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The Pygmies of Central Africa.

(Manchester " Weekly Times.") In his address before the Royal Geographical Society, on Monday night, Mr Stanley spoke as follows of the^ race of pygmies whom he met with m his recent travels m Africa—Near a place called Avatiko, on the Ituri river, our hungry men found the first male and female of the pygmies squatted m the midst of a wild Eden peeling plantains. You can imagine what a shock it was to the poor little creatures at finding themselves surrounded by .gigantic Soudanese 6ft 4in |n height, nearby double their own height and weight, and black as a coal. But my always" jqqfe tjenderhearteil

than Soudanese, prevented the clubbed rifle and cutlasses from extinguishing their lives there and then, and brought them to me as prizes m the same spirit as they would hr,ve brought a big moth, hawk, or mammoth longicorn far inspection. As they stood trembling before me I named the little man Adam, and the miniature woman Eve, for more appropriate names m the wild Eden on the Ituri than the Vukukum and Akiokwa which they gave us. As I looked at them and thought how these represented the oldest people on the globe my admiration would have gone to greater lengths than scoffing cynics would have expected. Poor Greekish heroes aud Jewish patriarchs, how their glory paled before the ancient ancestry of those manikins ! Had Adam known how to assume a tragic pose, how fitly he might have said, " Yea, you may well look on us, for we are the only people on the face of the earth who from primeval time have never been removed from their homes. Before Yusuf and Mesu were ever heard of we lived m these wild shades, from the Nile Fountains to the Sea of Darkness, and, like the giants of the forest, we despise time and fate." But, poor little things, they said nothing of the kind. They did not know they were heirs of such proud and unequalled heritage. On the contrary, their faces said clearly enough, as they furtively looked at one and the other of us, "Where have these big people come from ? Will they eat us ?" There were some nervous twitches about the angles of the nose and quick upliftings of. the eyelids, and, swift, searching looks to note what was m store for them. It is not a comfortable feeling which possesses a victim m presence of a possible consumer of its flesh. That misery was evident m the little Adam and Eve of the African Eden. The height of the man. was 4ft, that of the woman a little less. He may have weighed 651 b ; the color of the body was that of a half-baked brick. So f»r as natural intelligence was concerned within his limited experience he was certainly superior to any black man m our camp. The mysteries of woodcraft, for instance, he knew better than any of us ; he knew what wild fruits were wholesome, and what fungi were poisonous. He could have given us valuable lessons how to find our way through the forest. I also saw that he could adapt himself to cir-i cumstaneea. If the pot was to end him, a very little shrinking only would betray his fear of pain ; if he were to be treated affectionately, none could be so ready to appreciate affection and kindness. We began to question him by gestures. "Do you know, where we can get liananas?" He catches the cue, he grasps his leg to us the size, and nods his head * apidly, informing us that he knows where to find bananas of the size of his leg. One sees that he can exaggerate as well as Mark Twain. (Laughter) We point to the four quarters of the compass, questioningly. He points to the sunrise m reply. f' Is it far ?" He shows a hand's length. Ah ! a good day's journey without loads, two days with loads! "Do you know the Toru?" He nods his head rapidly. '* How far is it ?" He rests his right hand sideways on the elbow joint. " Oh, four days' journey." "Is there much food on the road?" He pats his abdomen lovingly with an artful smile, and brings his two hands to a point m front of him, from which we may infer that our paunches will be becom* like prostrate pyramids. We ask him why Aveliko has has so little food. The little man attempts to imitate the sound of gunshots, and cries "Do-o-o-o," and we are informed quite intelligently that the devastation is due to the jofanyuema. I ■ suppose we must have passed through as many as 100 villages occupied by the pygmies. Long, however, before we reached them they were deserted and utterly cleaned out. Our foragers and scouts may Jiave captured about fifty of these dwarfs, only one of whom reached the height of 51in. They varied from 39m. to 50in. generally. They are so well proportioned that at first sight they might be taken for ordinary mankind, but when we place by their side a European, a Soudanese, or a Mahdi, they appear exceeding^ diminutive. By the side of dwarfs of mature age a Zanzibari boy of thirteen would appear large. A forest building consists- of from 20 to 100 families of pygmies, and probably m that area between the Ihuru and Ituri rivers there are as many .as 2000 families living this nomadic and free! life m the perpetual twilight of the great and umbrageous forests of Equatorial Africa.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18900908.2.6

Bibliographic details

The Pygmies of Central Africa., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2512, 8 September 1890

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927

The Pygmies of Central Africa. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2512, 8 September 1890

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