Wednesday, February 12, 2020

19th C. African Travel Etiquette

In approaching them, always send word of your coming and get, if possible, information in advance, of the feeling of the Chief toward foreigners. —Drawing of a Congoland Chief, by travel writer and journalist, Edward James Glaves —Photo source, Picryl

In African travel it is always wise to visit the biggest Chief in any part of the country. One can always learn from other 
Chiefs at a distance, who they are and something of their character. In approaching them, always send word of your coming and get, if possible, information in advance, of the feeling of the Chief toward foreigners.

Upon nearing the village, send on ahead to announce your arrival and wait until your messenger returns with some of the villagers to escort you to their Chief.  Greet the Chief civilly and ask him to send one of his people to show you a good place for your tent, if you decide to camp in the village, which I have done invariably in the country, though it is not always advisable in every part of Central Africa. When you have rested, the Chief will come to see you. Then state to him your business, talk frankly with him and explain plainly your needs, whether you want guides or to buy food. 

I seldom stayed in a place more than one day, and generally the first night I called the Chief privately into my tent, had a long talk with him and gave him a present; consisting generally of a good cloth, four yards of Americani, four of wide blue, four of narrow calico and about an egg cup full of beads and sometimes an empty bottle or two. 

Invariably, I received next day the co-operation of the Chief in every way, and also a big goat or sheep or bullock and 60 or 70 pounds of flour. Sometimes I gave a small additional present before leaving. If the Chief took a fancy to any particular thing and I could spare it, I did so sometimes. One wanted a sheath knife and another a bat. 

Old Kambuidi was determined to have a shirt. He wanted a candle, matches and needles, which I gave him, and as I had previously given him cloth, I suggested, as a feeble sort of joke, that, as he now had cloth and sewing materials and light, he might sit up at night and make a shirt. Immediately the old fellow replied: “It is the candle that is interfering with my success. Here, take back the candle and give me the shirt." I finally yielded and gave him a much patched garment, which satisfied him.— from “Glave's Journey to the Livingstone Tree.” by the Late E.J. Glave, in Century, 1896

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia©️ Etiquette Encyclopedia 

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