|Click any image to enlarge|
"Drums were beating, horns blowing, and people were
seen all running in one direction;—the cause was a funeral dance, and I
joined the crowd, and soon found myself in the midst of the
entertainment. The dancers were most grotesquely got
up. About a dozen huge ostrich feathers adorned their helmets; either
leopard or the black and white monkey skins were suspended from their
shoulders, and a leather tied round the waist covered a large iron bell
which was strapped upon the loins of each dancer,
like a woman's old-fashioned bustle: this they rung to the time of the
dance by jerking their posteriors in the most absurd manner.
crowd got up in this style created an indescribable hubbub, heightened
by the blowing of horns and the beating of seven
nogaras of various notes. Every dancer wore an antelope's horn
suspended round the neck, which he blew occasionally in the height of
his excitement. These instruments produced a sound partaking of the
braying of a donkey and the screech of an owl. Crowds of
men rushed round and round in a sort of "galop infernel," brandishing
their lances and iron-headed maces, and keeping tolerably in line five
or six deep, following the leader who headed them, dancing backwards.
The women kept outside the line, dancing a slow
stupid step, and screaming a wild and most inharmonious chant; while a
long string of young girls and small children, their heads and necks
rubbed with red ochre and grease, and prettily ornamented with strings
of beads around their loins, kept a very good
line, beating the time with their feet, and jingling the numerous iron
rings which adorned their ankles to keep time with the drums. One woman
attended upon the men, running through the crowd with a gourd full of
wood-ashes, handfuls of which she showered
over their heads, powdering them like millers; the object of the
operation I could not understand.
The "premiere danseuse" was immensely
fat; she had passed the bloom of youth, but, "malgre" her unwieldy
state, she kept up the pace to the last, quite unconscious
of her general appearance, and absorbed with the excitement of the
These festivities were to be continued in honour of
the dead; and as many friends had recently been killed, music and
dancing would be in fashion for some weeks."
From The Albert N'Yanza, Great Basin of the Nile
by Sir Samuel White Baker (paragraph breaks added). More images after the fold.