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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/697

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THE BANZIRIS OF THE CONGO BASIN.

seem very much like the ideal savages of the philosophers of the eighteenth century. They address strangers as their friends, and wear the amiable and pleasant smiles of children.

They eat dog-meat with great relish, drowning the animal and cooking it without skinning or dressing it. This meat is rigorously forbidden to the women, who have no part in preparing the dish. They believe, or affect to believe, that it would make women sick. So rigorously is the prohibition kept, that the Banziris wash themselves carefully after eating dog before touching a woman, if only with the tips of their fingers. Schweinfurth maintains that dog-eating is an indication of cannibalism, but the Banziris strenuously deny every charge of that kind. Besides the edible dog, their domestic animals are a few goats and hens. But the basis of their food supply is afforded by the fishery. They cultivate the banana and manioc, and, as accessories, tobacco, sesame, a little corn, and millet. This agriculture is carried on in a commercial way by family or village groups.

We could not learn whether the Banziris have any elements of religion. They wear no amulets and have no visible fetiches. We observed only one sign of superstition among them. Before starting a-fishing they planted some twigs in the ground, put in the midst of them a handful of cowries, and sprinkled them with fat. The ceremony was supposed to secure an abundance of fish to the one who performed it, but I never learned to whom the sacrifice was offered. The political organization of the people is not much more developed than their religious faith. He is chief who has the most wives, children, slaves, pirogues, and particularly who has boldness to carry on transactions with the whites in the best interest of the tribe. On the death of the father the eldest son inherits the pirogues; the other goods are divided, while the lands are the collective property of the village or the hamlet.

Men and women go nearly nude. A little breechcloth of native goods, made of the bark of a species of ficus described by Schweinfurth, composes all their dress. The men when they go sailing put off even this little bit of clothes, to avoid soiling it. Girls continue totally naked till they are married; three cowries, a few pearls, or a little bell hanging in front of their bodies and held by a belt of pearls or a narrow leather strap, emphasize their nudity. Beads, in necklaces, in armlets, or pins and beads in the hair, form an important element in the toilets of both sexes.

The young women are very charming. Their type is the same as that of the men, but their features are more delicate, with straight nose, small mouth, and slender but not too thin forms. They are sociable with the whites and make themselves innocently agreeable to them as they would to young men of their own tribe, but always with discretion; and they seemed to excel all the other