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Journey through southern Angola, west of Etosha Pan, to Omaruru and Walvis Bay by Captain Peter Möller, 1895-96,
Building on review by Sian Sullivan for
Future Pasts 
Last edited 05/12/20

© This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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Captain Peter Möller

Captain Peter Möller, a Swedish traveller who from 1883-1886 served in the Association Internationale de Congo and founded the station Matadi on the Congo River, journeys from the Angolan coastal town Mossamedes southwards through ‘Owampoland’ and ‘Damaraland’ to Walvis Bay, later [1899] publishing an account of his travels that includes a number of photographs of both native peoples and landscapes[1]. He describes his fascination for southern Africa’s ‘undiscovered secrets’, its interior belonging ‘to the most isolated parts of the world … still largely untouched by the European intrusion which has been taking place for a long time in the Cape Colony and neighbouring areas’, and because of which he ‘could count on finding the country and people in the original state and the veld filled with noble big game’[2]. On photographing the people he encounters he writes that ‘[p]hotographing the natives presented serious difficulties’ because

they had no idea what the strange object on three legs meant and were frightened when I covered my head when I covered my head with a-black cloth and aimed a large, gleaming eye at them. Generally the women immediately took to their heels and the men turned away and looked offended. It was not possible to obtain pictures instantly and without explanation; the people had to be approached in a bantering way. I therefore had the idea of letting them look into the mirror of the apparatus, and in truth, comical scenes were then enacted. They approached on tiptoe and with the utmost caution, then, on seeing their own image they generally leapt to the side in alarm, later again to approach curiously; soon all were gathered round the mirror and the faces they pulled there and the peals of laughter and the babbling and screaming can hardly be described. Fear was gone, all were happy, they crowded round my camera and I could photograph as much as I liked.[3]   

Möller travels from
Lisbon on the Portuguese steamer São Thomé on 16 July[4], which carries around 30 passengers and,

also about twenty prisoners of both sexes being deported to the African colonies. During the journey these criminals, several of them murderers of the worst kind, were allowed to walk round freely on the forward deck without any guard; on arrival in Africa some of them will get work on the fortifications, others will be allowed to get work on their own and occasionally achieve independence. Among the passengers there was also a young Negro from the island of Principe; he was a wealthy plantation owner and had been in Lisbon to enjoy himself. In the evenings he entertained us with an accordion and native dancing, which was very amusing.[5] 

The steamer refuels with coal at the island of St. Vincent a ‘very important coaling station for steamers to and from South America and Asia’ where ‘[about] ten large ships call … every day and take an average of 100 tons of coal each’ supplied ‘with coal from the English mines’ by ‘[a] whole flotilla’, and ‘even the water has to be bought at the only well by the inhabitants’[6]. St. Vincent at the time was renowned for the ‘masses of quail’ that visit the island ‘during the bird migrations’ when ‘English sportsmen are notified by telegraph and arrive in luxury yachts; in a few days they shoot thousands of quail’[7].

St. Vincent they travel via Santiago and Principe, a former ‘depot for the slave trade from Africa to America’ where,

some slaves succeeded in escaping from their guards and then took refuge in the inaccessible parts in the interior of the island. Thus there formed colonies of runaway slaves which are still a fear and a plague to the island. They still sometimes raid the loyal population of the island, burn down buildings, rob and steal; it is said that cannibalism occurs among them and that they do not hesitate to slaughter and eat whomever they encounter. Several times the authorities have undertaken expeditions against these savages but to no avail because of the inaccessible terrain - the vertical tracks ascend precipitous mountain walls - the Negroes are still there and even from the steamer in the harbour we could see during the night the lights of their fires up on the mountain slopes.[8]     

At the island of St. Thomé [São Tomé], rich in ‘forests and plantations’, the latter of ‘bread-fruit trees, bananas, lemons and oranges, palms, ginger and cinnamon, cinchona, coffee, sugar-cane and cocoa, everything in extraordinary abundance’, Möller stays at Monte Café, ‘the most outstanding of the many coffee plantations on the island’, the ground of which was bought ‘some years ago for a few thousand francs’ and now generates [7] an ‘annual income’ of ‘close to half a million francs’, employing ‘a whole staff of white bookkeepers and foremen, a doctor and about 1 500 coloured labourers’, the latter of which,

consist mostly of slaves from Dahome[9] and Novo Redondo in southern Angola who had been ransomed. This system of obtaining workers through such slaves, “contractos”, is used all over Portugal’s African colonies. Each such worker carries a numbered iron disc on a string round his neck. Against this number a contract is made with his master, stipulating chiefly that in exchange for his liberty the slave pledges to work for a small annual payment for five years, after which time he is free. Generally these servants, or slaves, whatever you want to call them, are well treated. They usually procure wives; each family has its little hut and piece of ground. To protect them against undue interference from the employer there are public servants who receive all complaints. The need for these labourers is larger than the supply; there has therefore been an attempt to fill the need with Indian coolies and Chinese. However, they could not bear the climate as field labourers and are therefore used mainly as artisans and for lighter work.[10] 

