Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

to the Colony of numbers, but by no means of moral strength, of a body of Maroons.” How every Sierra Leonean must laugh at this, coming from such a source !—the late Governor having been the last who should have agitated the question. But we must not now press too keenly upon so sore a spot, though De mortuis nil nisi verum would be a very justifiable improvement of the celebrated "nil nisi bonum."

The Kroomen are another race of free people, who are not slaves at home, nor do they carry on the trade abroad. They are natives of the Grain Coast and its neighbourhood. They are a remarkably fine race, and are chiefly employed on board the English cruisers as sailors, their hardihood and courage being found equal to any emergency on sea or land. Merchants are also desirous to have them in their stores; and they have lately been introduced into the Police with good effect. Occasionally they give dinners to the Europeans, being excellent cooks, concocters of dishes of which the most fastidious alderman might partake. Upon a late occasion, the Governor presided as an invited guest, surrounded (as our Morning Post would have said, if we had one) by all the rank, fashion, and distinguished talent of the Colony.

The Marabouts, or Bookmen, as sometimes called, are to be found amongst the Soosoos, Mandingos, and Timmanees, and almost in every part of the interior. They are more learned than the others, having a knowledge of Arabic characters, and can expound the Koran-whence they obtain the name of Bookmen or Mooriemen. They are the fortune-tellers of the country, dignified with the name of prophets; nor need we wonder that their divinations and fooleries obtain credit where superstition is religion, when it is remembered how much such impostors are encouraged nearer to St. Peter's and St. Paul's.

These jugglers in destiny pretend to possess the power of making or marring the fortunes of man, by their Arabic book of fate, or by describing characters on the ground in a layer of sand. One character is to make "Massa” a high gentleman, to ride a white horse ; another, to bestow plenty of money, &c., &c., everything pleasing of course. If the reward be satisfactory, the whole is wound up with desiring you to pull Sadakah, meaning, make a sacrifice, which consists of cloth, a fowl, or knife, according to the wants of the soothsayer; for ask him to whom the Sadakah is to be given, and you will invariably hear, to himself, which shows that he is not the greater fool of the two. Should the Sadakah be made with a good grace, he calls you his “good friend,” and says you "hold him good!” and becomes an uninvited daily visitor at your house, sometimes complimenting with a written scrap to be worn about the person, or washing an Arabic sentence from a board, bottles it off, with directions to wash your face with it every day to ensure the success of his prophecies :-failure after failure requires Sadakah after Sadakah, until even credulity grows sceptical, and the bubble bursts.

In compliance with the importunity of a Joloff lady who implicitly believed in their mysteries, the author consulted Monsieur Joppa, one of the most distinguished Marabout schemers, concealing from him that he had made a memorandum of the day and hour on which the prophecies were to be realised ; the golden promises of which having all " vanished into thin air," upon questioning the prophet as to their non-fulfilment, he coolly and commiseratingly exclaimed, "Ah! white man no believe Sadakah !" Yet, conscious that the "white man " had found “black man” out, he avoided me upon all occasions, and shortly betook himself to the Timmanee country, as a more successful field of operation. The Joloff lady, however, was not convinced by my simple stratagem, and still believes in Sadakah !

The Joloffs are an interesting race, with pleasing countenances and well-proportioned figures. The costume of the females is particularly striking and elegant, and when the women are grouped the effect is worthy of the artist. Some are of a black cast, and others of the different shades of the Mulatto and Mustee. They are passionately fond of the dances peculiar to their nation, and as "practice makes perfect,” there are many who are proficients. A Joloff lady, who for upwards of twenty years has reigned supreme in Sierra Leone and Gambia, may represent those of the superior order : her dress is at all times gay and well disposed—a variegated silk conical turban, ornamented with a profusion of jewelled studs; massive gold chains around her neck, and gold bars on her arms, wrists, and ancles, with ponderous and valuable earrings weighing down the ears, occasionally sparkling through the long black hair which hangs thickly platted on each side. or what we should call so, is a splendid-pattern pagne, or wrapper, gracefully folded round her body, with muslin shoulder slips ; long and

Her gown,

[ocr errors]

con

massive strings of beads twisted round the waist, acting the double purpose of a zone and bustle, or caudal, which, with beautifully-ornamented shoes and silk stockings, complete the picture as well as my memory serves, without pretending to the minutiæ of a Regent-street milliner. It is not to be imagined, however, that natives in general make so splendid an appearance as here described, few being troubled with a more expensive wardrobe than a pagne, or cloth, round the waist, and brought between the legs, the ends hanging in lappets before and behind: sometimes the luxury of hat and shoes is added, but not in all cases, though many, even of the poorer classes, are better clothed ; for, as use is second nature, this primitive state is a matter of little consideration to the native, and the settler's eye and feelings soon become unconsciously indifferent, and God has so tempered the weather to the “ shorn lamb” that the less closely sheared are often more jealous than commiserative. Fashion is a tyrant here, as well as in more northern latitudes, and though it does extend a little

mercy

in sideration of the climate, it is not always as indulgent as could be wished. They are, however, extremely fond of ornaments, and many wear a profusion of beads on their necks, waists, wrists, and ankles.

