National Geographic : 1937 Nov
KEEPING HOUSE ON THE CONGO 645 Photograph by the Rev. Pierre Bouvez THIS WEAVER'S RAW MATERIAL GROWS ON TREES On a crude but effective weaving frame a native of the Kasai District makes cloth from the fibers of the raffia palm. The material is extremely durable but rough on the skin; hence the negroes prefer the white man's cotton cloth, and such sights as this are becoming rarer. River navigation after dark was out of the question. We were worried, but the captain, still wearing his once-white sun helmet, even after sundown, cheered us up. A LONE BELGIAN POST "That's all right," he said. "There's a little Belgian post over on the river bank. They have a fine resthouse for travelers, and you can spend the night there." Turning shoreward, it seemed our craft would be swept downstream and out to sea again, but through a skillful series of zig zags, we pulled up just as night fell to the small wooden pier of this isolated station. The official in charge helped us ashore and welcomed us. He wore a tall sun hel met, and his white-duck uniform was wrin kled by the damp heat. We noticed how thin and pale and yellow the fevers had left him. His wife met us at the door of their crude, thatched cottage. There were only two such structures in the place, the other being the resthouse. The official and his wife were the only white people marooned at this swampland sta tion. There were a dozen native huts, and a few native prisoners chained together sawed crude planks from logs used in building the cottages. The Belgian flag, black, yellow, and red, was visible from far offshore. As far up as Matadi, the Congo divides two mam moth colonial empires: on the north the Belgian Congo, more than 77 times larger than its mother country, and to the south Angola, 14 times the size of its sovereign, Portugal. JUNGLE CALLS, BATS, AND RATS Our first night was rather horrifying to a newcomer. The resthouse was on piles, several feet above the ground. The planks of the bare floor and side walls were un even, with big cracks between. There was only one room, with candle light, two small iron beds with mosquito nets, two hard na tive-made chairs, and a washstand. You hop in bed and tuck the net firmly under the thin mattress. Quiet comes. Then strange calls rise from the jungle, na tive drums sound, and gradually the buzz of mosquitoes increases to unbelievable volume.