The climate on St. Thomé, is described ‘as unhealthy as everywhere along these latitudes’, particularly ‘in the lower parts of the island’, meaning that the inhabitants ‘must occasionally withdraw to recuperate at the plantations and houses on the higher and more healthy parts of the island’[11]. Cattle and horses are ‘all imported, the former from Mossamedes, the latter from Portugal’[12]. St. Thomé at the time is also ‘one of the main stations of the great Atlantic telegraph cable to the Cape, which is owned by an English company, “The West African Telegraph Company”’ [13]. The station chief invites Möller to hunt quail and shoot sharks[14].

Leaving the islands, the steamer anchors in ‘the roadstead of the small Portuguese colony Kabinda [Cabinda] … in earlier days … an important place for the slave trade from the interior of the Congo area’ and in 1895 a ‘a free harbour for imports from Europe’ with an ‘unusually low import duty of six per cent of the value of the imported article’ observed to contrast ‘with the other Portuguese colonies where enormous import duties practically prohibit all imports’, meaning that,

[e]veryone visiting Kabinda … takes the opportunity of supplying himself with clothes, cigars and other necessities from Europe. Earlier there was a big exchange market here with the natives from the interior who came in large caravans with ivory, rubber and arachid nuts; but this came to an end when the Congo state posted a strong guard on the frontier and now directs the caravans to Boma and Banana on the Congo River to the great detriment of the large trading places at Kabinda, which were founded in the good old times but are now cut off from the interior.[15] 

Anchoring at St. Paolo de Loanda / Luanda, ‘the capital of the province of Angola and seat of the Governor-General’[16], Möller observes that the production of ‘“agua ardente” or rum’ from sugar-cane planatations and notes that the extension of the railway from here to beyond the Ambaca district ’is a good beginning in the opening up of the interior of Angola and the exploitation of its considerable resources’, although,

[b]ecause of the independent attitude of the natives many parts of the country are at present not open to traffic for people other than the natives themselves; they do not generally allow whites to travel along the road between Ambrizette [N’zeto], Ambriz and Loanda. Between the latter place and St. Salvador [Sao Salvador do Congo], situated to the north-east and earlier the site of an indigenous dynasty ruling over the large tribes along the Lower Congo, the road which was once heavily used is now closed by the natives. Tales are told of atrocious cruelties committed by them against foreign trading caravans, of people stuck into large clay pots and boiled alive, etc. All this will not come to an end until Portugal seriously applies herself to the opening up of the country and the complete subjugation of the natives.[17]

At Novo Redonda Möller observes that ‘[t]he Portguese are now friends of walking’ prefering to be transported in a “tipoia”, ‘a hammock with a sun-roof … suspended on a light pole, the ends of which are carried by two natives’[18]. At sugar plantations,

large, modern establishments with expensive American machinery for pressing the juice from the cane, … [he arrives] at the vast, high-walled enclosure where the slaves, which natives bring from the interior, are available to those who want to buy them off. Along the walls sat or lay slaves newly arrived from the interior. They were evidently very exhausted from the difficulties of the long journey and this was not to be wondered at. For long months, perhaps a year, they had been coupled together five and five, travelling from the remote interior before arriving at the coast. Here I saw mothers with their small children, which they had had to carry the long way, at the side of strong young men. It hurt me to see. these poor people, who with gaze dully fixed on the ground rose as soon as a white man approached. This day two were [12] sold for the price of 70 milreis, about 250 [Swedish] crowns, each. However, their worst sufferings were now over. The long way of the caravan with all its hunger, thirst, privations, blows and strokes lay behind them, they now had plenty of their favourite food, fish, palm-oil and manioc flour, to eat; they are fattened back into good condition as soon as possible to be able to work. These people consist mainly of prisoners taken by different tribes in the interior during their incessant feuds against each other and which the natives themselves bring to the white men at the coast. … in exchange for the ransom they now have to work for five years for the white man who bought them and during that period their care and treatment is under state control. You may say what you wish about this system of supplying labourers - it is certain that a very much better fate awaits these people when handed over to the white man than if they had remained prisoners among their conquerors; many would have fallen prey to the cannabalism among several tribes, others would have been mercilessly killed. Another influence on the matter is the lack of voluntary labourers in Africa. With few exceptions the black man will not submit to regular work, even for an unreasonably high compensation. They do not need it and do not wish for abundance. All strenuous physical work in the field is impossible for the white man in these hot, unhealthy areas - it would be death even for the strongest system - and as hired labourers can be employed only with the greatest cost and in insufficient numbers, there are only two alternatives left; either you must abandon the greater part of the vast, fertile colonies, or you must produce labourers in accordance with the present system. As I have already mentioned, I have generally found that the Portuguese treat their servants well. What happened in earlier days on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, as told in “Uncle Tom's Cabin” does not apply here. And on several occasions I have seen that the authorities are guarding the rights of the black people. White men, accused by their servants of having been inclined to administer justice with some strokes of the cane, have themselves been punished.[19]     

