1 APRIL 1922, Page 17


Two interesting books on Central Africa have just appeared—. the one written by a retired English Protestant missionary, Mr. Roscoe,' and the other by a retired American Roman Catholic missionary, Dr. Vanden Bergh.2 Both authors had awaited the Armistice in order to revisit the scenes of their former labours and to resume their studies of the manners and morals of the African peoples. Mr. Roscoe spent the yeas 1919-20 in Uganda, while Dr. Vanden Bergh was at the same time travelling in British East Africa—or Kenya, as we must now learn to call it. Mr. Roscoe, as leader of an ethnological mission generously supported by Sir Peter Maokie, made a prolonged stay in each of the Uganda provinces and records his observations in a discreet and scholarly fashion. Dr. Vanden Bergh took with him a party of American cinematographers, and therefore had to seek out the more unusual and spectacular aspects of African life. He arranged, for instance, a Masai lion hunt—letting loose a caged beast for the Masai warriors to spear in front of the camera. In contrast with his Protestant fellow-worker Dr. Vanden Bergh is very plain-spoken ; his account of the gross immorality which is rapidly reducing the numbers of the once formidable Masai may shock some prudish readers, though, in justice to the Kenya Administration, the facts ought to be known. We notice, also, that while Mr. Roscoe expresses disappointment with the state of religion in Uganda, where commercial prosperity has brought a certain relaxation of the old moral code, Dr. Vanden Bergh cannot speak too highly of the improvement that he found in Kavirondo, on the eastern shores of Victoria Nyanza, after an interval of fifteen years. Such books as these enforce the lesson—which ethnolo- gists as well as politicians are apt to ignore—that man is a creature of infinite variety, and that African peoples living side by side differ as widely in every respeot as the peoples of Europe. It is unsafe to generalize about the tribes in Kenya or Uganda, or even in any one district of those regions. Each tribe has its own standard of morals, its own usages, its own polity, which must be understood if it is to be rightly controlled by the white man.

Dr. Vanden Bergh says that the Wakikuyu, who liva round Nairobi, are a gentle and kindly people. Yet they take their dying relatives out of the village and leave them to the mercy of the hyaenas. Sin is the root of all evil, such as disease, they argue, and the result of sin is death ; further, death is contagious, and to touch a corpse may be fatal. Therefore the dying must be removed, for the wild boasts to dispose of. The theory, once understood, is logical, though not many uncivilized races are callous or heroic enough to practise it. The Wakikuyu are loose in their morals, though not so depraved as the Masai. On the other hand the Waleavirondo, a little

• (1) The Soul of Central Africa: a General Account of the Mackie EUsno. Eallsdilion. By the Rev. John Roscoe. London : Vanden 25e. net.1 ---(2) On the Trail of the Pigmies. Dy Dr. Leonard John Bergh. London; T. Fisher Navin. [18e. pa. net.) further west in the hotter and lower regions near the lake, have an exceptionally strict moral code and are noted for their strength and endurance. Like the Masai, the Wakavirondo are of Nilotic) origin and came south from the Sudan, but they are totally dissimilar in their habits. The Masai are a pastoral people who do not till the ground but live on beef and milk ; the Wakavirendo keep cattle but are hard-working farmers as well. In Uganda Mr. Roscoe noted similar differences between the races. In Ankole, the south-western province, the pastoral Bahuma are the lords of the soil ; like the Masai, they regard cattle as the main form of wealth and cattle-rearing as man's rightful destiny, and they adhere to a milk diet. They treat as inferiors the agricultural Bahera, who grow corn and keep sheep but not cows ; intermarriage with the Bahera is strictly forbidden. The Bahuma, it may be noted, are kind to their sick. A dead man is buried in his kraal, which is soon deserted by the heir. All his bulls are, es it were, sacrificed to his memory, and eaten by the mourners. The ghost of the deceased is propitiated, through the medicine-men, with libations of milk at a shrine. Ghosts are treated with much respect in Ankole. In Bunyoro, to the north of Uganda proper, there is a muoh more highly developed civilization, which is well described by Mr. Roscoe. The king is " in a very special sense the priest of his people and country," and passes his days in the observance of a most elaborate ritual. There was a priestly clan, whose members had the hereditary right of serving the deities of the race and derived profit from their ability to consult the gods through oracles. The festival of the new moon was celebrated with great ceremony, under the direction of the king. It is not surprising to learn that the Banyoro, as Christians, are the most advanced in Central Africa, except the Baganda.

It is somewhat disappointing, in view of the title of Dr. Vanden Bergh's book, to find that he gives only one chapter, at the end, to the pigmies of the Congo forests. Yet this short chapter is of great interest, because he saw a good many of the Mambuti, as the little people call themselves, and became so friendly as to secure good photographs of them, including a married couple who were 4 feet 4 inches and 3 feet 11 inches respectively. The pigmies have reduced the problem of living to its simplest elements. They build rude huts of branches and leaves and inhabit them for a week or two. Then, having eaten all the fruit and edible roots in the neighbourhood and scared the birds away, they go to another part of the forest. Sometimes they kill an elephant with their tiny spears and arrows, worrying the great animal to death by pinpricks. They trade in ivory with the neighbouring tribes, who sometimes employ them as shepherds. The pigmies are honest, clean-living and temperate. The author was inclined at first to think that they believe in a god, but he found on further inquiry that his informant was trying to please the local missionary. Presumably the pigmies are a very ancient race which found refuge in the pathless forests of the Congo from the invaders pressing south from the Nile Valley. Were similar pigmies the originals of the " little people" of the old Teutonic folk-tales ?