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Rocky rapids and sinking hopes: river travel, commercial rivalries, and political divides in Oskar Lenz's Gabon voyages, 1874-77.

German traveler Oskar Lenz (1849-1925) was hardly the most renowned of European explorers of Africa. Even so, he attracted much attention in the 1880s with his visits to Morocco, the West African interior, and the Independent State of the Congo. Before these journeys, he voyaged in Gabon from 1874 to 1877. He came to Central Africa at a pivotal moment, as the Sao Tome markets that marked the final destination of many Gabonese slaves were officially closed in 1875, and as the growing demand in North American and European countries for rubber and ivory led to radical economic changes.

This essay examines the creative ways Gabonese men tried to profit from Lenz's expedition at the opening moment of French colonial expansion. Different individuals and groups struggled against one another in their encounters with the German traveler, and these tensions illustrated the multiple responses by African communities, especially those with skills dearly needed by Europeans, such as canoe work, to the radical changes at play in the initial moment of rapid colonial expansion into Central Africa. Some individuals in river communities exploited Lenz's relatively vulnerable position by demanding gifts or stealing goods. Others used him to rebuild trading alliances ruined by new African competitors. Finally, Lenz struggled with local leaders to break past their ability to regulate trade.

This work contributes to African history in several important ways. Only a handful of researchers have considered how inland river communities coped with European expansion, even though these groups were key players in the Atlantic slave trade as they brought prisoners to the coast. (1) European governments used rivers like the Ogooue as a means of expanding and maintaining their authority in Central Africa, and thus relied upon the skills and labour of river workers. Despite the obvious point that canoe workers and porters literally bore the burdens of European colonization of Africa, the history of transport workers in early colonial Africa has only begun to attract scholarly attention. (2) Furthermore, since the early twentieth century, scholarship of Gabon has been almost entirely in French, and thus neglected Lenz's writings. Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza chroniclers briefly mentioned Lenz's visit to the Ogooue, but only to note a rare moment in the decade of the Franco-Prussian debacle: energetic Frenchmen besting a struggling, ill German in a competition with imperial implications. (3) No work has seriously investigated the major role of German interests in this French colony before World War I, even though the Woermann trading company rivaled English firms and easily surpassed the pitiful record of French companies in promoting exports of timber, ivory, and rubber from Gabon. (4)

Academic investigations of German travel narratives also have barely touched on Lenz's life and work. Cornelia Essner's sociological treatment of nineteenth-century German travelers to Africa offers a brief overview, and several surveys of German colonialism mention his fame as a geographer. Unfortunately, none actually probe any of his writings. (5) Part of the problem may lie with Lenz's career, which does not fit well into the commonly-understood borders of German empire. He became an Austrian citizen, traveled in territories claimed by the French and Leopold II rather than participating in German colonial ventures, and failed to publish much about his final mission in the Independent State of the Congo. (6)

Admittedly, Lenz's narratives pose challenges for interpretation. In many ways, his expedition exemplifies those discussed in Suzanne Zantrop's study of mid-nineteenth-century German travel narratives. Zantrop has contended that German geographers and natural scientists claimed to be serving pure knowledge rather than financial and political concerns. At the same time, though, their efforts helped the viability of possible colonial ventures, and often demeaned Africans as racially and culturally inferior. (7) To use Matthias Fielder's term, Lenz's work lay between "adventure and science," and his narrative often celebrated his own heroic masculinity, performed by mastery of local knowledge and peoples as well as productions of knowledge. (8) Literary critic Mary Louise Pratt has dubbed such rhetorical tropes as "monarch of all I survey" travel narratives, in which foreign peoples are seen as subjects to be described and controlled by the author. (9) A range of scholars have turned to nineteenth-century travel narratives about Africans to explore questions of race and constructions of foreign "other-ness" in Germany. (10)

Despite the imperialistic bent of his writings, I contend Lenz's writings remain vital sources for understanding the complicated commercial and political changes in Gabon during the fateful decade of the 1870s. An examination of how Lenz's narratives reflect German ideas about Africa, race, science, and colonialism at the dawn of the scramble for empire lies outside of the scope of this essay, although his writings are rich sources on these topics. My investigation of Lenz as a source on African history both complements the broader literature on travel narratives and serves as a reminder that this material indeed has value for scholars of Africa as well as German colonialism.

Recent analyses of German colonial ethnography and travel narratives have dealt almost exclusively with how these texts renewed their authors' anxieties and understandings of race, sexuality, and class. For example, George Steinmetz's recent magisterial review of the impact of different strands of ethnographic ideas on colonial policies states on the opening page, "Questions of the truth or accuracy of precolonial or colonial [German] ethnographic perceptions are not relevant to the causal connections explored in this book." (11) As Russell Berman has observed, cultural-studies approaches to the travel narratives at times lose a sense of an objective historical past by concentrating only on the discourses of otherness and exoticism. (12) I concur with Cornelia Essner's comment that "I therefore consider the nineteenth-century travelogues of Africa a genre which can serve as an important source for studying the European mentality ... [yet] to regard such books as also a rich source for the history of Africa is not a contradiction." (13) Lenz's agendas must be taken into account, but his detailed recordings of negotiations with local people are still valuable and unique resources.

Other sources help to reconstruct the tactics and motivations of the African communities Lenz encountered on the Ogooue River. French travelers such as Alfred Marche, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, and others discussed the same communities and often the same individuals whom Lenz encountered. They shared Lenz's desire to go to the source of the Ogooue River, his need for canoe workers to accomplish this quest, and his ethnocentric views. River communities often responded to the French ventures in the same manner they did Lenz's. Just as Lenz's expedition acted as a testing ground for colonial ventures, I argue, river communities may have used Lenz's initial visit as a template for developing strategies for negotiating with the French. I also will use oral testimonies collected from Adouma and Okande men collected in 2007 about social relations in the late nineteenth century. No memory of Lenz appears to have survived among Gabonese communities, and the hazards of analyzing oral accounts about individuals who lived over a century ago are obvious. Even so, it is striking how Lenz's narrative fits with the stories told by individual informants about famed canoe workers and chiefs who controlled river traffic and made alliances with visiting Europeans.

I will begin by situating Lenz's travels in the context of German travel narratives and local Gabonese politics. The arrival of Fang and Akele clans from northern and southern Gabon respectively in the 1860s interrupted long standing trade networks that allowed Adouma, Okande, and Galwa river communities to ship rubber, slaves, and ivory to the Atlantic via the Ogooue. In the same decade, French and English traders and officials overcame efforts by coastal Orungu communities on the Atlantic shore to bar Europeans from traveling up the Ogooue. Lenz's success on the Ogooue thus became an opportunity for Galwa, Okande, and Adouma leaders to renew trade ties broken by African competitors and to build coalitions with the influx of Europeans entering their homelands. Different men also tried to profit from Lenz by working as guides, manning his canoes, and sometimes stealing his valued trade goods.

In keeping with standard travel writings produced by late nineteenth century visitors to Africa, Lenz presented himself as a scientist battling harsh conditions and backward, superstitious Africans. Yet his limited economic and military resources forced him to negotiate with river communities on their own terms. Local leaders controlled navigation on the Ogooue River by threatening to use supernatural forces to harm those imprudent enough to try to bypass them, and Lenz found he could not easily ignore such tactics. And as the German learned time and again, canoe workers were ready to desert. However, some men did offer Lenz help in return for valued goods and the opportunity to develop new connections.