In Benguela, south of which ‘is a barren coast of sand and rocks only, a burnt, waterless desert’, Möller meets Boers for the first time: described as having ‘a strongly developed love of wandering and liberty’[20], they arrive on the same day with ‘6 wagons and 150 draught-oxen’[21]. Möller reaches Mossamedes on 8 August [14] and describes it as ‘only a very small village with some hundred inhabitants’ where ‘fishing is a very profitable activity at certain times of the year’, and also especially at Port Alexander / Porto Alexandre§,

to the south where salting-houses are being erected on a great scale’ with ‘the fish sold mainly to the natives from Kabinda§ and Loanda who sail here to exchange firewood, which they cut in the areas towards the delta of the Congo River.[22]

Möller observes that the Portuguese here ‘learnt to train their oxen as draught-animals’ from the Boers who immigrated from the Transvaal with ox-wagons[23]. A couple of days after arriving at Mossamedes ‘three Boers arrived from the settlement of Umpata with their wagons, one of which ‘with personnel’ is put at his disposal ‘for the journey across the desert up to the highland plateau’[24]. The Boers had brought with them dry grass in sacks as fodder and,

[t]heir herdsmen and other servants were natives of all different races; black boys from Oukouanjama and Oundounga … and, picked up further in the wilderness, small, yellow, cunning Bushmen with flat faces and hair like small woollen tufts here and there on the head[25].

Anitpathy towards the English manifests in the naming and treatment of their draught-oxen:

[a]ll the oxen have names; common ones are: Taffelberg, Zeeland, Varenberg, Friland; one which is disliked and often gets the whip is sometimes called Engelsman[26],


[t]he Boers have retained the patriarchal customs of old times and the reverence for the oldest man in the family is remarkable[27].

Although mostly ruling themselves, officially the Boers in Angola are Portuguese citizens but since ‘the government does not want to give the Boers any legal ownership of the land which they have cultivated, nor to any other land which they may want to buy’, which is a push factor in the trekkers leaving Humpata, going north to Kakonda§ and Benguela, returning to the Transvaal, or trekking southwards to ‘German territory’, such that,

[i]f good news were to arrive from these latter emigrants it will not be long before most of the Boers in Angola will leave the country and follow their friends on the way to the south.[28]

In the desert inland from Mossamedes Möller encounters Welwitschia mirabilis, ‘one of the strangest plants known’ [21] and hunts springbok, hearing around ‘the fire in the evening’ from ‘[t]he old Boer, who had taken part in the first trek to the Transvaal … how the country then swarmed with innumerable herds of all kinds of game’[29].

In ‘the mountainous area around the Muninho§ [Munhino§] River’, ‘in the sandy bed of which’ they find some water ‘after digging a little’, they encounter a Portuguese settler – Senhor da Costa, who had made ‘a sugar plantation in the dry, sandy river-bed’ and had ‘actually killed more than fifty lions in the surrounding mountains’ such that ‘[t]hanks to this fearless man the lions in this area have decreased considerably’[30]. Möller observes that,

[i]t has been known for a long time that there are gold-bearing deposits in the valley of the Muninho River: gold has been found in the form of gold sand as well as with quartz minerals. The reason why there has been no serious effort to exploit these riches is probably because of the difficulty of obtaining firm concessions and also because of lack of enterprise.[31]   

In this inland area around Munhino§ live ‘[t]he so-called “Ovakouvalle” [Kuvale] people [called “Mondombes” by the Portuguese]’, [25] Herero cattle agro-pastoralists who cultivate millet and sorghum [“Kaffir-corn”] [32]. In amongst and to the west of the Kuvale,

there are people of quite a different race living thinly scattered between Serra da Chella [Chela] and down towards Pedra Grande [i.e. ‘the Namib Desert parts of Angola’[33]]. My information about this race, or rather, what remains of it, is founded on the information that I succeeded in collecting from Europeans living in the country. I did not meet them, and they are seldom seen, as they are outcasts and as timid as wild animals. According to the meagre information given to me, these people are small and slight in stature, a dwarfish people with a black skin [Cuissi]. They do not build any huts but shelter under rocks or in caves, they are armed with small, short bows, with which they shoot arrows with poisoned bone points; they live exclusively from hunting and from certain roots which grow wild. Their language shows a quite different origin from that of the Bantu. These mysterious people are probably related to another primitive and little known race of people who live among the sand-dunes along the coast, from the mouth of the Kunene up towards Benguela [the Kwepe]. They live from fish and whatever else the sea casts out, run round naked and have no other tools or weapons than sticks and kerries; they also do not have dwellings and wander permanently along the coast searching for food.[34]   

