17 – Departure From Bambarre

On February 4, Livingstone was much encouraged by a report that ten of his men from the coast were come near to Bambarre, and would arrive that day.  He was very excited for he felt that the packet of letters that he had sent back home was not destroyed and they must know what had detained him in Africa.  The next day, though, when they arrived he learned that only one of his letters had reached Zanzibar.  After writing about this discouraging news in his journal, he also wrote: “James was killed by an arrow today; the assassins hid in the forest till my men, going to buy food, came up.  They found indisputable proof that his body had been eaten by the Manyuema who lay in ambush.”

     On the 16th of February, Livingstone started from Bambarre again on a third attempt to explore the Lualaba river.  The people whose villages he passed through generally received him kindly, as his reputation for justice given through the Arabs, had preceded him.  Before getting out of the Manyuema country he adds another paragraph to his journal, concerning the comely features of the people, in the following language:

     “The Manyuema are far more beautiful than either the bond or free of Zanzibar; I over heard the remark often,  ‘If we had Manyuema wives, what beautiful children we should beget.’  The men are usually handsome, and many of the women are very pretty; hands, feet, limbs, and forms perfect in shape, and the color light brown, but the orifices of the nose are widened by snuff-takers, who ram it up as far as they can with the finger and thumb:  the teeth are not filed, except a small space between the two upper front teeth.  The men here deny that cannibalism is common:  they eat only those killed in ear, and, it seems, in revenge;  for, said Mokandira, ‘the meat is not nice; it makes one dream of the dead man.’  Some west of  Lualaba eat even those bought for the purpose of a feast; but I am not quite positive on this point:  all agree in saying that human flesh is saltish, and needs but little condiment.  And yet they are a fine-looking race.  I would back a company of Manyuema men to be far superior in shape of head, and generally in physical form too, against the whole Anthropological Society.  Many of the women are very light colored, and very pretty;  they dress in a kilt of many folds of gaudy lambas.”

The Banks of the Lualaba

     After a journey of about 50 miles, on March 30th they reached the Lualaba river at a village called Nyangwe.  He found the stream to be much larger than he expected, with at its narrowest parts being at least 1/2 mile broad and so deep that at no season of the year was it fordable.  The banks were steep and deep, with not much current to it because it was so deep.  It also ran toward the north.  Several soundings that they made showed that it was 9 feet deep near shore, and about 20 feet deep near the center of the river. 

     Villages lined the river bank, and the people there were numerous.  One day Livingstone counted 700 market women file past him. Even though there were a great number of people there, he was unable to get any canoes.  To gain the confidence of the natives, he built a hut and concluded to remain awhile among them hoping that they would help him along his way if they saw that they could trust him. 

     The market scenes in the villages along the river were interesting to Livingstone.  He concluded that they were somewhat like those back home that he had witnessed in Billingsgate Fish Market, except for the articles offered for sale.  Here were queer vessels, snails, fruits, cowrie-shells, and nameless things that he had never seen before.  One man had ten human under-jaw-bones hung by a string over his shoulder.  When inquired about this, he professed to have killed and eaten the owners, and even showed with his knife how he had cut up his victims.  When Livingstone expressed disgust, he and others around him laughed.  There were also two women who were selling roasted white ants, called “gumbe”. 

     A very popular market had been established at the village of Nyangwe, where Livingstone and a party of Arabs were stopping.  Hundreds of people came daily with their simple wares, from both sides of the river.  Even though the natives had no idea of it, the Arabs had met secretly and decided to turn this little earthly paradise into a huge massacre for murder.  They had already been guilty of many other horrid crimes, and their slave traffic now was down to almost a no-profit margin.  They seemed more blood-thirsty than usual.

     One morning Livingstone was startled by the sound of guns in the market, and ran out of his hut and saw that the massacre was taking  place.  Arabs were firing openly and randomly among the hundreds of people who had come to the market that day. 