I. Situating Oskar Lenz in Gabon

Born in Leipzig to a shoemaker's family, Oskar Lenz became an assistant at the Imperial Geological Institute at Vienna in 1872, which sent him on several expeditions to Hungary, Bohemia, Slavonia, and the Alps. (14) Lenz became a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1874. In the same year, he was sent to Gabon as a member of the Deutsch afrikanischen Geschellschaft [German African Society] as part of a series of expeditions sponsored by the DAG to Angola, Gabon, and the Loango coast in the 1870s. (15) He undertook further journeys in 1879 and 1880 through the Western Sahara, crossed the central African interior between 1885 and 1887, then became a geography professor at the German University of Prague until his retirement in 1910. His private papers, including the journals he kept in Gabon, are presently held in the Staatsbibliothek Berlin.

His Gabonese excursion can be outlined as follows. (16) After coming to Libreville in June 1874, Lenz quickly managed to make his way to a German trading house in the river town of Lambarene on the middle course of the Ogooue River. After allying with the influential Enenga clan chief Renoke, he traveled eastward to the villages of Lope and Achouka, roughly 100 kilometres from Lambarene. Okande clans controlled this section of the river. Although Okande clan leaders made alliances with Lenz, many of them also performed manoeuvers designed to stall Lenz's eastward progress. Becoming ill, he returned to the coast in 1875. After several months of rest, Lenz again tried to go past the Okande clans and reached Esshake and Adouma clan settlements around the present-day town of Lastourville, almost 100 kilometres west of Okande territory. Ultimately, he felt too worn out from sickness and obstacles to go further east. He left Gabon in December 1876 for a short sojourn in Angola before returning to Europe in 1877.

Lenz was part of the rush of European scientists seeking to build a career through travel to Africa. He came to Libreville as part of a wave of European adventures who wished to use the small coastal town as a springboard into the Central African interior. Between its establishment in the 1840s until the expansion of colonial forces up the Congo River and along the coast of Cameroon in the late 1870s and early 1880s, the small French enclave on the Gabon Estuary was the only European-controlled port between Fernando Po and Angola. French explorers such as Alfred Marche and Victor Compiegne mistakenly believed that the Ogooue River, which Gabonese middlemen had successfully closed to Europeans until the early 1870s, might connect with the Congo River. (17) With the booming demand for rubber and ivory in Europe and the Americas, European trading communities expanded into rural Gabon. (18) The Liverpool firm of Hatton and Cookson and the Hamburg Woermann trading company had set up trading house on the Ogooue River by the late 1860s. Lenz was a participant in German scientific excursions to Africa and the movement of European traders and adventurers into the Gabonese interior.

When Lenz lived in the lower and middle Ogooue regions, they extended from the Atlantic Ocean to Lastoursville over 300 kilometres to the east. There he found a region undergoing dramatic economic and political changes. (19) For at least a century, a number of small, distinct clans had jealously guarded control over sections of the Ogooue River. This system resembled closely the economic and political organization of river communities on the larger Congo River to the south. (20) Scores of clans claimed control over segments of the Ogooue River and other waterways in central and southern Gabon. (21) Galwa and Enenga clans controlled the important trade center at the confluence of the Ogooue and the large Ngounie River that ran through southern Gabon. Roughly 100 kilometres east on the Ogooue, Okande clans in the settlements of Lope and Achouka purchased slaves and raw materials to sell to the Galwa and Enenga for foreign merchandise. Heading almost 100 kilometres further eastward, past the Booue rapids that only the most foolhardy canoe crew would test, Adouma clans had settled on the Ogooue. They sold slaves, ivory, rubber, and other goods to visiting Okande traders.

The fateful decade of the 1870s brought the beginnings of French political and European economic expansion up the Ogooue. The growing demand in Europe and North America for latex, palm oil, and ivory led to increased production and trade in central Gabon. As in much of central and east Africa, this competition for natural resources led to the rise of new leaders and brought about a tremendous amount of violence between Africans for access to resources and trade routes. (22) By the late 1860s, European traders, naval officers, and missionaries undermined this system of intermediary trade by going up the Ogooue to Lambarene Island, well over 100 kilometres away from the Atlantie. (23) These efforts did not cause transatlantic slave trading to cease. Only the Portuguese abolition of slavery in 1875 and the renewal of French ambitions on the Gabonese coast brought the slave trade to Sao Tome to an end. (24)

French claims of sovereignty extended only as far as Lambarene when Lenz first came there in 1874. However, by the time he left Gabon over two years later, French authorities claimed control over the entire Ogooue River basin. Two adventurers, Victor Compiegne and Alfred Marche, had undertaken a voyage up the Ogooue in 1873. The first Europeans to reach Okande settlements, they traveled to the confluence of the Ogooue and Ivindo Rivers with the aid of Okande canoemen. However, Fang clans attacked the convoy on 10-11 March 1874, leaving Marche wounded and the Okande escorts in mortal fear of further assaults. (25) The two Frenchmen returned to France. Their exploits helped inspire Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, a young naval officer, to launch a new expedition up the Ogooue in November 1875. De Brazza even made his spring 1876 camp close to Lenz at Lope, an Okande-controlled slave market in the heart of the hilly grasslands along the middle Ogooue. (26) De Brazza observed Lenz's departure from the Ogooue region from Adouma clan settlements near Malundu (Lastourville) in August 1876. The two men treated each other cordially, but Lenz never joined de Brazza's mission.

New truculent African competitors also threatened the longstanding commercial ties between Ogooue clans. Bakele clans migrating from the south and east and Fang-speaking clans coming from the north attacked the lucrative position of Enenga, Okande, Galwa, and Adouma traders as middlemen between African producers and European merchants. (27) In the 1870s, they also took over the dangerous rapids that stretched east from modem-day Ndjole to the Booue waterfall, thus cutting off direct access between the Okande in the west to the Adouma in the east. Bakele raiders occupied much of the region between Lambarene and the Ndjole falls, separating Galwa and Enenga people from Okande settlements further west. Lenz learned from his Adouma and Okande contacts that fear of Fang attacks had almost entirely cut off contact between the two communities years before his arrival in 1875. (28)

The fragmentation of political power on the Ogooue baffled Lenz. Like many German travelers, he preferred the idea of working with a few powerful rulers compared to the prospect of dealing with the many small microstates. (29) "It is indeed a misfortune that there are no great Negro kingdoms [in Gabon] any more," he wrote, "Now, they are broken up into countless small communities who each have their own individual chief. Each chief seeks to convince the whites that he is the most influential one, each seeks to eXploit the traveler as much as possible, and it is all done in the friendliest way until the traveler is forced to return home stripped bare of all resources." (30) Perhaps for a German raised before unification, the tiny principalities of the Ogooue River struck an uncomfortably familiar nerve. No evidence indicates that any large centralized state ever existed on the Ogooue. Lenz was not alone in trying to follow how the clans worked; American and French visitors struggled to define Gabonese people with labels based on territory and language, rather than recognize the fluid, multilingual clans. (31)

