A Journey to Ashango-land, and Further Penetration into Equatorial Africa

A-JOURNEY-ASHANGO-LAND-FRONTCOVER-web1By Paul B. du Chaillu. One of the most famous early white explorers of central West Africa, the American Paul du Chaillu won fame for confirming the existence of the gorilla—and for his accurate and breathtaking descriptions of the life, customs and behavior of Africans in the pre-colonial era.

This book was written after the author’s last expedition into the African interior when Du Chaillu set out with the intention of reaching the Nile River. After over a year of travel, the expedition failed and he was forced back after being wounded by a poison arrow during an attack by a hostile interior tribe.

The high adventure of Du Chaillu’s expedition—and brutally frank descriptions of his encounters with the natives—are just part of what makes this work a compelling read. It also contains vivid and uncensored descriptions of native African culture, cannibalism, tribal warfare, witchdoctors, superstition, and technology. His astute observations were used by Oxford University professor John R. Baker in a section on African cognitive ability in his classic work Race.

His description of African slavery in particular, is highly relevant, as it shows that the biggest traders in slaves were the Africans themselves, despite all efforts by the British Royal Navy to halt the practice.

“Happily the Slave Trade will never flourish as it did in times past, and it may be said now to be almost entirely done away with. In the country of my late exploration, the only people who continue the traffic in slaves are negro agents, from the two Portuguese islands St. Thomas and Prince’s, who purchase people for their masters, who are also negroes. They cross to and from the mainland in small canoes, and thus avoid the cruisers.”

He also addresses the claimed existence of advanced African kingdoms in West Africa prior to the advent of the European Age of Exploration:

“The reader who has followed me through the volume of my former exploration and the present book, will have been able to gather an idea of the general character and disposition of the negro of this part of Africa, as he now stands. I have made researches to ascertain if his race had formerly left remains, showing that he had once attained a tolerably high state of civilisation; my researches have proved vain, I have found no vestige whatever of ancient civilisation. Other travellers in different parts of Africa have not been more successful than I have.”

He also addresses pre-colonial African technology:

“I think everything tends to show that the negro is of great antiquity, and has always remained stationary. The working of iron, considering the very primitive way they work it, and how easy it is to find the ore, must have been known to them from the remotest time, and to them the age of stone and bronze must have been unknown.”

He also opines unfavorably on Africa’s future:

“As to his future capabilities, I think extreme views have prevailed among us. Some hold the opinion that the negro will never rise higher than he is; others think that he is capable of reaching the highest state of civilization. For my own part, I do not agree with either of these opinions.

“I believe that the negro may become a more useful member of mankind than he is at present, that he may be raised to a higher standard; but that, if left to himself, he will soon fall back into barbarism, for we have no example to the contrary. In his own country the efforts of the missionaries for hundreds of years have had no effect; the missionary goes away and the people relapse into barbarism. Though a people may be taught the arts and sciences known by more gifted nations, unless they have the power of progression in themselves, they must inevitably relapse in the course of time into their former state.”

This new edition has been completely reset and contains all 23 illustrations and maps which accompanied the original work.

About the author: Paul du Chaillu (1831–1903) was the son of a French trader who was stationed on the West African cost. In 1855 he was sent by the Academy of Natural Sciences at Philadelphia to explore Africa because of his knowledge of the local languages and customs. In two expeditions into the interior, he observed numerous gorillas, brought back dead specimens, and also confirmed the existence of African pygmies, becoming the first European to observe them in real life. Du Chaillu sold his hunted gorillas to the Natural History Museum in London and his cannibal skulls to other European collections. Later he specialized in the prehistory of Scandinavia, and died while doing research in St Petersburg, Russia.


