Friday, 22 August 2008

The old drift, Livingstone

Okay, this is not a great photo, but here's what it says:

The Old Drift

On Kalai island near here was the village of the Toka chief Sikote who was deposed by the Kololo Sebituane during 1840s. In November 1855 Sekeletu, Sebituane's son and successor assisted David Livingstone on his first visit to the Victoria Falls.

(Toka here may more usually be referred to as Batoka, and Kololo as Bakololo or Makololo.)

In 1893 there was established here the first colonial settlement near the falls at the place where all the goods from the south were ferried across the Zambezi into Northwestern Rhodesia. The old drift settlement was abandoned in 1905 when the railway bridge was built.

The old drift was a very unhealthy settlement (due to malaria) and lies in the present day Livingstone game park in Zambia. It remains a beautiful spot to visit, where you are quite likely to see hippos rising and submerging and maybe elephants crossing, if you are lucky.

From David Livingstone's Cambridge lectures by Sedgwick and Monk (1860) we have the following uncomplimentary assessment of the Batoka (the reported speech is Livingstone's):

He found them a large-bodied race, fierce, blood-thirsty, and the men entirely
naked. They seemed to be more astonished at his disapproving of their nude condition, than ashamed of it.

These people were numerous, and possessed immense herds of cattle until Sebituane utterly routed and subdued them, capturing their cattle. "Secure in their own island fortresses, they often inveigled wandering or fugitive tribes on to others which are uninhabited, and left them there to perish. The river is so broad, that, when being ferried across, you often cannot see whether you are going to the main land or not. To remove temptation out of the way of our friends, we drew the borrowed canoes last night into our midst on the island where we slept, and some of the men made their beds in them. I counted between fifty and sixty human skulls mounted on poles in a village near Kalai, being those of men slain when famishing with hunger; and I felt thankful that Sebituane had rooted out the bloody imperious ' Lords of the Isles.' "

A Batoka chief whom Dr Livingstone visited had his village adorned with fifty-four human skulls, on pointed poles. They boasted that few strangers ever returned from a visit to that quarter. The way to propitiate a chief is to cut off a stranger's head, and bring it to him.

In manners they are most brutal. Their mode of salutation is to lie down on the back and slap the thighs. Their language is a dialect of the others spoken in the great valley. Their tribe is now a mere shadow of what it was, having been almost rooted out by the successive onslaughts of Sebituane."

Says Livingstone in "Missionary Travels"

" They throw themselves on their backs on the ground, and, rolling from side to side, slap the outside of their thighs as expressions of thankfulness and welcome, uttering the words "Kina bomba."

A few gravestones remain at the old drift, probably fewer than there were in years gone by, and now few standing - see the next post.

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