Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

raised, but only in favourable situations, and for the tables of the more opulent. Perhaps the greatest exertion of agricultural industry is that bestowed upon the culture of the manioc, which forms the main article of food in Congo and some of the insular territories. Considerable care is required in rearing it, and cleaning the ground round the plants; after the root, which is the valuable part, has been dug up, it must be ground in a species of mill, and dried in small furnaces, before it can be used as flou The process is represented in the accompanying plate.

Manufactures, in a country where men are contented with the simplest accommodations, cannot attain any high importance. There are, however, certain fine fabrics peculiar to Central Africa; of which the most general is cotton cloth, produced in several districts of a very beautiful texture, dyed blue with fine indigo, and receiving from the processes employed a very brilliant gloss. Leather in Houssa is dressed and dyed in the same rich and soft style as in Morocco; and probably, in both cases, the manufacture is native. Mats, used both for sitting and sleeping on, are the staple manufacture in many parts of Western Africa. Gold and silver ornaments are made with some taste; and iron is generally fabricated, though with a varying and imperfect degree of skill.

The tribes of Africa have scarcely in any instance_arrived at the first rudiments of maritime commerce. The circuit of that continent presents no spacious inlets of the sea,--no deep bays to cherish the growth of infant navigation. Even the great lines of river-course are little if at all subservient to the purposes of inland communication, but are often so situated as to obstruct the career of the traveller, who crosses them in canoes hollowed out of a single tree, or on slight and dangerous rafts. Almost all the commerce of Africa is carried on by land. Caravans, kafilas, or coffles, cover all the routes, and connect the most distant extremities of the continent. These are formed by a union of travellers, an arrangement strictly necessary for mutual aid amid the difficulties and perils by which almost every track is beset. The native traders do not employ camels, which have been introduced by a foreign race from Arabia into the northern deserts, for which they are perfectly adapted. The wagon, and indeed every species of

[graphic][ocr errors]

Negroes preparing the Manioc Root.-[p. 230.]

draught, is nearly unknown, and would be ill suited to the African roads, the best of which are narrow paths cut through thick and entangled forests. In the hilly and central districts, either the back of asses, or the head of slaves and women, serves as the ordinary vehicle.

The largest branch of the native trade of Africa originates in the great demand for salt, and the longing desire which is felt for it in all the provinces to the south of the Great Desert. This commodity is chiefly brought from the seacoast; from large pits in the Western Desert; and also from the lakes or ponds of Domboo, in the country of the Tibboo. In like manner, from the west are sent up cowries or shells, the chief currency of the interior kingdoms, and goora or kolla nuts, a favourite luxury, which, on account of the agreeable taste they impart to the water drunk after them, are called African coffee. The returns are made in gold, ivory, fine cloths, and too often in slaves. The trade with Northern Africa across the Desert consists in foreign commodities. The chief imports are gaudy and glittering ornaments; for the power of distinguishing between the genuine and the false in finery does not seem to exist beyond the Sahara. Captain Lyon enumerates nine kinds of beads, silks, and cloths of bright colours, especially red, copper kettles, long swords, powder, and ball. Antimony to blacken the eyes, with cast-off clothes, and old armour, find also a ready market. The returns are the same as those sent to the shores of the Atlantic. The monetary system of the negro countries is most imperfect; for the shell currency, of which it requires several thousand pieces to make up a pound sterling, must be intolerably tedious. The only metallic form appears in Loggun, where it consists of rude bars of iron. In Bornou, and several countries on the coast, cloth, mats, or some other article in general demand, is made the common measure of value.

All the accommodations of life throughout this continent are simple and limited in the greatest degree. There does not, probably, without some foreign interposition, exist in Africa a stone house, or one which rises two stories from the ground. The materials of the very best habitations are merely stakes of wood plastered with earth, built in a conical form like bee-hives, and resembling the first rude shelter which man framed against the elements. Many of

these mansions afford little facility for standing upright, and indeed are resorted to chiefly for sleep and shelter, while the court before the door, shaded by the family tree, is the scene of social intercourse, and of all meetings for the purposes of business and gayety. Greater efforts indeed are made to form a commodious state-room or public hall, called the palaver-house; yet this, too, consists merely, as shown in the annexed plate, of a large apartment, raised

od Most #

[graphic]

on posts fixed in the ground, and roofed with sloping planks, which leave the interior open to the air on every side. The houses and yards of persons in any degree opulent are enclosed by an outer wall or hedge, sometimes pretty high, serving the purposes both of privacy and defence. Even the palaces of the grandees, and of the greatest monarchs, consist of merely a cluster of these hovels or cottages, forming a little village, with large open spaces, and surrounded by a common wall. The state-hall of the sultan of the Fellatas, the greatest of the African princes, is an apartment to which, in Captain Clapperton's opinion, the term shed would in Europe be properly applied. Slender, however, as is the accommodation afforded by these edifices, they are liberally adorned, especially in the larger cities, both with carving and painting.

If African houses be of mean construction, the internal

« AnteriorContinua »