The Cuissi are later described as,

not a Bantu people and probably inhabited the country before the Bantu arrived. They have forgotten their own language and now speak the language of their Kuvale neighbours. The Cuissi are very dark-skinned and their way of life is the same as that of the Bushmen.[35] 

The ‘Kwepe or Kuroca’ are described as,

also not a Bantu people and they still speak a click language, but it is not related to the Bushman or Hottentot languages. They now live mainly along and south of the lower Curoca River south of Mossamedes and it is said that there are only about fifty of them left. They practise some agriculture and cattle-breeding. In earlier times they also fished … They may be related to the Bergdama of South West Africa …[36]   

The landscape Möller encounters on his travels is repeatedly framed as wilderness:

‘[d]espite such disturbing visitors [hyenas / ‘werewolves’] there is something strangely fascinating in these night camps in the wilderness’[37].

On the Serra Chella§ plateau, towards Chibia,

‘numerous herds of cattle and a native or two showed that the country was inhabited. The wagon tracks became more and more numerous, a Boer boy, who had been out collecting mapoani bark for tanning, came to meet us – everything indicated that we were close to one of the settlements on the high plateau.[38]

At Chibia, they outspan ‘in the middle of the town’ and are

immediatey received with the hospitality, which is typical of these areas, by an “Afrikaner” (that is the name for all white people born in South Africa) of English descent who, after having spent many years in the veld as a hunter, married a young Portuguese woman and settled here in Chibia as a trader.[39]   

Between the ‘places where the colonists have settled’ on the high plateau ‘are vast wildernesses, where the native nomads graze their herds or where lack of water during part of th eyear prevents people from living’[40]. The colonists,

are farmers and cattle breeders. Around Humpata and Chibia they grow wheat, mealies and potatoes, and the crops are generally good. In the settlement to the north at Kakonda§ they were successfully growing coffee until a few years ago; however, the coffee crops failed in the last few years and the coffee plantations are now going to waste. A scourge in the Humpata settlement are the locusts that have overrun the country and totally destroyed the crops for five years now … [and which] comprise an essential foodstuff of certain tribes. … [32] Apart from agriculture, cattle-breeding is of importance; but the cattle do not thrive really well at Humpata. Most of the cattle are bought from the natives in the south at Humbe, some of them are slaughtered here while the rest, which is the majority, are sent to the coast at Mossamedes to be slaughtered and exported. The price of an ox is about 55 [Swedish] crowns. Except for cattle, there are also goats and sheep and even a few horses, mainly imported by the Boers from the east. Of the horses bred here, only about 30 per cent become acclimatised; already as foals the rest fall victim to a disease that attacks all horses. The few animals which survive the disease are called “salted” and fetch a high price of 800-2200 [Swedish] crowns. They are used only for riding, possess great stamina and are invaluable for chasing game in the hunt. …  

   With industry and contentment the farmers here can earn their daily bread, but not much more; inadequate communications hinder or render impossible the sale of agricultural produce at the coast. The only product which can be transported is live cattle and in this there is a rather important trade. The cattle are obtained from the natives through barter and are sold at the coast. A great obstacle to trade in the interior is the prevailing lack of currency; because of this even the whites have found it necessary to barter among themselves, and instead of ready cash cattle are generally used for payment. Apart from cattle, they also buy rubber (“boracha”), wax, skins and some ivory from the natives. Occasionally a [33] trader has built himself a fortune through this trade. In exchange for their products the natives prefer to have brandy (“agua ardente”) produced from sugar-cane, and also ammunition and guns, but since trade with these has been prohibited, and the natives refuse to sell if they do not receive guns and powder, a difficult commercial situation has developed.  

   Administratively the county is under the jurisdiction of the Governor-General in St. Paolo de Loanda and directly under the Governor in Mossamedes. For preserving order and as protection against the natives, and not least as a counterbalance against the feared Boer element, a garrison of a company of horse from Portugal is stationed in Humpata; there are also smaller military posts here and there in the country at important places. On many occasions the country has had to fight lengthy and persistent wars against the Iocal natives.  

