Food & Entertainment en route to Discover Nile Sources

Following the debacle of the yams, described here,Sir Baker goes on to detail other local crops and collected wild foods in Obbo, [currently Northern Uganda], where he and his wife and their party stayed for a time in 1860s on their way to ‘discover’ Lake Albert N’yanza.

In all of his excellent detailing of local foods and food preparation, I have always wondered how much his wife influenced this interest in his writings.  Though, she is not mentioned other than being responsible for setting up the camps in the eventing – itself a very formidable task.

Lady Florence Baker accompanied her husband on all of their adventures in Africa. She was Hungarian.  Source:Wikipedia

… Among the best of the wild fruits is one resembling raisins; this grows in clusters upon a large tree. Also a bright yellow fruit, as large as a Muscat grape, and several varieties of plums.

… Ground-nuts are also in abundance in the forests; these are not like the well-known African ground-nut of the west coast, but are contained in an excessively hard shell.

… A fine quality of flax grows wild, but the twine generally used by the natives is made from the fibre of a species of aloe.

… Tobacco grows to an extraordinary size, and is prepared similarly to that of the Ellyria tribe.  When ripe, the leaves are pounded in a mortar and reduced to a pulp; the mass is then placed in a conical mould of wood, and pressed. It remains in this until dry, when it presents the shape of a loaf of sugar, and is perfectly hard. The tobacco of the Ellyria tribe is shaped into cheeses, and frequently adulterated with cow dung.

I had never smoked until my arrival in Obbo, but having suffered much from fever, and the country being excessively damp, I commenced with Obbo pipes and tobacco.

… By observation, 1 determined the latitude of my camp at Obbo to be 4 degrees 02′ N., 32 degrees 31′ long. E., and the general elevation of the country 3,674 feet above the sea, the temperature about 76 degrees   10 mos of rain

Following the food and smoking, is a description of local dancing, which he considers the best dancing he has seen throughout Africa:

… The heavy storm having cleared, the nogaras [drums] beat, and our entertaining friend [the chief] determined upon a grand dance; pipes and flutes were soon heard gathering from all quarters, horns brayed, and numbers of men and women began to collect in crowds, while old Katchiba, the chief, in a state of great excitement, gave orders for the entertainment.

Katchiba, King of the Obbo, 1865. Travelling in this way was common in Tropical Africa – for notables.  Source:  Baker, The Albert N’Yanza, Great Basin of the Nile and Explorations of the Nile Sources. 1863

About a hundred men formed a circle; each man held in his left hand a small cup-shaped drum, formed of hollowed wood, one end only being perforated, and this was covered with the skin of the elephant’s ear, tightly stretched. In the centre of the circle was the chief dancer, who wore, suspended from his shoulders, an immense drum, also covered with the elephant’s ear. The dance commenced by all singing remarkably well a wild but agreeable tune in chorus, the big drum directing the time, and the whole of the little drums striking at certain periods with such admirable precision, that the effect was that of a single instrument.

The dancing was most vigorous, and far superior to anything that I had seen among either Arabs or savages, the figures varying continually, and ending with a “grand galop” in double circles, at a tremendous pace, the inner ring revolving in a contrary direction to the outer; the effect of this was excellent.

The Obbo War Dance. Source: See below.

The Albert N’Yanza, Great Basin of the Nile And Explorations of the Nile Sources. 1863

by Sir Samuel W. Baker, M.A., F.R.G.S.

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About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
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