The African Expedition

By: H. U. Hall

Originally Published in 1937

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Mr. Henry U. Hall, who is conducting investigations for the Museum among primitive tribes in Sierra Leone, Africa, writes the following from Yoni. He has also sent us many interesting photographs of the people and their daily life of which a few are contained in the preceding pages.

Yoni, January 3, 1937.

A collage of images showing scenes of daily life, including making fabric and fishing
Plate IV — Tthua throwing a casting net; Bundu Sokos (chief women) and “devils” at the resthouse, Yoni; Kema Jila cleaning and “ginning” cotton; Kema Jila carding cotton with native carder
Image Numbers: 24909, 24858, 24871, 24875

Dear Mr. Jayne:

On reaching Bonthe a month ago, I found that there were some interesting, if rather sketchy records in the District Commissioner’s office. It took me the best part of a fortnight to go over these and make notes on their contents. I have made arrangements, with the D.C.’s permission, with an intelligent Negro clerk in his office to type for me a number of letters bearing on the native risings of 1898, and have these copies ready for me against my return to Bonthe.

On consulting with the D.C., I was able to arrange for the following programme: He sent me on here in a Government launch, after sending for the Chief to come and see me in Bonthe and recommending me to his good offices, assuring him that I had nothing to do with the collection of taxes or any other Government activity. From here we shall go by hammock or on foot across the island to Tisana at its western end, stopping wherever the prospects for successful investigations are good. I expect our first stopping-place after Yoni will be either at Bonge or Mange (Bong-gay, Man-gay) about four hours’ walking over sand, with a river to cross. On reaching Tisana, and perhaps staying there awhile, I am to send to the D.C., who will send a launch for me to fetch me back to the neighborhood of Bonthe. From there we go to Sembehun by launch, from Sembehun to Moyamba by lorry, and from Moyamba to Shenge, again by lorry. Shenge is on the mainland, and in a different district, so I shall have to see the District Commissioner at Moyamba to let him know what I want to do. Cox at Bonthe has been very helpful and given me every facility for carrying on.

A collage of images showing daily life in towns, including gatherings and weeding
Plate IV — Kong Tam, kumrabai (counselor) of Yoni, Sierra Leone; Dancing following funeral ceremonies; Women weeding cassava patch; Belmo Fai who was sentenced to prison for possession of “bad medicine”
Image Numbers: 24890, 24852, 24930

Sherbro Island is, one might almost say, the last stronghold of unmixed Sherbro; at least they are here in such preponderant numbers as to have avoided Mendi-ization to any important degree. The neighborhood of Shenge, “I believe, is the next best place for a similar reason. The Chief at Yoni, who is also the Paramount Chief of Sitia District, which comprises the greater part of the island, is a very intelligent person and does all he can to help me. He has found me a good interpreter, who himself knows a good deal about old customs, and a couple of old men who are also competent in this respect, and willing to talk. So I have been able to do a good deal of work in the last two weeks, and believe I can profitably stay here for probably another month.

I have begun also to make a collection of material objects, including two masks and a costume which have been in use here in the Bundu “bush,” and thoroughly authenticated from that point of view. Also a complete spinning and weaving outfit, operated in my presence. But it is a poor country and the people are not rich in material goods.

I am sending some photographs shortly. They were taken in Bonthe, which is a good deal more civilized than Yoni. Both there and here we have had the use of the Government resthouse. The mosquito-proof tent is a refuge from mosquitoes from sunset until we crawl under the cot nets at bedtime.

Yours sincerely,

Signed: H. U. Hall.

Cite This Article

Hall, H. U.. "The African Expedition." Museum Bulletin VI, no. 6 (May, 1937): 12-13. Accessed July 17, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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