brun : canoes, rafts, and fishing, west africa, 1620.
and published in
German Sources for West Afican History 1599-1699.
FranzSteijnerVerlang, Wiesbaden, 1983
Studien zur Kulturkunde 66
On the Quaqua coast, Brun notes that the local inhabitants use "a little raft of three or four pieces of wood, ' on which "they travel from the land out to sea, where there are such big waves that it is remarkable how these people can come through them."
As the use of the dug-out canoe was entrenched along the coast, this may be an example of the continued use of an earlier, ancient, sea going raft, similar to the catamaran of Madras.
Adam Jones notes that Brun is "the only seventeenth century writer to describe such rafts on the Ivory Coast,"
Samuel Brun (or Braun) was born in Basle, Germany, in 1590, learnt French in Geneva and then trained, like Pieter de Marees, as a barber-surgeon.
From 1607 he travelled across Germany before arriving in Amsterdam in 1611, where he embarked on his first voyage to Loango and the Congo River, 1611-1613.
A more extensive second voyage along the West African coast followed in 1614-1616, and between 1617 and 1620 he served as the barber-surgeon at Fort Nassau, the first Dutch fort on the Gold Coast.
He returned to Germany in 1621, and died in Basle in 1668.
First published in Basle in 1624, it was republished in Frankfurt am Main, three times in German and once in Latin by 1627.
An edited in Dutch edition was published in 1913, two facsimile reprints appeared in 1945 and 1969, and some extracts have been published in French and English
Adam Jones notes in his Introduction, page 42:
"Brun provides particularly
valuable material on the places where he stayed longest - Loango, Soyo
(at the mouth of the Congo) and Mori.
His description of Loango and Soyo (the only seventeenth century German source for West Central Africa) complements the contemporaneous account of Van den Broecke.(5)
Brun does not appear to have been influenced by other writers;(6) and the fresh, sometimes naive quality of his observations make his book perhaps the most attractive of the German sources."
For three months, however, they [the Loanga of Angola] have no good wine, but only poor quality wine which they call matumba and which comes from other trees.
It is, very healthy drink.(53)
The men, however, in order not to go idle, cultivate and plant the wine tree.
They live on the coast and are generally all fishermen.
Those who live inland however, hunt all kinds of game, such as buffaloes, deer and antelopes,(54) of which they catch very many and which they shoot with their arrows.
53. Cf. Laman 1936: 981, tombe, pl. matombe 'branch of the raffia palm' (Raphia vinifera).
For a description of different varieties of palm tree in Loango, see Pechuel-Loesche 1882: 162-5.
The wine was mentioned by Van den Broecke 1950: 67; Van Wassenaer 1625: 26v; Rome 1964: 92; Dapper 1676b: 62, 149 = 1670: 429, 511; Jadin 1966: 221.
54. The same species of game were mentioned by Van den Broecke (1950: 67, 71).
Buffalo tails served as part of the insignia of noblemen: Dapper 1676b: 165 = 1670: 526.
[p. 23] ...
But when we had lain there together [with the people of Songen] with a yacht (87) for seven rnonths and they had gained sufficient experience and knowledge of our disposition, they rendered us every kindness; and they were so well intentioned towards us that, when the Spaniards planned to do sornething against us, they warned us and even offered to defend us; for, as the Spanish fort and the town of Loando lie [p. 24] no rnore than 30 miles further along the coast, they can be with us quite quickly, as indeed happened in Septernber 1612.
Apart from this it is to be noted that in a thousand miles there is no river to be found as large as the Congo.
It is very rich in fish, and besides all kinds of fish caught every day, there are rnany sea-horses.
About twenty or twenty-five are seen, as I often saw rmyself.
Sea-cows (88) go ashore frorn this river, [p. 25] as do large caymans [crocodiles] (89), sawfish and very large whales [sic].
87. A light, fast-sailing ship, particularly used for coastal trade (Dutch jaghtschip, lit. 'ship for chasing').
88. Brun was probably trying to distinguish between the hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius L., or in German 'Flub-pferd,' i. e. 'river-horse') and the African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis).
Battell (in Ravenstein 1901: 64) referred to the hippopotamus as a 'sea or river horse'; and Van den Broecke's picture (1950: 30) of a 'sea-horse' seen on the beach at Loango is clearly meant to represent a hippopotamus.
But see n. 90.
89. Caymans are not found in Africa.
their language), as I have seen myself, are not created as in our country
They have four feet, but the two rear ones, with which they swim, are quite short and broad; the skin is mainly smooth; on the neck
back they have a black line of hair, and on the neck a crest.
Their head is as three horses' heads.
In their mouth they have teeth, one of which weighs about 10 or 12 pounds; and from these, which are whiter than ivory, beautiful knife-handles are made.
The sea-cows are delicious to eat.
They are caught by the natives, for every evening they come ashore to graze like other cattle; but as soon as they hear or see anything, they go back into the water with their young, which is remarkable to see.(90)
Since the manatee does not come ashore, this must refer to the hippopotamus.
On the other hand, the manatee is 'delicious to eat'; and if Brun saw '20 or 25' sea-horses together, he probably meant hippopotamuses.
[p. 30] But they
King of Congo and Count of Songodo] not fight many battles, for they
are terribly frightened of muskets or guns.
Instead, they use the following trick.
Since the large River Congo divides them, they often come by canoes, which are large hollow trees which they use as their ships, for about fifty or sixty men may make use of them.(113)
If they come across without warning, they often obtain more than a hundred people; and as they cannot ferry them all across, they kill them and chop them up.