   The latest war, against the Ovakumbi people, lasted for almost half a year and ended with a victory for the colonists in that many thousands of cattle were taken in the war and later also had to be paid by the natives in war damages; but the war had an epilogue that was almost disastrous. The colonists, who were not satisfied with their successes and who were greedy for more booty, decided to attack the Ovampo tribe, Obanja, living to the south of the Kunene River. However, already on the first day of the campaign they were surrounded and withdrew only with the greatest difficulty to the other bank of the Kunene. As this defeat has not yet been avenged, the colonists are not considered masters south of this river.[41]   

Whilst in Humpata, Möller writes about Oorlam / ‘Hottentot’ raiding activities from southern Kaoko:

But the colonists [Portuguese] have encountered an enemy, still more difficult to fight than the natives, in the plundering hordes of Hottentots who come from as far away as Namaqualand and have extended their marauding expeditions through Damaraand Ovampoland right up to Mossamedes which they have actually besieged on a couple of occasions.  In parties of up to a hundred persons these feared foreigners advance through the country; all are excellent marksmen and as they are also mounted on horses or riding-oxen, they travel fast and appear unexpectedly, today here, tomorrow there, [34] everywhere robbing the natives of their cattle and killing people. When it finally becomes too hot for them, when the natives and whites are too close on their tracks, they collect their booty, often consisting of several thousand cattle, drive them southwards by forced marches, pass the Kunene and then disappear in the desert areas of the Kaokoveld. As long as the stolen cattle last, they live sumptuously, thereafter to repeat their visit to the rich ‘Portuguese land’ up there on the other side of the Kunene.[42]  

Möller writes further of engagements between ‘Hottentots’ and ‘Boers’ that,

[t]here are many tales of battles with the Hottentots. The last time they were here, a party of about forty had stolen cattle from the natives close to Chibia. Ten Boers set off after the Hottentots, following their tracks until at night they reached the unsuspecting robbers, who had made camp inside the palisade of a kraal, the inhabitants of which had been driven out. During the night the Boers quietly and cautiously occupied positions around the kraal, well hidden in the high grass, waiting for dawn. At sunrise they saw a scout of the Hottentots climbing a tree from where he scrutinized the surrounding country. However, he did not notice anything and in a while the gateway of the kraal was opened, the cattle driven out, and then seven men mounted on horses were seen, among them the leader of the party. When the latter had moved only a few steps he all at once discovered one of the Boers and made a sign to his followers, but at the same moment shots rang out and all seven Hottentots fell, mortally wounded, from their horses. The rest of the party now remained in the kraal and a heated battle commenced. The Hottentots, who soon realised that they were superior in number to the Boers, sent out some men to attack them from the rear. Soon two of the Boers were shot dead and one badly wounded, and the others had to withdraw, which they succeeded in doing only with the greatest difficulty; but during the retreat they encountered and were reinforced by a party of compatriots and again turned towards their enemies. On arriving back at the kraal, however, they found it empty; ten dead Hottentots and two horses lay there, but the robbers had taken the cattle with them and, as usual, they could not [35] be overtaken and succeeded in escaping to safety in the wilderness with their booty and all.

   Thanks to the Boers being used to warfare of that nature the Hottentots have also been severely punished on previous occasions and partly for this reason and also because of shortage of ammunition which they have great difficulty in obtaining these days, they have left the country in peace in recent years.[43]     

Möller comments on the prospects of gold exploitation in southern Angola stating that,

gold has not yet been discovered in more than a couple of places; the best site is probably Kasinga [Cassinga] … but these deposits, as with others in the country, have not been seriously exploited. The difficulty in obtaining a concession from the government as well as the lack of initiative and capital have contributed to this. The actual value of the mines is therefore not known; probably they will prove themselves so productive that they, combined with the other local sources of wealth, can force a railway to be built between the settlements and the coast, and then there will be a new future for the country.  

   For many years a company has existed, “Compagnia de Mossamedes”, with a capital of a couple of million francs, mainly French money, which has received the right to exploit large areas in the southern and eastern parts of the country. Only the future will show whether this company has the same good fortune as “The Chartered Company” in the east;? i.e. whether similar wealth of gold will be found in this area, because the existence of the company will depend on this, and with that also partly the future fate of the country.[44]   

On 8 September Möller journeys southwards ‘to reach the Humbe area at the Kunene’ in the company of a colonist from Chibia, 10 ‘Ovampos’, Damara [Herero] and Bushmen as herdsmen, ‘about 50 cattle, 2 horses, goats, sheep, 6 dogs, 2 small puppies and a young duiker antelope, the tamest and sweetest animal you can imagine’[45]. They encounter ‘herds of cattle and goats belonging to the Ovalopolo or, as they call themselves, the Ovamoilla’ [= ‘Muila’, of ‘the Nyaneka group’], [47] who were mobile building thorn kraals and,

small huts for one or a few families, consisting of man-high stakes raised in the shape of a tent, joined together with plaited work and smeared over with cattle dung, which remains hard and dry during the dry season; when the rains come it is replaced with thatching. A small hole through which a man can hardly squeeze forms the entrance, which is closed with branches; inside the hut are two sleeping places on each side of the fire which burns in the middle while its smoke seeps through the cracks or through the door opening. … [who] sew their dead into the skin of a black ox and bury the corpse; on the grave they erect one or more stakes on which the horns and skulls of the animals which were slaughtered at the funeral are stuck [cf. the Herero].[46]   

They wear rings of copper, iron or brass around their wrists and ankles and Möller observes that their unity has been disrupted due to the arrival of colonists and Boers meaning that they live in small groups[47]. Chiefs and ‘the upper-class’ wear ‘a white sea-shell, about five centimetres in diameter’ so that it hangs on the chest[48], made from ‘the top of the spiral of Conus betulinus, from the east coast of Africa’[49],

[h]ere and there along our route lonely “kopjes” of boulders rise as if piled up by a giant’s hand, often the battleground of violent conflicts between the Boers and the natives, who took refuge behind the boulders and from there fired many deadly shots against the hated colonists, intruders into the land inherited from their forefathers.[50]   

The herds are watered from ‘deep wells dug here and there from which water is hauled and poored into troughs of wood out of which the animals drink’[51].