     The murdering continued nearly all day, with 17 villages being burnt and hundreds of the natives killed.  Livingstone saved scores who rushed to him for protection.  The Arabs didn’t dare to murder them in his presence.  He tried his best to stop the bloodshed, and also ministered to the wounded, and showed a friendship to them that they had never seen before. 

     An old man called Kabono came to him and asked for his wife who had taken shelter with Livingstone.  Kabono expected him to keep her as a slave, according to the custom of the Arabs and even the natives, unless he could buy her back.  He was certainly not prepared for what Livingstone did.  He turned to the old woman and asked her if this was her husband.  When she ran to him and put her arms around him, Livingstone gave to them his blessing and five strings of beads with which they could buy food.  All their stores had been destroyed along with their home in the massacre.  She bowed down and put her forehead to the ground as an expression of her thanks, and Kabono did the same.  They both went away with tears in their eyes. 

     Forced to Return to Ujiji

     All the canoes that were available were taken by the Arabs when they left after their terrible massacre of the people.  Even though the people had come to love him, they didn’t have a canoe to give him.  This was not his worst misfortune, though, because word of the massacre had spread quickly and the men who were coming to be his guides were Banaian slaves.  They had been sent to him from Zanzibar, and when they heard the news they ran off and made their way as quickly as possible to the coast. 

     Livingstone had finally made progress after 3 tries trying to get to the Lualaba River.  He might have made it this time until this terrible thing had happened.  Now there was nothing left for him to do but return to Ujiji, which was nearly 600 miles away.  With much regret, he started his travels back on July 20th, and again had to turn his back on the Lualaba without ever finding out where its source came from. 

     A few Arabs and friendly Manyuemas accompanied him back to Bambarre, but traveling in the country was extremely dangerous now because of what had happened.  They were frequently waylayed and attacked by scouting parties of Manyuemas, but somehow managed to make it through the country.  Twice in one day Livingstone miraculously escaped death, with spears grazing him that were thrown by natives who were hiding in the thick jungle.  On each occasion, they took their guns and prepared to attack, but the natives left quickly for not wanting to be killed by their firearms. 

     This was one of the very few occasions during his entire experience that he was forced to resort to his weapons for defense.  This was now only because of the brutality of the Arabs, who had murdered and infuriated the natives, not just because of the natives themselves. 

     While traveling a short distance from Mamohela, they came upon some Manyuemas who had shortly before killed a man and cut him up and were boiling his body with bananas, preparing for a feast.  Livingstone knew that it was not want of food that led the Manyuemas to cannibalism, for their country was full of everything; vegetable and animal, that a human appetite could crave.  He wrote in his journal:

     “Goats, sheep, fowls, dogs, pigs, abound in the villages, while the forest affords elephants, zebras, buffaloes, antelopes, and in the streams there are many varieties of fish.  The nitrogenous ingredients are abundant, and they have dainties in palm-toddy and tobacco or bange.  The soil is so fruitful that mere scraping off the weeds is as good as plowing; so that the reason for cannibalism does not lie in starvation or in want of animal matter, as was said to be the case with the New Zealanders.  The only feasible reason I can discover is a depraved appetite, giving an extraordinary craving for meat which we call ‘high’.  They are said to bury a dead body for a couple of days in the soil in a forest, and in that time, owing to the climate, it becomes putrid enough for the strongest stomachs.”

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God has radically changed my life, and I want to share the awesome things I am learning with you. I have found that the Holy Spirit is an awesome teacher when I listen to, obey, and apply what He teaches to my life.


About Cathy Deaton


My name is Cathy Deaton, Owner of Fan the Flame Ministries. God has radically changed my life, and He has shown me that I am to share the awesome things I am learning especially with the Millennial Generation (1981 – 1996), but I love connecting with Christians of all ages. I have found that the Holy Spirit is an awesome teacher when I listen to, obey, and apply what He teaches to my life. You truly can make a difference for God in an uncertain world.