Gabonese spiritual practices also aroused Lenz's ire. Navigation on the Ogooue was carefully controlled by beliefs regarding dangerous ombwiri water spitits. (32) Gabonese people plying the Ogooue today continue to believe that dangerous ombwiri reside at various sections of the river, particularly near hazardous rapids. Like stories told of rich and dangerous shape-shifting encantados living in the Amazon, the Ogooue's ombwiri are viewed not only as tantalizing sources of wealth and power, but also as frightening and unpredictable. (33) They could offer wealth and safe travel if properly appeased, but could also drown unlucky canoe crews, especially those who offended the spirits. (34) Different clans claimed to control individual spiritual forces, and could therefore block competitors from moving freely on the river. Mid-nineteenth-century chiefs like the Adouma leader Ndoba and the Enenga leader Renoke are still remembered for their magical abilities to communicate with ombwiri. Many Adouma informants boasted in 2007 how Ndoba froze de Brazza's canoe in the middle of the Ogooue to retaliate for not being paid a toll. (35)

For Lenz, such ideas constituted a serious threat to himself as an emissary of Western knowledge. "The inhabitants of the Middle Ogooue region have a really complicated set of superstitious customs, supported and maintained by a scheming class of priest kings," he protested. (36) Such statements allowed him to represent himself as a heroic scientist battling African ignorance. De Brazza likewise presented his success in traveling upriver as a heroic victory of European progress over primitive beliefs. In 1880, he told a group of Adouma chiefs that he embodied the power of France, and that he had vanquished their old power: "As you have said, the [Ogooue] route belongs to me," he crowed. "I take it in my hand and I hold it tight." (37) It would be otherwise with Lenz. Instead of reveling in claims of mastery, the German geographer was often held immobile by the complicated rules that regulated navigation on the river.

Lenz thus became an independent operator on the Ogooue River in the mid-1870s. His regular entourage was made up of a small number of Senegalese veterans of the French colonial army, some Omyene-speaking Mpongwe people from Libreville, and a manservant from the Kru coast of Liberia. Other than this small troop of a dozen or so permanent auxiliaries, he had to recruit canoemen and find allies in local river communities. Gabonese leaders and workers along the Ogooue sought to benefit from Lenz's patronage, even as many of the German's goals ultimately ran aground on local resistance to his plans to travel further eastward down the Ogooue.

II. "Most Bitter Experiences": River Travel and Commercial Negotiations in Lenz's Voyages on the Middle Ogooue, 1875-76

On the morning of 19 June 1875, Oskar Lenz prepared to leave the Woermann trading house at Lambarene for Okande territory further east. (38) His permanent entourage, as well as an assortment of Galwa and Enenga men, loaded onto his 80-foot canoe the goods he expected to pay out for food, gifts, and salaries: gunpowder, guns, cloth, thick and thin spools of brass wire, knives, beads of different colors, and salt. He and his crew launched the craft into the Ogooue River after giving a round of final farewells. This last gesture proved to be a bit premature. Lenz's vessel began to sink within minutes, unable to bear so much merchandise. Much of "[the cargo] was lost underwater, never to be seen again," he recalled. (39) The situation grew even worse as crewmen and onlookers tried to make off with goods in the confusion. One of Lenz's Senegalese soldiers nearly killed an old man who tried to steal some salt and gunpowder, and the German barely managed to push his guard's arm away just as he fired. Such heroics were par for the course in European travel narratives of Africa, with a lone hero battling unruly and dangerous Africans. Lenz lauded his own sangfroid at such a sight: "There never can be any success with a traveler who becomes agitated [about such incidents] and who allows himself to lose his inward calm through the physical suffering brought about by the climate." (40)

Lenz's narratives often disparaged Africans to celebrate his own abilities, but in reality he needed local patronage. The Enenga chief Renoke rescued his German visitor from the disaster and prepared the way for him to resume his travels. Marche and Compiegne declared in 1873 that the Enenga leader Renoke was nothing but a deceitful liar who, despite promises of aid, wished to stop their expedition. (41) However, the chief appears entirely benevolent in Lenz's account, warning his people and the boat crew to not steal from his European guest. (42) Few dared openly ignore his advice, for it was said he had given up his sight to gain secret knowledge to control ombwiri river spirits. (43) As Lenz noted, "Renoke still had a great reputation as a sorcerer and necromancer on the entire Ogooue. Whoever aroused his wrath would end up dead in a few days! Renoke's reputation can be used by Europeans as long as one remained on good terms with him. The traveler could be left condemned to utter wretchedness if Renoke wished it." (44) The old chief backed Lenz, watching over his camp at night, and imploring ombwiri not to harm his guest. (45)

Lenz found such incidents humorous, but did not mock the chief's other efforts to back him. Renoke profited from Lenz's delayed departure by arranging a truce with hostile Bakele clans who actually had been ready to ambush the expedition on the day of the canoe mishap. On 28 June 1875, Lenz left with two canoes to avoid repeating his first fiasco, and reached Okande settlements with little trouble after a three-week voyage. Later on, Renoke lobbied Okande people to support Lenz's journey to the Adouma as a way of reopening trade. (46) The Enenga leader benefited from these arrangements, purchasing roughly ten slaves on his first voyage to Okande territory. Such maneuvers did not trouble Lenz as they did de Brazza: "If I had wanted to give the Ininga a sermon on the evils of slavery, they would have left me alone, and I would have had to abandon my trip in the interior." (47) Hardly an abolitionist, Lenz declared that the Portuguese abolition of slavery in 1876 had ruined the economies of Sao Tome and Angola. (48)

This incident illustrates some of the ambiguous responses that Lenz's expedition created along the Ogooue River. As Julien Bonhomme bas recently contended, mid-nineteenth-century travelers like Paul du Chaillu and Lenz embodied wealth to people in the Gabonese interior, who had long obtained imported merchandise from slave trading but never had actually met any Europeans themselves. (49) Gabonese people certainly tried to obtain as much wealth as possible from Lenz, and expected him to show generosity and largesse. However, Lenz learned the terms of negotiation during his long stay in Gabon: by making alliances with clan chiefs like Renoke, he could rely on them to help protect his store of goods and to provide him with geographic and ethnographic knowledge. He also became versed in combining the promise of wealth with the threat of force, as demonstrated by his decision to save the Gabonese thief. Clan chiefs could use Lenz as a means of opening negotiations with other clans to settle feuds and promote trade.

Lastly, the canoe incident reflected Lenz's dependence on local labour and vessels. Steamers allowed Europeans to bypass the efforts of local communities to control travel on other major rivers such as the Congo. In contrast, rapids and waterfalls, along with the shallow depth of the Ogooue river, made navigation in European steamers extremely difficult upriver from Lambarene, so canoes remained the main mode of transport on the Ogooue until after independence in 1960. Lenz's need for indigenous support was certainly not lost on the Galwa, Adouma, and Okande villages that provided him with boats and rowers. They often tried to benefit as much as possible from their service with the new arrival, but they risked danger from other Gabonese who wished to stop or rob Lenz. The shifting tactics and ambitions of local people may help explain the radically divergent impressions these individuals left on Lenz and French visitors. While Marche and Compiegne believed that Okande chiefs backed French interests, Lenz grew to despise most of them for not helping him enough.