Those they can bring across, however, they eat as greedily as if they were roast game.
[Footnote] 113. Here Brun was apparently referring to slave raids against Ngoyo, Kakongo and other countries north of the Congo River. For a description of the canoes, see Rome 1964: 30
[p. 33] [On
the Quaqua coast]
If they come out to sea to exchange goods, they make a little raft out of three or four pieces of wood, and such rafts are their ships.
They travel from the land out to sea, where there are such big waves that it is remarkable how these people can come through them.(120)
The next day, however, we sailed on to Carman din [Kormantin], where we met a whole fleet of ships and four belonging to our company.(122)
Since our ship was well-manned and not too large,(123) we were quickly sent off to Accara [Accra], which is the last place where one finds gold.
We stayed there about six weeks to trade in several kinds of merchandize.
We' traded with the people on board our ships,(124) for we cannot trade on shore on account of the great enmity between
120. Brun was the only seventeenth century writer to describe such rafts on the Ivory Coast.
121. For Fort naassau, see Brun; 63-6.
122. For trade at Kormantin, see De Marees 1602: 42a-b.
Brun's ship belonged to the company of Frans Steenhuysen, Pieter van der Schelling, Lucas van der Venne and Hans Francks: Brun 1624, Appendix I (omitted here).
123. Only light vessels which could sail well were sent eastwards from Mori, because the prevailing current and winds made it difficult for larger vessels to get back to Mori.
Brun's statement suggests that the original intention was for his ship to return to Mori after trading at Accra.
See De Marees 1602: 43a.
124 Literally 'from and on board our ships,' perhaps implying that some African traders remained in their canoes while trading (although this seems unlikely).
the people there and their neighbours.(125)
The people of Accara are not large in stature, but very quick and swift in all matters.
The beliefs, religion and way of living of people throughout the Gold Coast (or borders) are the same, and more will be said about them when we disuss the fort.(126)
When they go out
to sea, they have canoes: these are hollow trees, which they prepare with
skill, so that about twenty or more men can sit in them.(127)
They have no clothing except [p. 35] a small quaqua, with which their loins and puba are covered, the rest of the body being quite naked.
125. Accra was one of the richest gold ports, and the Portuguese had long sought to establish a fort there.
In 1610 the Council of Portugal resolved to send a fleet to rid the coast of the Dutch and construct a fort at Accra; but when the fleet was eventually sent in 1614, it lacked the funds to erect such a fort.
Europeans were obliged to trade from on board ships until the Dutch founded a fort in 1649.
See: De Marees 1602: 43a; Dapper 1676b: 830;' 1670: 448; Vogt 1979: 125-6,163; Van den Broecke 1950: 34-6. J
126. See Brun: 69-84. 41
127. Cf. De Marees 1602: 59b-60a; Barbot 1678-9: 46; Miiller 1673: 276.
Now follows the Kingdom of Caponu [Gabon], which extends towards equator.
It is a pleasant country endowed with and surrounded by beautiful fresh water.
It lies 220 miles from Ambosy, taking the indentation of the coast into account, and is 1 1/2 degrees north of the equator.(l56)
This country has many elepants they therefore trade in ivory.
The natives have no money and therefore desire no goods except black slaves.(157)
There are other small islands, but no people live on them. [p. 41]
As ships (called alamady or malungo) they use long, hollowed out trees, in which about seventy men can travel.(158)
With these they travel to tit ships or to terra firmam, i.e. to the mainland.
There they catch wild animals,such as buffaloes, elephants etc.(159)
156. 220 Dutch miles was a considerable overestimate.
157. Twenty years earlier it was reported that the people of Gabon sold their ivory for iron: Paludanus in Van Linschoten 1934: 11. But according to Dapper (1676b: 141 = 1670: 504), the Dutch bought ivory there at the rate of four tusks (120-140 lb.) for a slave; they brought slaves from Cameroon and 'the Amboises' for this purpose.
158. Port. almadia 'canoe' (from Arabic al-ma' diya 'ferry boat').
This term was widely used by Europeans in West Africa: Flutre 1958: 223; De Marees 1602: 13b; Ratelband 1953: 38.
It would be surprising if Brun really heard the term malungo ('canoes') during his visit to Gabon, although similar words are used in several languages of West Central Africa outside the Gabon region (e. g. in N, E, Kongo, Mbangala, kiMbundu, Bolo and Sama): Koelle 1854: 94-5.
De Marees (1602: 120a) mentioned the use of canoes capable of carrying sixty men in this region,
159. Cf. Bosman 1705: 408: 'Elephants, Buffels and Wild-Boars.'
This country [the Gold Coast] stretches about 70 miles along the coast; it extends eastwards and about 300 miles inland towards Arabia and Great and Little Akanye.(222)
It lies 5 [degress] north of the equator.
It is a hilly country, but not all that high; a fairly good country, although it produces few fruits.
[The settlements are] built on the coast, for the people are mostly fishermen.(223)
222. i.e. the countries of the Akani: see Brun: 35-6 and n. 128.
223. A decade later, a Dutchman wrote of the people of Mori:
'They are mostly fishermen, but dare not go far out to sea because of the power of the Myna [Sao Jorge da MinaI.
The people of Saboe come to feed them, in exchange for fish': ARA, Leupe 743, map dated 25.12.1629.
Voyages of 1611-1620.
and published in