CHAPTER I: The Voyage

Objects of the Journey.—Preparatory Studies.—Difficulties in Obtaining a Passage.—Departure from England.—Arrival off the Coast.—Miss the Mouth of the Fernand Vaz.—Return up the Coast.—Excitement of the Natives.—Old Acquaintances.—Changes in the Bar of the River.—Choice of a Settlement near Djombouai’s Village.—Bonfires and Rejoicings on the Riverbanks.—Commencement of Disembarkation.—Dangerous State of the Shore.—The Boat Upset in the Breakers.—Saved by the Negroes.—Loss of Instruments and Stores.

CHAPTER II: The Fernand Vaz

Outlines of the Coast Region.—The Ogobai.—Prairies of the Fernand Vaz.—The Commi Nation.—Distribution of the Clans.—Chief Ranpano and his Spells.—News of Arrival Sent to Quengueza, King of the Rembo.—Arrival of Quengueza.—His alarm at the Great Wealth I Had Brought Him.—A Pet Chimpanzee, and His Departure for England.—Visit to Elindé and the Mouth of the River.—My Illness.—Tenderness of Ranpano.—King Olenga-Yombi.—Grand Palaver of Commi Chiefs.—Permission Granted Me to Ascend the River into the Interior.—Visit to My Old Place and to Rinkimongani’s Grave.—Superstition of the Natives.—The Bola Ivoga.—Rabolo’s Fetich.—Departure of the Mentor for England.

CHAPTER III: Excursions in Search of the Gorilla and the Ipi

Visit to King Olenga-Yombi.—Storm on the Fernand Vaz.—Land Journey to Aniambié.—First Traces of Gorilla.—Form of Its Tracks.—Drunken Orgies of the King.—Magic Island of Nengué Ncoma.—Village of Nkongon Mboumba.—Search of the Ipi, or Great Pangolin.—Its Habits.—Village of Mburu Shara.—Nkengo Nschiego Variety of Chimpanzee.—Bowers of the Chimpanzee.—Group of Gorillas in a Plantain Grove.—Their Mode of Walking.—Horrid Form of Monomania.—Akondogo Brings a Live Gorilla.—Return to the Fernand Vaz.—Three More Live Gorillas.—Account of Their Capture.—Modification of Opinions Concerning the Gorilla.

CHAPTER IV: Start for the Interior

Arrival of a Fresh Supply of Scientific Instruments.—The First Steamer on the Fernand Vaz.—Preliminary Trip to Goumbi.—Astonishment of the Natives at the Fire-vessel.—Despatch Collections to England.—Live Gorilla Embarked for London.—His Habits in Confinement.—Narrow Escape of Drowning When Embarked.—Preparations Completed.—Last Look at the Sea.—Outfit.—Bodyguard of Commi Men.—Affecting Parting Scenes.—I Am Deceived by Olenga-Yombi.—The Renowned Doctor, Oune-jiou-e-niaré.—Arrival at Goumbi.—Observations to Fix Latitude and Altitude of Goumbi.—Quengueza’s Invocation of His Forefathers.—Disobedient Wives.—Excessive Drought.—Obindji.—Opposition of Bakalai.—Arrival of Ashira Porters.—Passage of the Hills to Olenda.

CHAPTER V: Visit to the Samba Nagoshi Falls

King Olenda, His Great Age.—Preparations for the Journey to the Falls.—We Cross the Ovigui.—Opangano Prairie.—Ndgewho Mountains.—Bakalai Village.—A Flock of Gorillas in the Forest.—The Louvendji River.—Dihaou and the Ashira-Kambas.—Navigate the Ngouyai River.—The Aviia Tribe.—Village of Mandji.—River Scenery.—Nkoumou Nabouali Mountains.—Nami Gemba.—Village of Luba.—The Spirit of the Falls.—Village Deity.—Arrival at Fougamou, the Principal Fall.—Legend of Fougamou.—Night Encampment.—Return to Dihaou.—We Sup on a Poisonous Serpent.—Forced March through Flooded Forest to Olenda.