Lenz's two long stays in Okande villages further reveal the way that he inadvertently entered into conflicts and new alliances. Of his stay, be wrote, "During my long sojourn in Okande territory, I would have the bitterest experiences of the disloyalty and irresoluteness of the Negroes." (50) When he first came to the Ogooue, he discovered that local clan chiefs and workers wished him to stay rather than pushing further eastward. Part of their resistance to Lenz's plans came from memories of the failed Compiegne and Marche expedition of 1874. A number of Okande canoe workers had died in the ambush by Fang-speaking clans. While Lenz headed for the Okande regions, he found en route two Galwa men that Fang raiders had shot and left for dead. (51) However, Fang attacks were not the only reason for the delay tactics Okande workers used against Lenz. To the west of the Okande, Galwa and Apindji clans had previously paid Okande merchants large advances of imported goods for a future delivery of slaves. Since the Fang attacks had interrupted trade, Okande people could not obtain the needed slaves. Some feared that Adouma clans might retaliate by holding Okande visitors as pawns until debts were paid. (52)

Besides the risks of travel in either direction, Okande people had other reasons to keep their guest with them. Rather than having a central leader, the Okande were dominated from different clans vying with one another for influence. An older Okande chief at Lope, Ambuedja, shunned Lenz. Buadja, a notable figure in the Lope slave market, became Lenz's patron in spite of his young age. (53) As a relative of Renoke, Buadja entered Lenz's good graces. He offered his services as a guide, several dozen canoe workers, and an ample supply of boats to Lenz so that trade could be reopened between Adouma villages and the Okande. Buadja also helped cement his alliance by guiding Lenz on an elephant hunt, playing on Lenz's curiosity about local fauna. (54) Lenz claimed that the whole Okande population was amazed by his gifts to Buadja: "An old shimmering hussar's uniform, a splendidly pompous French helmet, and an old cavalry saber." (55) Lenz, along with many American and French residents of nineteenth-century Gabon, derided local appropriations of European dress as indication of the primitive and decadent nature of Africans. (56) Yet such dress may have drawn a very different response among the Okande; only powerful and wealthy Omyene-speaking chiefs like Renoke who traded directly with Europeans could obtain such outfits. (57) Buadja might have been an object of ridicule for Lenz, but his dazzling outfits displayed his trade connections and made a very young man appear equal to the great trader chiefs of the Gabonese coast.

Buadja's ambition to profit from the renewal of the supply of slaves, rubber, and ivory for trade with the east ran into a roadblock. (58) Ndschoa, a powerful diviner and healer at Achouka, opposed his plans. According to Lenz, Ndschoa had the reputation of being the most powerful divination specialist (nganga in most Gabonese languages) of the Okande and had become angry for some reason with Buadja. One possible reason for this conflict was Achouka's position as the most eastern Okande town on the Ogooue. Buadja and Lenz's voyage would potentially bypass Ndschoa's own claims to control the border between Okande territory and the Fang clans further east.

Lenz had tremendous difficulty in resolving the dispute between Buadja and Ndschoa in late 1875 and 1876. The nganga was doubtlessly a member of the male mwiri power association that existed throughout central and southern Gabon. According to elderly informants in Achouka in 2007, nineteenth-century Okande communities made a distinction between chiefs holding political power and leaders of the mwiri. Much as elsewhere in central and southern Gabon, mwiri initiates in Okande settlements met regularly to enforce political boundaries between clans and claimed to command supernatural powers linked to spirits of the forest. (59) Such information escaped Lenz, who saw such tensions as another example of African ignorance: "Secular and spiritual authorities were in conflict. It was a microcosm of the relations between the Pope and the [Holy Roman] emperor." (60)

Ndschoa had a great advantage over Buadja due to his formidable claims of mystical power that could protect or destroy canoes. Members of one clan passing into the domain of another were expected to make sacrifices and undergo ceremonies to appease the spiritual forces of other clans. (61) When Ndschoa did not give his permission to Buadja, other Okande men did not want to try their luck on a river full of natural hazards, opposing clans, and malevolent spirits.

Rather than refuse Lenz's requests to travel outright, Buadja's supporters took another approach. One effort in early 1876 to leave Achouka for the east came to naught after the first night. Buadja had supplied Lenz with about a hundred men for his canoes, bur they fled home once they saw the first Fang village en route. An nganga who had joined the voyage tried to convince the workers to continue, but apparently his assurances failed. (62) The canoe crew stranded Lenz on a rocky island with only his small entourage of Senegalese, Mpongwe, and Kru workers. These unfortunates trudged back to Achouka. Mass desertion was perhaps the most common form of organized resistance to European employers, and was used time and again by crews who dared not risk traveling into hostile waters or wanted more pay. (63) The long rainy season from February to April hindered Lenz's progress, and he had to wait months before Buadja and Ndschoa finally came to an agreement.

On 4 April 1876, Lenz participated in a series of ceremonies designed to settle previous disputes within Okande clans and--at least according to the European spectator--to show oif the might of the Okande people against the threat of Fang raiders. (64) Lenz's plans had created an opportunity for Okande clan leaders to resolve their differences. All the political leaders of the Okande attended, including Buadja and Ambuedja. Mindoundou, the head of Achouka village, was at odds with Buadja and the other Okande clan leaders. (65) Yet the independent-minded chief deigned to come to the large meeting. During these discussions, Okande warriors acted out a series of what Lenz believed were war games, but were more likely initiations of boys into mwiri. At the end of the day, Ndschoa, Mindoundou, and Buadja all assured Lenz that they would henceforth back the expedition. Lenz was hardly impressed by what he deemed as "this circle of madness" and steeled himself for more disappointments with his ostensible allies.

The next day, Ndschoa as well as other Okande came to show their support the departure of Lenz's crew. The following activities show the importance of female Okande in the organization of canoe workers. (66) The nganga visited each canoe and handed out antelope horns filled with black, greasy liquid that was said to contain supernatural powers. When he arrived, the villagers crouched and praised Ndschoa at first. However, a group of the crew's wives and female relatives then made a ring around the diviner. These women warned Ndschoa that they would take their revenge on the nganga if misfortunate befell anyone on the journey. Their threats reached such a point that Ndschoa himself withdrew in haste from the village. Another nganga came to the crew and received the same treatment from Okande women. He had wisely brought one of his own wives with him to cool down the angry crowd and to convince them that their sons, husbands, and other relatives would come back safely. These actions indicate how women influenced the ostensibly male domain of long-distance canoe travel. This appears to have been a common phenomenon. When Lenz left Renoke's village, the old chief was accosted in similar fashion by dancing Enenga women. (67)

Despite these preparations, Lenz's Okande escort deserted him again. A short time after he left Achouka, he reached the rocky confluence of the Ofooue and Ogooue Rivers, where the first settlements of Fang clans were located. (68) Once there, the nganga accompanying the canoes made a series of marks in kaolin clay on the arms and faces of the canoe workers to safeguard them from attack. These talismans were never tested, however: the entire Okande escort ran away. Lenz had to retreat to Lambarene for several months. After he turned again to Renoke's patronage, he returned a second time to Okande territory in the summer of 1876. Lenz met again with Buadja, believing that he still wished to reach the Adouma clan villages to buy slaves and reopen trade. Buadja, however, was hindered by the jealousy of older chiefs and the unwillingness of Okande people to take on the risk of Fang attacks further east. Despite two more long months of negotiations, Ndschoa and other leaders seemed determined to keep Lenz's patronage in their own villages rather than allow him to reach Adouma clans.

After yet another mass desertion, Lenz sought to find other potential partners. He first tried to Convince Simba clans living on the Ofooue river south of Achouka to help make an alternate route to the Adouma towns. (69) This project fell apart once Okande trading associates of the Simba threatened to retaliate against them if they joined with Lenz. However, this move appears to have been enough to convince Buadja to send a large delegation to Lenz's camp towards the end of 1876 to induce his return. As a sign of good faith, the hundreds of Okande porters who came to bear Lenz's supplies back to their territory did not steal anything.

