author devoted much time and space detailing cannibalistic practices he encountered throughout the region. With the casualness of the veteran traveller who has seen it all, Campbell referred to the Baketi tribe on the Kassai, ‘whose taste for warm human blood was such that they periodically bled each other and drank the blood’ and other peoples on Equatorial rivers ‘whose favourite dish consisted of a paste of human blood – a sort of species of human boudin noir not altogether unlike a similar black-pudding sold in neighbouring Belgian trading-stores.’ Other cannibals, Campbell continued, ‘are fond of grilled fingers and feet and other seldom-referred-to parts of the male body.’ (p.146) The apparent nonchalant delivery of his observations jars with subject matter: ‘The habit of eating parents and dead friends was a common practice among the Lubans.’ Cannibalistic secret societies and the dietary peculiarities of ‘ghouls’ and ‘incorrigible savages’ and other ‘beast-like’ tribes recounted at some length: a veritable roll-call of cannibal tribes like Budja, Bapoto, Basoko, Bwaka, Banza and cannibal clans of the Nsakara, Ababua, Langba, Bubub, and Mbi tribes fill the pages – and the imaginations of the reader – as the author travelled along waterways such as Itimbiri, Roubi, Likati, Welle and Mbomu rivers. ‘Between the Congo from Coquilhatville on to Bumba, and from the Ubangi confluence with the Congo to where the Welle flows into it at the town of Yakoma is a dark, cannibal corner, where mighty little of the dim light of civilization has succeeded in penetrating. Belonging as it does to the equatorial regions, it forms one of the darkest and most cannibal cesspools of the Belgian Congo.’ (p.155-56)
Elsewhere the author described a ‘form of mummifying or smoke-drying’ of corpses, which, he asserted, was ‘in vogue’ throughout much of the region. ‘The corpse is first disembowelled, legs bent, and then it is hung for weeks over a slow, smoky fire. This results in it being thoroughly dried. With palm-oil and camwood powder it becomes thus less liable to insect bites.’ (p.158) Other unusual and noteworthy funeral customs and rituals of tribes are also recounted. Natives of the Loval country in Angola and some other Bantu tribes, Campbell records, ‘bury their dead in bark boxes, which they place high up in the forks of tall trees, and these arboreal burial-places resemble clusters of beehive cylinders hung to collect honey in the forest. Round the foot of these trees prowl hyenas, that run about feeding on the droppings from the dead bodies during decomposition.’ (p.163) Regardless of how the corpse is treated in the varied funeral rites – ‘whether these equatorial or Central Congo folk eat, cremate, bury or disembowel and smoke-dry or otherwise preserve the dead bodies of friends or relatives’ – Campbell noted that ‘Wailing and feasting, with drinking, dancing, besides drunkenness and devilish orgies are the usual accompaniment of these African “wakes.”’ (p.164)
The author also describes the religious practices and beliefs along with more temporal activities such as pastimes and sports of the peoples he encounters.