CHAPTER VI: Ashira-Land

Grand Palaver to Discuss the Route into the Interior.—I am Forbidden to Pass through the Apingi Country.—Messengers Sent to the Chief of Otando.—Changes in Ashira Customs.—Decrease of Population.—The Potamogale Velox.—Its Habits.—My Former Description of This Animal.—Visit to Angouka.—Immense Plantation of Plantain-trees.—Quarrel with Mpoto, Nephew of Olenda.—Difficulties and Anxieties.—First Rumours of the Smallpox.

CHAPTER VII: The Plague in Ashira-Land

Breaking out of the Smallpox Epidemic.—Noble Conduct of Quengueza.—Departure of Quengueza’s People.—Illness of the Porters.—My Commi Bodyguard Refuse to Leave Me.—Departure of Part of the Baggage to Otando-land.—Quengueza Returns to Goumbi.—Letters from Europe.—Death of Mpoto.—Death of King Olenda.—His Burial.—Cemetery of the Ademba Chiefs.—Wailing for the Dead.—Death of Retonda.—Arrival of Messengers from Máyolo.—Distrust of the Natives.—Trickery of Arangui.—I am Robbed by the Ashira People.—Diminution of the Pestilence.—Quengueza’s Message to the People of Olenda.

CHAPTER VIII: From Olenda to Máyolo

Departure from Ashira-land.—Passage of the Ovigui.—Slave Village of King Olenda.—A Slave Chief.—Difficulties with the Porters.—More Robberies.—Illness of Macondai.—Leave Him Behind.—The Otando Range of Hills.—Picturesque Cascade in the Forest.—Cross the Louvendji.—More Difficulties with the Porters.—Hunger in the Forest.—Men Sent to Máyolo for Relief.—A Night in the Forest.—Myth of Atungulu Shimba.—Koola Nut-trees.—Search for Food.—Meet with a Gorilla.—A Hungry Night.—Unselfish Act of the Ashira.—Help Arrives from Máyolo.—Mpegui Nuts.—Arrival in Otando-land.


Arrival at Máyolo.—Reception by the Chief.—Discovery of More Losses.—I Accuse the Ashira.—Their Flight.—Seizure of a Hostage.—Gathering of the Headmen of Otando.—Máyolo Falls Ill.—I am Attacked by Fever.—Great Heat and Thunderstorm.—Arrival of Macondai and Igalo.—Their Ill-treatment by the Ashira.—Loss of Photographic Camera and Chemicals.—Surgical Practice of the Otando.—A Female Doctor.—Matrimonial Squabbles.—Máyolo’s Health Improves.—Witchcraft Ordeal.—My Speech to the People.—Speech of Máyolo.—Curiosity of the Otando.—A Female Duel.—The Bashikouay Ants.—A Precocious Thief.—Máyolo again Falls Ill.—Good News from the Apono Country.—Astonishment of the Natives at the Musical-box and Magnets.—Climate of Máyolo.—Deposit of Dew.—The Otolicnus.—Recovery of Macondai.—The Alumbi Fetich.—Departure from Máyolo.

CHAPTER X: The Otando and Apono Region

Geographical Position of Máyolo.—Splendour of the Constellations as Seen from the Equatorial Regions.—The Zodiacal Light.—Twinkling of the Stars.—Meteoric Showers.—The Otando and Apono Plains, or Prairies.—The Otando People a Branch of the Ashira Nation.—Their Customs.—Filing the Teeth.—Tattooing.—Native Dogs.


The White Ants of the Prairies.—The Mushroom-hived Termes.—Interior of Their Hives.—Three classes in Each Community: Soldiers, Workers, and Chiefs.—Their Mode of Building.—The Tree Ants.—Curious Structure of Their Hives.—Their Process of Constructing Them.—The Bark Ants.—Curious Tunnels Formed by Them.—The Forest Ants.—Large Size of Their Shelters or Hives.—The Stinging Black Ant.