Further south-east they enter ‘one of the uninhabited areas separating each tribe from its neighbours … along the borders of which lurk marauders who rob poorly guarded or undefended herds of animals’, with

[t]he stealing of [50] animals among tribes … a frequent and well-liked sport … considered to be a useful outlet for unmanageable adventurousness[52].

On 12th September he camps ‘below the high kopje Toungou-Toungou, famous for the stubborn conflicts there between Boers and Gambo’ and opposite which ‘[t]he government has erected a small fort’, [52] even so ‘[t]he Gambo people have preserved all their original ways of life and a good deal of their independence and are considered not to be fully subjugated’[53]. At Cahama [Kahama] further south – ‘a ford at the Kakolavar’ – they see their ‘first “hambo” or temporary kraal’ where the … [**to be contd., pp. 53-60]

Later, at Katekero [Catequero] he meets ‘the first colonists in the Humbe area … ‘mainly traders who each had his trading post with vegetable garden and plantation’; a fort is situated at Moutano [Mutano now Humbe] with around 20 colonists and traders here, and the Kunene River ‘marks the southern boundary of Portuguese influence’[54]. Whilst at Humbe ‘the long-awaited news spread about that “Karuwapa” had arrived at the Kunene and made camp on its southern bank’, Karuwapa being ‘the Swede, Axel [Wilhelm] Eriksson, from Venersborg [Vånersborg] who has been living here for about thirty years and is popular and liked by all throughout southern Africa’[55] [see 1867]. When Möller meets Eriksson he describes how,

[i]In later years, since the elephants have been heavily exploited and the Damara [Herero] people have become more and more unruly, Eriksson has trekked right across the continent to the Transvaal where he has purchased large areas of land along the Crocodile River and where his large herds of cattle graze. However, a quiet life on a cattle farm does not suit him; one day the urge to travel overpowers him, he again longs for adventures and the free life of the wilderness; then he loads up a few wagons and treks away westwards across the Kalahari and its thirst-veld, through troubles and difficulties of all kinds, which nobody knows better how to overcome than this experienced and seasoned traveller. After a journey of a year he was again in Damaraland, where he has now been living the last few years, occupied with the buying of cattle and ostrich feathers. During this period he also made some trips up to Angola and Mossamedes; it was on such a journey that he had now reached the Kunene.[56]   

Möller also describes the bustle of activity he witnesses in this ‘otherwise … completely uninhabited wilderness’ where,

[a]part from Eriksson's two wagons, I also saw wagons belonging to three Boer families, who had made the journey here through the Ovampo tribes under the protection of Eriksson. There were about 600 oxen and cows, goats and sheep, apart from dogs and numerous horses. The natives of the Humbe tribe had come here and new crowds of them were still arriving; apart from me, there had also arrived a colonist from Katekerou. … the river. Behind the camp, towards the south, began the vast wilderness that separated the Ovampo tribes from Humbe, a dangerous area to camp in because of the roaming cattle thieves, but known for its wealth of game of all kinds. In this game-veld I now stayed together with Eriksson and undertook some excellent hunts; I shot mostly the large, beautiful roan antelope, great numbers of which occur here in small herds, and also palla and hartebeest.  

   The lions were especially numerous round the camp and fresh spoors were seen daily.[57]     

Eriksson himself had killed several lions, once encountering ‘a pride of eight lions, four of which he killed with the help of his hunters’[58]. Eriksson continues northwards to Mossamedes while Möller travels north-east to the ‘good game-veld’ along the Kakolavar River[59].

[**pp. 64-136 to be contd.].

On 16th December, with Axel Eriksson and in combination ‘4 wagons with 80 draught-oxen, as well as about 300 cattle, sheep, goats, horses and dogs, that Eriksson was to take along to Damaraland’ travelling south across the Kunene into [107] ‘Ovampoland’ Möller observes that,

[t]he natives travelling through this area to and from Ovampoland build structures in the trees where they spend the night to protect themselves from the lions. The lion is often a nuisance to the hunter.[60]`      

In the malaria-infested area around the Kunene, Möller reports that one of his wagon drivers who is ‘a Bergdamara’ dies of fever[61].


Twenty Trekboer families arrive in Angola[62].

