National Geographic : 1934 Jan
THREE-WHEELING THROUGH AFRICA The Emir passed on a stunted pony, both wrapped in pomp and circumstance. Tur bans, embroidered robes, a sunshade, and a horse-tail for the Emir; tassels, gold trappings, and a high backed red saddle for the tired little pony; and the drummers, knaves, and swaddled courtiers strung out behind on foot. All this ought to be happening in a mu seum, I thought. It's so queer and pictur esque - like mummies or stuffed swordfish. And then it struck me suddenly that life here in Bida wasn't that at all. It was my own ideas and concep tions of culture that were queer and pictur esque; they were what oughttobeinamu seum here in Bida. It took us three days to overhaul our motor cycles. To test them we drove out to visit one of the brass smiths KANE on the outskirts of town. Bida brass is An ancient tribe, invasion, they occu renowned throughout cyclists found traces Nigeria. One con- Haardt (see text, pa stantly sees the Hausa traders carrying it in their packs. The smith showed us a big tray which he had hammered out of a solid chunk of brass and punched by hand in a graceful and intricate pattern. Flood examined it carefully (see page 43). A GOOD USE FOR EMPTY CARTRIDGES "Aha!" he exclaimed. "Now I know what became of the empty cartridges I saw that Hausa trader picking up on the parade ground back at Lagos. See those little dark flecks in the brass? Those are the copper firing plugs. His fire isn't hot enough to fuse them completely." Photograph from Georges-Marie Haardt MBU DANCING REQUIRES AGILITY said to have taken refuge in Lake Chad at a time of py the village of Mao. Among these people the of the 1924-5 African expedition of Georges-Marie ge 81). He stood there pondering over the tray for a moment, tracing out the designs with his finger. "Well," he said, "these people have solved a problem that's been baffling the citizens of civilized nations for a good many years." "What's that?" I asked. "How to make a profit on a standing army." All the brass now used in Bida is of European origin, and I was told by some that the absence of zinc-brass is an alloy of copper and zinc-in this part of Africa is proof that the industry postdates the coming of the white man.