CHAPTER XII: Máyolo to Apono-land

Leave Máyolo.—Cross the Nomba Obana Hill.—River Dooya.—Arrival at Mouendi.—Timidity of the Inhabitants.—The Chief Nchiengain.—Arrival of Apingi Men.—Loss and Recovery of a Thermometer.—Nocturnal Reflections.—African Story of the Sun and Moon.—Smelling the White Man’s Presents.—Passage of the Ngouyai.—Hippopotami and Crocodiles; Seasons of Their Scarcity and Abundance.—Arrival at Dilolo.—Opposition of the Inhabitants to Our Entering the Village.—Pluck of My Commi Boys.—Arrival at Mokaba.—My System of a Medicine Parade for My Men.

CHAPTER XIII: The March through Apono-land

Mokaba.—Curiosity of the People.—Renewed Illness of Máyolo.—His Return to Otando.—Nchiengain’s Speech.—The Apono Agree to Take Me to the Ishogo Country.—Description of the Apono Tribe.—Their Sprightly Character.—Arts.—Weapons.—Population.—Description of Mokaba.—Palm Wine.—Drunkenness.—Ocuya Performances.—Leave Mokaba.—River Dougoundo.—Arrival at Igoumbié.—Invitation from the Elders of the Village to Remain There.—Manners of the Ishogos.—Description of Igoumbié.—The Ishogo Huts.—Arrival at Yengué, in Ishogo-land.

CHAPTER XIV: Journey through Ishogo-land

Village of the Obongos or Dwarf Negroes.—Their Dwellings.—Absence of the Inhabitants.—The Elders and People of Yengué.—Arrival of the Chief of Yengué.—War Dance of the Aponos.—Ceremony of the Mpaza.—An Uproarious Night.—Good Conduct of the Apono Porters.—The River Ogoulou.—Geographical Position and Altitude of Yengué.—Passage of the Ogoulou.—March to the Plateau of Mokenga.—Eastern Limits of Ishogo-land.—Quembila King of Mokenga.—Palavers.—Contention between Chiefs for the Possession of the “Ibamba”.—Panic in Mokenga.—Re-adjustment of Baggage.—lshogo Porters.

CHAPTER XV: From Ishogo to Ashango-land

The Ishogos.—Their Modes of Dressing the Hair.—Ishogo Villages.—Picturesque Scenery.—Granitic Boulders.—Grooved Rocks.—Leave Mokenga.—Cross the Dongon.—Continued Ascent.—Mount Migoma.—The River Odiganga.—Boundaries of Ishogo and Ashango-lands.—Arrival at Magonga.—Plateau of Madombo.—Mutiny of Ishogo Porters.—An Unfriendly Village.—Elevated Country.—Arrival and Friendly Reception at Niembouai.—The King’s Wives.—Prejudices of the Commi Men.—Hear of a large River Towards the East.—The Ashangui Tribe.—The Obongos.

CHAPTER XVI: Ashango-land

Cloudy Skies of Ashango-land.—Grand Palaver.—Ishogo Porters Dismissed.—The Village Idol.—Religious Rites.—Visit to an Obongo Village.—Abodes and Habits of the Dwarf Race.—Measurements of Their Height.—River Ouano.—Singular Ferry.—Mount Mogiama.—Its Altitude.—Village of Mongon, its Latitude, Longitude, and Height Above the Sea­-level.—Village of Niembouai Olomba.—Its Picturesque Site.—Bashikouay Ants.—Ascend Mount Birogou Bouanga.—Its Altitude.—More Troubles.—Robbed by the Ashango Porters.—Summary Measures.—Resume Our March.—Arrive at Mobana.—Departure of a Bride.—Arrival at Mouaou Kombo.

CHAPTER XVII: Fatal Disasters at Mouaou Kombo

Unpromising State of Affairs on Arriving at Mouaou Kombo.—Rakombo Is Threatened.—Obstacles Raised by the Villagers.—Fair Promises of the Chief.—A Secret Meeting of the Villagers.—Demands of the People.—We Leave the Village.—Night Encampment in the Forest.—Threats and Promises from the Next Village.—Invited to Return to Mouaou.—Reconciliation.—Arrival of a Hostile Deputation from the Next Village.—A Man Accidentally Shot.