After journeying through ‘Ovampoland’ Eriksson and Möller again part company at Kambonde’s village at Oundounga [Ondangwa], Eriksson travelling west to Amutoni [Namutoni] and Grootfontein ‘where he owned vast areas of land and where he was taking all the cattle he had with him’; Möller travelling south via Oumaruru [Omaruru] to Walfish Bay[63]. Kambonde is described as harassing them for ammunition and trying to prevent their onward journey at which point,

a party of Hottentots arrived from the south, and when my wagon driver who was also a Hottentot, met his countrymen he declared, drunk as he was, that he would not come along, whereupon without further ado he took all his traps and went over to his friends. There was no thought of trying to force him to follow me because these Hottentots are revengeful and murderous fellows, who do not allow any ties. Thus there I stood, without a driver and guide among the riotous gang, but cost what it may I had to get away from there and had already told one [138] of my Bushman boys, who showed a talent for driving, to become my driver when a man came forward out of the crowd. He was a Damara [Herero] man who had driven before and who now appeared very keen to be employed. Although I had never before seen the man, I immediately employed him, and after Eriksson and I had shaken hands for the last time the whips cracked and our wagons rolled away in different directions.[64]       

He has a choice of ‘two routes with watering places’,

the shorter leads straight to the south [‘straight southwards from Olukonda to Okaukeujo. About fifteen kilometres from Olukonda the last village and the last trees are passed. Thereafter lies ahead a flat grass plain, to a great extent covered with water during the rainy season, but otherwise dry. Sixty kilometres from Olukonda is a small mopane forest at Iitota§. Ten kilometres further the road crosses the Ekuma River, then goes through mopane bush to Etsilo§ (a small valley) and Katurmare§ (a well), then along the Etosha pan to Okondeka and Okaukuejo. This road was used regularly until 1957 when a road to Tsumeb was built; it is still passable except for the obstruction caused by the border fence between Ovamboland and the Etosha game park …]; the second runs towards the south-west, but is quite a bit longer, and it was not known whether there was any water [The other road goes south-west from Olukonda, crosses the Ekuma River and goes on to Onoholongo§ [Onolongo, Onoolongo, Oshimalongo (old name according to O. Eriksson, Otjimarongo in Herero] where mopane bush is encountered. At the Onoholongo water-hole are some acacias. The water is muddy but sometimes the holes are cleaned and occasionally [196] Ovambo herdsmen take their cattle there. This road Mr. O. Eriksson has followed to Onoholongo and then left it, following the southern border of Ovamboland westwards and then again southwards to a small salt pan where the Aakwambi still today collect salt. He does not think that the road from Onoholongo to Okahakana has been in use for the last fifty years [prior to 1974] and it can no longer be followed …]. I was therefore recommended to take the former; it was thought that we would find water after about eighteen hours of continuous travelling; there I should rest our oxen, then travel over two further long thirst-velds before I would reach water in Damaraland.[65] …  

   Hour after hour I walked in front of the wagon, below the star-sprinkled sky, lit by weak moonlight; behind me followed the long row of oxen and then came the wagon with its monotonous rolling sound. But the solemn mood into which the darkness of the night and the loneliness of the desert had put me was soon broken. Suddenly I saw a light and when I came closer I found a small fire at which two dark figures were squatting in the middle of the track. “From where?” I asked. “From the south”, came the reply, at which I immediately halted and outspanned to let the oxen graze for a time while we asked the strangers for news. They turned out to be two Bergdamara on their way to Olukonda and carrying post for the missionaries. These night wanderers in the desert certainly looked strange. To warm themselves they had succeeded in scraping together a little dry zebra manure, with which they had built a smoking, glowing fire; they sat crouched right over the fire, letting the smoke and warmth rise up along their stomachs and chests, and with open mouths breathed in the warm fumes while they held their hands with outspread fingers in front of their faces to protect the eyes. A couple of long bows were stuck under their arms, over their backs hung hide quivers packed with arrows and on their heads they wore caps of shaggy jackal skin. Seldom have I seen more baboon-like figures [!!] than these two with their soot-black faces and bodies covered with dust from the long walk. The strange impression was heightened not only by the lighting but also by the conditions under which I saw them and maybe also by the news that they gave me. As they kept the same position, still sucking in smoke and warmth between their teeth, I also had to squat in the same way and the conversation could start. The first question was whether there was any water further on.