Lenz, aware that the Okande might again begin stalling, made contacts with a Fang-speaking clan living near his temporary Simba hosts. Okande leader Mindoundou also helped build contacts between Lenz and the Fang, perhaps in a bid to strengthen his own position against other Okande clan chiefs. Fang clans had long sought to break through the chain of commercial intermediaries on the Ogooue and the Gabonese coast that separated them from direct association with European merchants. Lenz recognized how much Okande canoe men feared Fang attacks. He therefore brought some Fang warriors back with him west to Lope and Achouka. Lenz had learned how to play the fractured commercial and political networks of the Middle Ogooue region to his own advantage, and finally left Achouka with an escort of Fang men and one young Okande man. Lenz found once he returned to the Ofooue River that there was only one canoe available, and it was so battered that it could barely stay afloat. This very canoe had actually been stolen from Lenz's entourage when his Okande rowers had abandoned him, and then sabotaged to prevent the German from easily reusing it.

Lenz's Fang entourage proved to be of great use, since Fang-speaking clans had occupied the north Ogooue bank between the Ofooue and Booue, but also suffered from the same troubles that divided his erstwhile Okande acquaintances. Surrounded by Fang men, the sole Okande later left in Lenz's service fled into a hut in a Fang village once Lenz discovered that the de Brazza mission had arrived in the same town. (70) Instead, the isolated young man begged the German to let him join de Brazza's mission to save himself from being killed. Fang villagers mocked the young man as he scurried out of Lenz's camp, but they soon had their own difficulties to contend with. Fang clans regularly battled each other over marriage disputes and access to trade routes. Near Booue Lenz learned that the Bniam clam that backed him was feuding with the Fang clans that had attacked Marche and Compiegne in 1874, and that a roundabout land route was the only way he could reach the great Adouma market at Mulundu (Lastoursville) southeast on the Ogooue.

Lenz had exchanged his Okande associates for their hated Fang rivals. When he returned to his camp in Okande territory after a week with the Fang to prepare for the land march with his escort of forty Fang porters, he warily prepared for efforts by Okande people to avenge themselves on their Fang rivals by enslaving or holding hostage members of Lenz's new supporters. (71) In retaliation, Okande villagers refused to sell food to Lenz's expedition, and rumors spread that poison would be used to kill the Fang interlopers. Lenz responded by disarming any Okande man with a gun near his camp, executing an Okande man accused of stealing from his stores, and spurning an agitated delegation of Okande chiefs who reported that the Fang clans were the biggest liars and most gruesome cannibals on the Ogooue. The warm welcome Lenz received among the Fang clans, whose the Okande men so despised, belied these warnings, but the German traveler still managed to run into yet more trouble. He became ill with fever and compounded his misery through an accident while boiling water, which left him hobbling through dense, unpopulated rainforests. (72) Lenz was amazed at the rich amount of unexploited rubber vines and numerous elephant tracks, his pitiful condition barely allowed him to reach the Ogooue again.

Lenz thus had broken free of Okande tactics to take advantage of his isolation and his wealth. His experiences expose the varied strategies employed by local leaders to maintain control over commercial routes. Besides warfare, indigenous leaders and workers on the Ogooue River also employed sabotage, rumors, theft, and the threat of supernatural force to restrict the free movement of people and merchandise through areas they claimed to control. However, local leaders and men who aspired to build wealth and connections also sought to build alliances. Lenz's wealth and weapons attracted partners relatively easily, but his troubles with the Okande also indicate in a fragmentary manner how Gabonese traders and chiefs developed partnerships with each other. Buadja's contacts with Renoke and the bonds between Simba and Fang-speaking clans offer glimpses of alliance building. Lenz's further misadventures with Adouma clans also indicate the goals and negotiation tactics of river leaders.

III. Stranded among the Lords of the River: Adouma-Okande connections in Lenz's Voyage

Oskar Lenz's plan in late 1876 to reach Adouma settlements fit well with Okande and Adouma aspirations. These two sets of clans appeared to have had close ties from at least the early nineteenth century. Liduma, the language of Adouma clans, is closely related to the Nzebi and Awandji languages spoken further south, and is quite different than Kandekande, the language of the Okande. However, canoe travel and trade comprised the two main occupations of men in both sets of clans. One figure that briefly appears in Lenz's account embodies these alliances: Ndoba. As noted earlier, Adouma and Okande informants describe him as the master of the Ogooue, able to walk over the Ndume waterfall thanks to his arcane mystical knowledge; however, these accounts may refer to several different men. (73) One Ndoba hosted de Brazza on his missions through Mulundu, while Lenz refers to another Ndoba who came to visit Okande settlements in the summer of 1876. (74) Lenz and de Brazza had broken the Fang clans' blockade against river trade, allowing Ndoba to return. Okande chief Ambuedja was so delighted by Ndoba's arrival that he ordered dances to be held in his honor and even took his name as a sign of respect. As de Brazza claimed several years later that Ambuedja had a special monopoly over commerce between Okande and Adouma clans, this may have been a long-standing partnership. (75) Perhaps out of fear of potential theft, Ndoba brought no slaves, but told his Okande associates that many captives were awaiting sale back in his home.

Lenz left the Okande in the summer of 1876 and returned to the Ogooue at Salako, a river town controlled by the Osaka clan, which belonged neither to the Adouma or the Okande. There, he began a partnership with Adouma canoe workers. This coalition proved to be nearly as thorny as Lenz's previous agreements with Okande villages. The Osaka clan's skill in ironwork brought Okande and Adouma traders to them, as well as members of the group Lenz dubbed as "Oschebo". (76) This ethnic label is not mentioned in other contemporary accounts of the region, but probably refers to clans that now identify themselves as "Asihou" or "Sisiou."

One Adouma man, Epopo, offered to guide Lenz down the river. (77) He left Salako to get canoes from Adouma villages for Lenz. While he was gone, some Oschebo claimed falsely that Epopo had been seized and killed, apparently wishing to usurp Epopo's role as a broker and potential trade associate; Epopo soon returned, unaware of his supposed demise.

Thanks to his young Adouma comrade, Lenz moved eastward and finally reached an Adouma village on 24 June 1876. He was apparently the first European to ever reach the Adouma homeland. Adouma people responded to Lenz much as Gisir and other clans, twenty years earlier, had treated Paul Du Chaillu as a supernatural figure bearing wealth and secret knowledge. (78) Some Adouma people were disturbed by Lenz's attempt to write down a short vocabulary list, and his efforts to make meteorological observations using a thermometer seemed potentially dangerous and supernatural. Like Du Chaillu, Lenz was amused by this response: "[This] is a good thing, because otherwise a single traveler would not ever manage to get along with these people." (79) However, village chiefs such as Mwata sent Lenz men as porters and rowers. Their motives were clear. Okande traders had much better access to coveted foreign imports than their isolated Adouma associates. Lenz paid only a handful of salt to each canoe worker for the same tasks that he had to pay a whole sack for Okande rowers to perform. (80)