CHAPTER XVIII: Retreat from Ashango-land

A Palaver Proposed to Settle the Death of the Man.—A Woman Killed.—The War Cry!—Retreat Commenced.—Igala and Myself Wounded with Poisoned Arrows.—Narrow Escape of Macondai and Rebouka.—We Are Closely Pursued by the Natives.—Collections and Notebooks Thrown into the Bush.—We Make a Stand.—Two Men Shot.—Pursuit Continued.—I am Wounded a Second Time.—Igalo Shoots the Bow-man.—We Make Another Stand.—Cross the Bembo.—Pass Mobana.—Still Pursued.—Make a Final Stand.—The Pursuers Driven off at Last.—A Halt.—The Party all Collected Together.—Sleep in the Forest.—Night-march through Niembouai.—Friendly Conduct of the Head Chief.—We Are Well Received at a Plantation.—Arrival of Magouga.—We Continue the March to Ishogo-land.

CHAPTER XIX: Journey to the Coast

Arrival at Mongon.—Magouga Recounts the Story of our Adventures to the Villagers.—Reach Niembouai.—Mistrust of the People.—Restitution of Stolen Property.—Magouga Consents to Guide us to Mokenga.—Reach the Last of the Ashango Villages.—Passage into Ishogo-land, and Out of Danger of Pursuit.—Magouga’s Diplomacy.—Arrival at Mokenga.—Friendly Reception.—Magouga Delivers Us Safely into the Hands of the Villagers.—My Men Exaggerate the Deeds of Valour They Had Performed.—Arrival at Yengué.—Project of Descending the Ogoulou in a Canoe.—Lose Our Way.—Distant View of the Apono Prairie.—Igoumbié.—Reach Mokoba.—The Ngouyai.—March to Nchiengain’s.—Cross the River.—Nchiengain’s Village.—Reception at Máyolo.—Operation of the African Law of Inheritance.—March to Ashira-land.—Alarm of the Ashira People.—Avoid Olenda.—Sojourn at Angouka’s.—Cross the Ofoubou.—Quengueza’s Encampment.—Sorrows of the Old King.—Devastations of the Plague at Goumbi.—Queugueza Wants to Go to the White Man’s Country.—Descend the River.—Arrival at “Plateau”.—Gratitude of the Commi People.—Departure for England.

CHAPTER XX: Physical Geography and Climate

Great Forest of Equatorial Africa.—Scanty Population.—Scarcity or Absence of Large African Animals.—Hilly Ranges.—River Systems.—The Ogobai—French Exploring Expeditions.—Amount of Rain Seasons.—Rainy Climate of Central Equatorial Africa.—Temperature.—Heat of the Sun’s Rays.—Coolness of the Forest Shades.

CHAPTER XXI: Ethnology

Isolation of the Tribes in the Interior of Western Equatorial Africa.—Scantiness of the Population.—Divisions of Tribes and Clans.—Patriarchal Form of Government.—Comparison of Customs between Western Equatorial Tribes and Eastern.—Laws of Inheritance.—Cannibalism.—Migrations Always Towards the West.—Decrease of Population.—Its Causes.—The African Race Doomed to Extinction.

APPENDIX I: Descriptions of Three Skulls of Western Equatorial Africans.—Fan, Ashira, and Fernand Vaz.—with some admeasurements of the rest of the Collection of Skulls, transmitted to the British Museum from the Fernand Vaz, by P. B. Du Chaillu. By Professor Owen, F.R.S., &c. 304

APPENDIX II: Instruments Used in the Expedition to Ashango-land.

APPENDIX III: Comparative Table of Words in Several Languages of Western Equatorial Africa.

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