A Head Scratcher, 1904

A Head Scratcher

I have witnessed all kinds of tray’s to break up ones cannabis on, small hand held ones you could cup in your palm, large tv dinner type trays, fine crystal antique pieces intended for sweets or even giant glass fruit bowls picked up at a second hand for the party situation.

But nothing could prepare you for the ‘diamba’ (cannabis) tray described in this 1904 article from the Congo…

The Hawaiian star, November 02, 1904


The Horrors of the Congo

One of the last things the Peace Congress at Boston considered was the state of affairs in the Congo Free State, asking the powers to take up discussion of the Congo, with a view to finding out where the responsibility lies for the incredible atrocities constantly reported from that part of the world. While the Congo is under the rule of King Leopold of Belgium its is assumed, on account of the agreement by which it reached its status among the nations, that there is more or less responsibility among the powers for its proper administration. The United States took part in establishing the Congo Free State under Belgian rule, as well as the powers of Europe.

As to the conditions which the Peace Congress wants to ameliorate they are almost unbelievable, yet have been described by reliable visitors so many times that it is impossible to ignore stories of most barbarous cruelties in which practically all the descriptive writers agree. A recent number of The Outlook contains an article by Booker T. Washington, giving the latest story of horror. Washington quotes a former fellow student of Hampton as giving the following account of his investigation of what is termed a “rubber raid”, the leader who made the raid being the man interviewed:

“How many did you kill?” I asked.

“We killed plenty; will you see some of them?”

“Oh, I don’t mind,” I said, reluctantly; but that was just what I wanted.

He said, “I think we have killed between 80 and 90, and those in the other villages I don’t know. I did not go, but sent my people.”

The chief and I walked out on the plain just near the camp. There were three people with the flesh carved off from the waist down.

“Why are the people carved so, leaving only the bones?” I asked.

“My people eat them,” he promptly answered. He then explained. “The men who have young children do not eat people, but all the rest eat them.”

On the left was a great big man shot in the back and without a head. (All these people were nude.)

“Where is the man’s head?” I asked.

“Oh, they made a bowl of the forehead to rub up tobacco and diamba (cannabis) in.”

We continued to walk and examine until late in the afternoon, and counted 41 bodies. The rest were eaten up by the people.

On returning to the camp we crossed a young woman, shot in the back of the head; one hand was cut away. I asked why, and Mulumba N’Cusa explained that they always cut off the right hand to give to the state on their return.

“Can you not show me some of the hands?” I asked? So he conducted me to a framework of sticks, under which was burning a slow fire, and there they were, the right hands – I counted them, 81 in all.

There are not less than 500 guns all told, and 60 women (Bena Pianga) prisoners, I saw them. Some of his followers or principal men are Lualaba, Kabunga, Kasenda and Zapo Kingonda.

The sort of raid in which these crimes are committed are undertaken simply for the punishment of villages whose inhabitants do not bring in what is regarded as their share of the supply of rubber to the traders. Even the whites who live in the Congo become hardened, says Washington, and are using the blacks in these raids knowingly and actually taking part in the slaughter. An officer of the government was recently sentenced to 15 years imprisonment “after he had been convicted of killing 122 persons.”


“A group of four Tasso men of the Poro secret society” in Sierra Leone, 1901


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