Yet the same parceling out of contracts among different clans, along with Lenz's draconian leadership, again led to frustrating moments. Mwata brought Lenz to the southeastern border of Adouma territory under the control of another chief, Suaniambungu, who controlled movement across the Ndume waterfall by placing a series of logs across parts of the river. (81) Lenz chose to make one last push further east before returning to Europe. His friend Epopo again aided him by recruiting Suamambungu and some of his villagers to travel to a Shaka clan settlement upriver. However, morale among the Adouma canoemen collapsed after the first night. Lenz refused to allow his entourage to camp in a village on the northern bank of the river. (82) Rather, he preferred that they rest on the uninhabited south bank, where they could not find refuge if they tried to leave the expedition. Suamambungu asserted he had no power to make his restless men work. Lenz responded immediately: "My servants loaded their breechloader rifles in a very impressive way and declared to all of the Adouma that anyone who jumped in the river to escape would be shot." (83) After landing the canoes, Lenz and his loyal allies watched the unlucky Adouma throughout the night. Lenz managed to reach the Baschaka settlement soon afterwards, but then learned that part of the Adouma contingent had escaped. Only by assuring Suamambungu that he would go no further eastward, was Lenz able to keep the rest of his Adouma canoe workers for another day. (84) However, they then chose to flee back home, leaving the chief to face Lenz's anger. (85) Worn out, Lenz returned in mid-July 1876 to Adouma territory and subsequently returned to Okande territory only with the aid of Fang clans.

Lenz's many troubles again reveal how canoe workers and chiefs could defend their interests, as well as the ambivalent reactions that a European-traveler could spark among Gabonese riverine communities. The decentralized nature of clan politics made long voyages down the Ogooue a complicated and risky affair. Local clan leaders sought to guard their command of stretches of the river, yet at the same time wished to profit from the German's rich stores. Backed by less military might than de Brazza, Lenz was obliged him to negotiate constantly with local communities and his own Adouma workers. And, as the repeated strikes against Lenz's expedition indicate, superiority of arms alone did not guarantee Europeans victory in labour disputes.

Also, enterprising younger men like Epopo could find a way to profit personally from close association with Europeans. The commercial and technological benefits of Lenz's presence also attracted attention, albeit in an ambivalent way. Lenz might be recognized as a powerful and rich figure, but one whose temperament and position posed problems. These reactions and defensive strategies would become hallmarks of alternately compliant and recalcitrant river trading communities for the next two decades, until firmer military control and the French concessionary regime headed by the Societe du Haut Ogooue company seriously weakened the ability of Okande and Adouma traders and canoe workers to safeguard their autonomy. (86)

IV. Conclusion

Oskar Lenz ultimately failed in his bid to reach the Congo River via the Ogooue, and his writings about his Gabonese travels have remained almost entirely forgotten. Despite such neglect, his work Skizzen aus West-Afrika is a valuable examination of commercial and political tensions in central Gabon at the opening moments of French expansion, and the closure of Atlantic slave markets.

Many of Lenz's Gabonese acquaintances went on to treat French authorities the same way they had Lenz. Renoke and Buadja both served de Brazza's efforts to control trade on the middle Ogooue. One Okande chief praised de Brazza in 1880 for having worked with Buadja to keep direct trade open from Libreville to Adouma territory, and Buadja received many gifts for his services. (87) Suamambungu and Ndoba both staffed the giant canoe convoys that de Brazza organized to maintain his expeditions in the late 1870s. (88) As during Lenz's expedition, wrecks and mishaps also continued to prove occasionally lucrative for canoe workers. (89) So did strikes against canoe work. (90) Furthermore, younger men like Buadja and Ndoba continued to build their prestige and influence by supplying French officials with canoe workers and support throughout the late nineteenth century. (91) River community leaders thus chose to back French colonial officials as they had Lenz.

Such practices illustrate the leverage that skilled watercraft workers held in negotiations dependent on their services. Ironically, despite the plethora of studies examining the importance of African intermediaries in social and cultural change, Africans who rowed canoes and boats have received little attention. In contrast, studies of maritime workers in Atlantic and American contexts have highlighted the ability of skilled maritime workers to bargain successfully for more benefits. (92) Despite a few notable exceptions, transport workers in late-nineteenth-century Africa on the onset of imperial invasion and commercial change have rarely attracted much attention. (93) Oskar Lenz's struggles point to the need for more research on African maritime and river communities.

Finally, this essay contends that German travel accounts, like their better-known Anglo-American counterparts, have value for African as well as European historians. There is no question that Lenz's narrative presents him as a noble and manly hero, serving science by battling dangerous rivers, diseases, and irrational Gabonese, using Africa as a foil to celebrate aggressive masculinities. (94) Racist and ethnocentric views colored his descriptions of encounters with Gabonese communities. Though he was a careful observer, he had trouble grasping local religious and political institutions. Even so, it would be an error to ignore the value of his writings when so much of Gabon's history remains unwritten, and through references to other written and oral sources, one can contextualize these travel narratives to highlight African agency rather than European mastery.

(1) The only detailed work examining river communities in the age of high imperialism remains Robert Harms, River of Wealth. River of Sorrow: The Central Zaire Basin in the Era of the Slave and Ivory Trade. 1500-1891 (New Haven, 1981).

(2) One important exception is Stephen Rockel, Carriers of Culture: Labour on the Road in Nineteenth-Century East Africa (Portsmouth, 2006).

(3) Alfred Marche, Trois voyages dans l'Afrique occidentale : Senegal, Gambie, Casamance, Gabon, Ogooue (Paris, 1879), pp. 256-58; Napoleon Ney (ed.), Conferences et lettres de. P. Savorgnan de Brazza sur ses trois explorations dans l'Ouest africain, de 1875 a 1886 (Paris, 1887), pp. 20-21.

(4) The success of Woermann against French competitors in Gabon was naturally a sore point, and only World War I allowed the French to finally close the colony to German trade. For a lengthy discussion of German trade before the war, see Archives Nationales, Fonds Ministriels, Aix-enProvence, France, Affaires Politiques Carton 116, Dossier 1, Lt. Governor of Gabon Guyon, "Enquete sur le Commerce Austro-Allemande de l'avant-guerre au Gabon," 1 July 1916.

(5) Cornelia Essner, Deutsche Afrikareisende im neunzehten Jahrhundert: Zur Sozialgeschiehte des Reisens (Stuttgart, 1985), pp. 86-87; Horst Grunder, Geschichte der deutschen Kolonien (Munich, 1995), p. 39; Russell Berman, Enlightenment or Empire: Colonial Discourse in German Culture (Lincoln, 1998), p. 1.

(6) Essler, Deutsche Afrikareisende, pp. 86-87; Barbara Kofler and Walter Sauer, "Scheitern in Usambara: Die Meyer-Baumannische Expedition in Ostafrika 1888," Weiner Geschichtsblatter, 53 (1998), p.l, fn 8.

(7) Suzanne Zantrop, Colonial Fantasies: Conquest, Family, and Nation in Precolonial Germany, 1770-1870 (Durham, 1997), pp. 6-7, 31-42, 191-92.

(8) Matthias Fielder, Zwischen Abenteuer, Wissenschaft und Kolonialismus: Der deutsche Afrikadiskurs im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert (Cologne, 2005).

(9) Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (New York, 1992), pp. 204-213.