The dances and songs of these mixed and rude people, as may be easily supposed, are not of such a character as to endanger the profession of a Taglioni or Grisi, should the leading negro artiste, or prima donna, appear in London or Paris; but not being skilled in gallopades, quadrilles, or polkas, I shall not attempt a description of the most fashionable steps and figures, fearing that I might lead some of my fair readers astray in their practice; yet I may venture to assert that many of their most admired ballets are not peculiar for the modesty of the leading movements. The accompanying instruments are rude drums, some hollowed out from the trunk of a tree, and others made of calabashes, resembling kettle-drums, which are beaten and rattled with stunning violence, whilst the multitude join their voices to the wild and savage din, until the dancers work themselves into frenzy, jumping, twisting, and posturising, with a comical flexibility, which to them is the “poetry of motion.”

Their songs are generally sentimental and improvisatorial, frequently evincing tenderness of feeling. The character is Ossianic; nor does

с

it

appear that they have any idea of rhythm. Joy and sorrow, love and hatred, are all expressed in song. The infant is welcomed into existence with a chorus, progresses through life with a capriccio, dies with an air, and is buried, as he commenced, with a chorus; nor does the grand finale close the concert, as the memory of the departed prolongs the strain until the performers themselves are shuffled from the stage, to receive in turn and in tune similar honours to those which they had so liberally bestowed.

It is customary upon the death of an African for the relatives and friends to congregate at the house of the deceased. The more religious visitors engage in singing and prayer ; while the less reflective indulge in careless frivolity, increased by ardent spirits. After the funeral, these unbecoming excesses are continued for seven days, which is called a wake : indeed, a funeral is looked upon as an opportunity for revelling in all kinds of indulgences. These practices are, however, declining, owing to a recent declaration from the missionaries, viz, :

“ Nothing can be more contrary to the spirit of Christianity, and nothing can be more calculated to hinder its progress, than the pagan and heathen customs that still prevail in the Colony. It is a cause of deep regret to all who are wishful to see the spread of religion, that these * works of darkness' annually rob the Church of Christ of some hundreds of its members; and to overcome these evils in some measure, we are, as a Wesleyan body, determined to lift up our voices against all such devilish customs and practices. We publicly enter our protest, and declare that no person connected with our societies shall have anything to do with wakes, dances, peppermen, or any other native practice or superstition, and that any person guilty of the above will be forthwith excluded.”

There are two burial-grounds, the Old and New. The former is crammed to repletion, and the latter over-fattened with the dead; yet both are daily clamouring, with their thousand mouths, with the cry of “Give! give !" whilst the climate liberally supplies the victims !

AFRICAN NATIVE KINGS AND CHIEF'S.

The most friendly as well as the most enlightened of the Mahommedan kings, adjacent to the Colony, was "Alimamee Dalla Mahommedoo,” King of the Bulloms, who died in 1841. The same year, and shortly after the demise of Sir John Jeremie, he was succeeded by his nephew, Alimamee Amarah Fundi Moodie, a young man of much intelligence and on equally good terms with our Government. It is more my object to treat of the uncle than the nephew, as he was, in every respect, a notable person, and had a long and eventful reign. Dalla Mahommedoo formerly resided in Free-town, in a private capacity, during the Government of Zachariah Macauley. His character was always that of a crafty and subtle man, continually forming intrigues and private cabals among the Mandingoes and Soosoos, not only of the country, but in the Colony, the tendency of which was greatly to unsettle the state of the latter, no doubt with the ultimate view of acquiring it.

These intrigues, in process of time, became a source of great annoyance to the Colonial Government, and the consequence was, that Dalla Mahommedoo had peremptory notice to quit within twenty-four hours ; when he went to the Bullom shore, on the opposite side of the Sierra Leore River, and there formed a town on the water side, which he called Madina, probably from the birthplace of Mahomet.

Continuing his connection with the Colony, hé contracted for timber and other native produce, receiving English goods in payment, and by such means became possessed of wealth and influence in the interior. His connection with the Colony and water-side location gave advantages over the inland chiefs, which were still increased by a superior natural intelligence and a knowledge of the English manners and language, all of which he employed in the aggrandisement of wealth and territory. Thus, though but a refugee amongst the Mandingoes, he became a

« AnteriorContinuar »