canoes, and fishing, guinea, 1899
K. Kingsley : Canoes and Fishing, West Africa, 1899.
Kingsley, Mary H.:
Company, London, 1899.
(Cameroon), Thomas J. Hutchinson
(1861) observed the local fisherman surfriding in their canoes,
where the waves broke on an extensive reef.
conditions on this day were unfavourable for serious fishing, or
particularly suited to canoe surfriding, or a combination of
He writes of a
group of the four or six riders in small light-weight one-man
describes the paddle-out, take-off, steering with a trailing
paddle at speed, and the inconvenience of the wipe-out, somewhat
mitigated by their being "capital swimmers – indeed, like the
majority of the coastal negroes, they may be reckoned
Sharks are an
occasional hazard; Hutchinson was told that, shortly before he
arrived, a fisherman died after losing a leg to "a prowling
While there are
ealier accounts of (adult) West Africans riding waves in canoes,
in those instances they are invariably in pursuit of their
livelihood, either in transporting freight or passengers, or in
returning to shore with their haul of fish.
In this case, the
Batanga canoe riders are clearly riding the waves for simple
pleasure, and in this sense, as noted by Kevin Dawson (2009), it
is "the only (account from West Africa) that describes adults
In the second of
two books of her travels to West Africa, a photograph by Mary H.
Kingsley (1899) shows six Batanga men and their canoes, possibly
identical to those observed surfriding by Hutchinson forty years
chapter was also cast out of Travels in West Africa.
Critics whom I
respect said it was wrong of me not to have explained how I came
by my fishes.
This made me fear
that they thought I had stolen them, so I published the article
promptly in the National Review, and, by the kindness of
its editor, Mr. Maxse, I reprint it.
It is the only reprint in this book."
IV: FISHING IN WEST AFRICA]
Facing page 89
Now, there is
one thing you will always hear the Gold Coaster (white
variety) grumbling about, “There is no sport.”
He has only
got himself to blame.
Let him try
and introduce the Polynesian practice of swimming about in the
surf, without his clothes, and with a suitable large, sharp
knife, slaying sharks—there’s no end of sharks on the Gold
Coast, and no end of surf.
have the same complaint, and I may recommend that they should
try spearing sting-rays, things that run sometimes to six feet
across the wings, and every inch of them wicked, particularly
There is quite
enough danger in either sport to satisfy a Sir Samuel Baker;
for myself, being a nervous, quiet, rational individual, a
large cat-fish in a small canoe supplies sufficient
fishing-craft is the dug-out canoe in its various local forms.
canoe is a very safe and firm canoe for work of any sort
except heavy cargo, and it is particularly good for surf; it
is, however, slower than many other kinds.
The canoe that
you can get the greatest pace out of is undoubtedly the Adooma,
which is narrow and flat-bottomed, and simply flies over the
used vary also with locality, and their form is a mere matter
of local fashion, for they all do their work well.
There is the
leaf-shaped Kru paddle, the trident-shaped Accra, the
long-lozenged Niger, and the long-handled, small-headed Igalwa
paddle; and with each of these forms the native, to the manner
born, will send his canoe flying along with that unbroken
sweep I consider the most luxurious and perfect form of motion
The mat sails
used for sea-work are spread by a bamboo sprit.
There is a
single mast, to the head of which the sail is either hoisted
by means of a small line run through the mast, or, more
frequently, made fast with a seizing.
Such a sail is
worked by means of a sheet and a brace on the sprit, usually
by one man, whose companion steers by a paddle over the stern;
sometimes, however, one man performs both duties.
Now and again
you will find the luff of the sail bowlined out with another
This is most
common round Sierra Leone.
Negres Autour du Paquebot.
(The Negroes Around the Ship), Dakar, Senegal,
Afrique Dahomey Kotonou Nègres
plongeant pour attraper des sous
(Kotonou, Africa, Dahomey, Negroes
plunging to catch on), c1914.
Geoff Cater (2013-2020) :
Mary H. Kingsley : Canoes and Fishing, West Africa, 1899.