(10) Other than Zantrop and Fieldler, other works include: Essner, Deutsche Afrikareisende; Berman, Enlightenment or Empire; Sara Friedrichsmeyer, Sara Lennox and Susanne Zantop, The Imperialist Imagination: German Colonialism and Its Legacy (Ann Arbor, 1998); Lora Wildenthal, German Women for Empire, 1884-1945 (Durham, 2001); Karin Schestokat, German Women in Cameroon: Travelogues from Colonial Times (New York, 2003); Eric Ames, Marcia Klotz, Lora Wildenthal (eds.), German's Colonial Pasts (Lincoln, 2005); George Steinmetz, The Devil's Handwriting: Precoloniality and the German Colonial State in Qingdao. Samoa, and Southwest Africa (Chicago, 2007).

(11) Steinmetz, Devil's Handwriting, p. xiii.

(12) Berman, Enlightenment or Empire, p. 14.

(13) Cornelia Essner, "Some Aspects of German Travellers' Accounts from the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century," Paideuma, 33 (1987), p. 204.

(14) Drawn from the following sources: "Di'. Oskar Lenz: Obituary," Geographical Journal, 66:2 (1925), p. 180; Essner, Deutsche Afrikareisende, pp. 80-87: Website, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (URL:

(15) On the activities of the DAG in Central Africa during the 1870s, see Beatrix Hentze, "Ethnographic Appropriations: German Exploration and Fieldwork in West-Central Africa," History in Africa, 26 (1999), pp. 69-128; Johannes Fabian, Out of Our Minds: Reason and Madness in the Exploration of Central Africa (Berkeley, 2000).

(16) Oskar Lenz, Skizzen aus West-Afrika (Berlin, 1878), pp. 8-10.

(17) On Compiegne and Marche, see Louis Compiegne, L'Afrique equatoriale, vol. 1 (Paris, 1877); Alfred Marche, Trois voyages dans l'Afrique occidentale (Paris, 1879); Louis Compiegne, L'Afrique equatoriale, vol. 2, 3rd edn (Paris, 1885). For a general account of European voyages down the Ogooue before the de Brazza expeditions beginning in 1876, see Christopher Chamberlin, "Competition and Conflict: The Development of the Bulk Export Trade in Central Gabon during the 19th Century" (PhD diss. University of California Los Angeles, 1977), pp. 166-77.

(18) For general information on commercial and political change in nineteenth-century Gabon, see K. David Patterson, The Northern Gabon Coast to 1875 (Oxford, 1975); Chamberlin, "Competition"; Henry Bucher, "The Mpongwe of the Gabon Estuary: A History to c. 1860" (PhD diss. University of Wisconsin, 1977); Francois Gaulme, Le pays du Cama (Paris, 1981); Joseph Ambouroue-Avaro, Un peuple gabonais a l'aube de la colonization (Paris, 1981); Elikia M'Bokolo, Noirs et blancs en Afrique equatoriale (Paris, 1981); Georges Dupre, Un ordre et sa destruction (Paris, 1982); Pierre-Philippe Rey, Colonialisme. neo-colonialisme et transition au capitalisme: exemple de la Comilog au Congo-Brazzaville (Paris, 1971); Annie Merlet, Les pays des trois estuaries (Libreville, 1991); Anges Francois Ratanga-Atoz, Les peuples du Gabon occidental 1839-1914 (Libreville, 1999); Christopher Gray and Francois Ngolet, "Lambarene, Okoume, and the Transformation of Labour along the Middle Ogooue (Gabon), 1870-1945," Journal of African History, 40 (1999), pp. 87-107; Christopher Gray, Colonial Rule and Crisis in Equatorial Africa: Southern Gabon. c. 1850-1940 (Rochester, 2002).

(19) I draw the bulk of this discussion from the following sources: Brunschwig, Brazza l'explorateur: L'Ogooue; Patterson, Northern Gabon, pp. 68-89, 131-43; Chamberlin, "Competition," 13596; Gray and Ngolet, "Lambarene"; Gray, Colonial Rule and Crisix, pp. 27-93.

(20) Hamas, River of Wealth, River of Sorrow. For a general overview of the slave trade in Central Africa, see Jan Vansina, Paths in the Rainforest: Toward a History of Political Tradition in Equatorial Africa (Madison, 1990), pp. 197-235; John Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800 (Cambridge, 1998); Joseph Miller, "Central Africa During the Era of the Slave Trade," in Linda Heywood (ed.), Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 21-70.

(21) See Gray, Colonial Rule, pp. 27-70.

(22) For some examples of the impact of ivory and rubber exports, see Edward Alpers, Ivory and Slaves: Changing Patterns of International Trade in East Central Africa to the Later 19th Century (Berkeley, 1975); Abdul Sheriff, Slaves, Spices, and Ivory in Zanzibar: Integration of an East African Commercial Empire into the World Economy, 1770-1873 (Athens, 1987); Samuel Nelson, Colonialism in the Congo Basin, 1880-1940 (Athens, 1994); Allen Isaacman and Barbara Isaacman, Slavery and Beyond: The Making of Men and Chikunda Ethnic Identities in the Unstable World of South-Central Africa, 1750-1920 (Portsmouth, 2004); Peter Geschiere, "'Tournaments' of Value in the Forest Area of Southern Cameroon: 'Multiple Self-Realization' versus Colonial Coercion during the Rubber Boom (1900-1913)," in Peter Geschiere and Wim M.J. van Binsbergen (eds.), Commodification: Things, Agency, and Identities (Munster, 2005), pp. 243-65.

(23) A general overview of these voyages can be found in Chamberlin, "Competition," pp. 16677. Specific works by these travelers include the following: Paul Du Chaillu, Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa (London, 1861); M.T. Griffon de Bellay, "Exploration du fleuve Ogo-wai, cote occidentale d'Afrique (juillet et aout 1862)," Revue maritime et coloniale 9 (1863), pp. 66-89, 296-309; Aymes, "Resume du voyage d'exploration de l'Ogooue enterprise par le Pionnier en 1867 et 1868," Bulletin de la societe de geographie, 5 (1869), pp. 417-433; R.B.N. Walker, "Relation d'une tentative d'exploration en 1866 de la riviere de l'Ogowe et de la recherche d'un grand lac devant se trouver dans l'Afrique Centrale," Annales des Voyages de la Geographie, 1 (1870), pp. 59-80, 120-44.

(24) Patterson, Northern Gabon, pp. 132-36.

(25) Compiegne, Afrique, vol. 2, pp. 163-91.

(26) See Brunschwig (ed.), Brazza Explorateur: L 'Ogooue.

(27) On the Bakele challenge, see Francois Ngolet, "La dispersion Ongom-Bakele en Afrique Centrale: Esquisse d'anthropologie historique (origins-vers 1900)" (PhD diss. Universite Paul Valery, Montpellier III, 1994); Gray, Colonial Rule, pp. 52-60. On the Fang migrations of the nineteenth century, see M'Bokolo, Noirs; Chamberlin, "Competition," pp. 23-80; Pierre Laburthe Tolra, Les seigneurs de la foret (Paris, 1981); John Cinnamon, "The Long March of the Fang: Anthropology and History in Equatorial Africa" (PhD dissertation, Yale University, 1998).

(28) Lenz, Skizzen, pp. 98-99, 282.

(29) Essner, "German Travelers' Accounts," p. 200.

(30) Lenz, Skizzen, pp. 241-42.

(31) Gray, Colonial Rule, pp. 94-132.

(32) No research has ever focused on river ombwiri, though they often appear sporadically in nineteenth-century travei literature. For a brief discussion, see Andre Raponda Walker, Rites et croyances des peuples du Gabon (Paris, 1962), pp. 23-26. On ombwiri healing rituals in post-colonial Gabon, see Andre Mary, La naissance a l'envers. Essai sur le'Bwiti Fang au Gabon (Paris, 1983).

(33) On encantados, see Candace Slater, Entangled Edens: Visions of the Amazon (Berkeley, 2002), pp. 54-75.

(34) Interview, Muya Pascal, juge coutumier, Lastoursville, Gabon, 25 June 2007; Interview, Henry Victor Moulindjibolo, Jean-Pascal Mougnianga, Zacharie Poughou, Richard Moukoumou, Ndjkal neighborhood, Lastoursville, 26 June 2007; Interview, Jean-Marc Mandamanda, village Mouyabi, Gabon, 10 July 2007.

(35) Interview, Muya Pascal, juge coutumier, Lastoursville, Gabon, 25 June 2007; Interview, Henry Victor Moulindjibolo, Jean-Pascal Mougnianga, Zacharie Poughou, Richard Moukoumou, Ndjkal neighborhood, Lastoursville, 26 June 2007; Interview, Jean-Marc Mandamanda, village Mouyabi, Gabon, 10 July 2007.

(36) Lenz, Skizzen, p. 194.

(37) Brunschwig. Brazza Explorateur: L 'Ogooue, p. 145

(38) Drawn from a general summary of Lenz, Skizzen, pp. 65-66.

(39) Ibid., p. 66.

(40) Ibid., p. 68.

(41) Compiegne, Afrique, vol. 2, pp. 129-30.

(42) Lenz, Skizzen, p. 67.

(43) Gray, Colonial Rule, pp. 44-45.

(44) Lenz, Skizzen, p. 61.

(45) Ibid., p. 64.

(46) Ibid., p. 240.

(47) Ibid., p. 59.

(48) Ibid., p. 344.

(49) Julien Bonhomme, "Les tribulations de l'esprit blanc (et de ses merchandises): Voyages et aventures de Paul de Chaillu en Afrique equatoriale," Cahiers d'Etudes Africaines, 183 (2006), pp. 493-512.

(50) Lenz, Skizzen, p. 246.

(51) Ibid., pp. 99-100.

(52) Ibid., pp. 97-99.

(53) Information in the following paragraph is taken from Lenz, Skizzen, pp. 242, 247-53.

(54) Ibid., pp. 158-60.

(55) Ibid., p. 241.

(56) Jeremy Rich, "Civilized Attire: Dress, Cultural Change and Status in Libreville, Gabon, ca. 1860-1914," Cultural and Social History, 2 (2005), pp. 201-14.

(57) On the association of wealth with older European military regalia, see Rich, "Civilized Attire," pp. 191-92. Lenz gave Renoke a French artillery officer's jacket. Lenz, Slazzen, p. 61.

(58) Lenz, Skizzen, pp. 242, 247-53.

(59) On mwiri associations in nineteenth-century Gabon, see Gray, Colonial Rule, pp. 83-88.

(60) Lenz, Skizzen, p. 194.

(61) Compiegne, Afrique, vol. 2, p. 79.

(62) Lenz, Skizzen, pp. 194-95.

(63) For just a few examples of revolts and strikes by canoe workers, see Compiegne, Afrique equatoriale, v.2, p. 90; Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, Brazza et la prise de posession du Congo: La mission de l'Ouest-Africaine, 1883-1885 (Paris, 1969), pp. 255-56.

(64) The information in this paragraph is drawn from Lenz, Skizzen, pp. 195-201.

(65) This dispute carried on for years. According to de Brazza, the two men refused to camp together in 1881 despite traveling on the same canoe convoy, since Buadja and Mindoundou each believed their rival wanted to poison him. Henry Brunschwig, Brazza Explorateur: Les traites Makoko (Paris, 1967), pp. 136-37.

(66) Lenz, Skizzen, pp. 201-3.

(67) Ibid., p. 204.

(68) Ibid., pp. 246-47.

(69) Ibid., pp. 248-49.

(70) Ibid., 246.

(71) Ibid., pp. 258-62.

(72) Ibid., pp. 266-67.

(73) Interview, Alexandre Mebolumi, Muyoyi, Gabon, 30 June 2007.

(74) Lenz, Skizzen, p. 205.

(75) Chamberlin, "Competition," pp. 158-59.

(76) Lenz, Skizzen, p. 276.

(77) Ibid., pp. 276-77.

(78) Bonhomme, "Tribulations."

(79) Lenz, Skizzen, p. 279.

(80) Ibid., p. 281.

(81) Ibid., pp. 282-91.

(82) Ibid., pp. 297-300.

(83) Ibid., p. 298.

(84) Ibid.

(85) Ibid., p. 306.

(86) Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, Le Congo aux temps des grandes compagnies concessionaires, 1898-1930 (Paris, 1972).

(87) Brunschwig, Brazza Explorateur: Les traites Makoko, pp. 141-42, 147.

(88) Brunschwig, Brazza Explorateur: L 'Ogooue, pp. 78-85.

(89) "Communaute de St. Pierre Clavier des Adoumas," Bulletin de la Congregtion du Saint-Esprit, 17 (1897): 533-538; Interview, Dieudonne Bouloupi, Village Chief of Madoukou I, Gabon, 29 June 2007; Interview, Joseph Mobengo, Achouka, Gabon, 21 July 2007.

(90) Coquery-Vidrovitch, Brazza et la prise de possession, p. 75.

(91) Henri Brunschwig, Brazza Explorateur: Les traites Makoko, 1880-1882 (Paris, 1972), pp. 136-37; Coquery-Vidrovitch, Brazza et la prise de possession, pp. 75-81, 86.

(92) W.J. Bolster, Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail (Cambridge, 1997); Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Multi-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston, 2000); David Cecelski, The Waterman's Song: Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 2001); Michael Dawson, "Enslaved Swimmers and Divers in the Atlantic World, 1444-1888" (PhD diss. University of South Carolina, 2004); Thomas Buchanan, Black Life on the Mississippi: Slaves, Free Blacks, and the Western Steamboat World (Chapel Hill, 2004).

(93) Harms, River of Wealth; Janet Ewald, "Crossers of the Sea: Slaves, Freedmen, and other Migrants in the Northwest Indian Ocean, c. 1750-1914," American Historical Review, 105 (2000), pp. 69-91; Erik Gilbert, Dhows and the Colonial Economy of Zanzibar, 1860-1970 (Athens, 2004); Isaacman and Isaacman, Making of Men, pp. 140-55; Stephen Rockel, Carriers of Culture: Labour on the Road in 19th-Century East Africa (Portsmouth, 2006).

(94) Donna Haraway, Gail Bederman, Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-191713; Tim Youngs, "Africa/The Congo: The Politics of Darkness," in Peter Hulme and Tim Youngs (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing (Cambridge 2002).

Jeremy Rich received his doctorate in history in 2002 from Indiana University. He has written a book entitled, A Workman is Worthy of His Meat: Food and Colonialism in the Gabon Estuary (University of Nebraska Press, 2007) and co-edited, with Carina Ray, Navigating African Maritime History (Memorial University of Newfoundland Press, 2010). He has written over twenty articles and essays on colonial Gabonese history.
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Author:Rich, Jeremy
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:6GABO
Date:Sep 22, 2009
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