   [140] “No, mister, no! When we came to the watering place [Katurmare§?] we found there many Boers with their wagons. They had arrived the previous day from the north-east and they did not find more water than enough for a small cup for each of them, there was nothing for the cattle and draught-oxen. A great part of these are now dead from thirst, everywhere down there lie dead oxen and cows, the people have left their waggons in the veld and have continued southwards towards Oukouquejo [Okaukuejo]. There is water there but it is a day and a night to go before you get there and along the way there is not a drop of water. Because of that, mister, turn back, turn back, or you will die of thirst!” As they stuck to their statement with the greatest conviction, and the tracks I had seen in the road confirmed it, I had no reason to doubt their words. Later I also found out that a large company of Boers with about thirty wagons were on their way from Angola to Damaraland to search for new and better land. As they were enemies of Kambonde in Oundounga, they had avoided his village and had passed Oundounga towards the south-east to take the same road southwards as Eriksson was taking. But as they did not find any water there, they had instead turned towards the south-west to come onto the same road as I and continued to try to reach the same water. However, there was almost no water there, eighty-six of their cattle immediately collapsed of thirst and in the night after this unlucky day the lions took their two only horses. They were now forced to leave their wagons in the veld and, after enormous efforts, reached Oukouquejo on the border of Damaraland with their lives and the rest of their cattle. There they at last found water and there I later met them and heard this story from them. All I could now do was to turn round; it was two o’clock in the night and a quarter of an hour later we were on our way back to Oundounga. I felt deeply grateful to providence that had given me this information by sending these men in my way just at the right moment; in the middle of the desert where long periods pass without any human being travelling there, such a meeting was indeed wonderful luck. Had I continued I would certainly have lost all my oxen the following day and, [141] weak as I was, it is very doubtful that I could have saved my own life.[66]     

Möller turns back to Ondangwa and proceeds on the second route via Onoholongo ‘where water would probably be found after about seventeen hours of travelling’[67] and,

[a]s we approached the water the tree vegetation appeared to increase until it finally consisted of a fairly dense bush forest of camel-thorn trees. The water-hole at Onoholongo is a funnel-shaped depression about 50 metres in diameter, in the middle of which there are two holes about one metre in diameter that human hands have deepened to wells. At the bottom of these the water from the lower layers of the surrounding sand-veld, which sinks down and is stored after each rain, gathers. To be able to water all the oxen six of my men had to stand the one above the other on steps in the well and haul up the water in buckets, then pour it into a hollowed stone round which the thirsty animals pushed each other to quench their thirst. Already before all had had enough to drink the well was empty and we had to let the water run in during the night.  

   A stay to rest the oxen and prepare them to cross the next thirst-veld was now necessary. After all the worries and strain we slept well that night; in the morning there was a peaceful atmosphere, the people were eating and drying the meat of the gemsbok, and the oxen were grazing about in the bushes. In this veld I saw for the first time in their own country representatives of the people who are generally called by the common name of “Bushmen”. They only appeared at dusk when they silently and cautiously emerged out of the bushes, filled their vessels with water, slaked their thirst and disappeared as shyly as they had come, without approaching the wagon. The Bushmen live in these areas and everywhere in the desert-veld south of it where there is water. They have no dwellings, sleep here and there, and live from the wild roots and plants as well as game. I shall return to them later.  

   It was a great pleasure for me to study a company of Oukouambi traders and smiths, who were on their way to Damaraland and whom I met here. As I have mentioned earlier (p. 124), while actually travelling they set up their forges and made their wares that they later traded. As they had seen me in Oukouambi and knew that I was well in with [144] old Nezoumbo, their chief, they were happy to meet me here far away from their homeland. They had for the time taken off their Ovampo dress and dressed like Ovaherero in Damaraland; the etiquette among the peoples demands strictly that you adopt the customs where you come.[68]  

A day later Möller continues,

in the evening towards the next watering place, called Akahakana [Okahakana]. At first the veld was the same steppe-land with patches of bushy parts; further on the ground became more bare, with low, flat, rocky hills; there was no grass, only turf-like, brown, dried-out ground. At about one o’clock in the morning we arrived at a Bergdamara camp, Ovidoumba. After several cracks of the whip a couple of men appeared. The first impression of these people, up to now unknown, was that they resembled apes [!!], but I also found them good-natured compared with their masters, the Ovampo. I also took special note of their long bows and quivers. They had a deep well with a little water in it, and the oxen had a mouthful each out of a wooden trough. We continued immediately. The veld became more and more desert-like, we drove over quite bare, flat rocks. At sunrise we could glimpse the blue outlines of the Damara highland far on the horizon. Later in the day it started sloping slowly downwards and this was fortunate as the heat was terrible. Below us spread a wide plain that sloped from all sides towards the centre; there stood two lonely, tormented and withered camel-thorn trees and some goats were seen round them - that was the watering place Akahakana which we reached at about midday.  

   It is not encouraging to arrive at a place like this, in scorching heat, with exhausted draught-animals and tired yourself. The waterhole consisted of a couple of small holes in the rock with a little stinking, brack, green water, with a stinking, half-rotten tortoise-shell lying in the well and used by the Bergdamara for scooping the water. The small, half-dead acacias could not provide any shade and grass for the starved oxen was almost completely lacking; neither did they get enough water before the well was empty. Now they stood dejectedly round the wagons and did not want to look for food in the terrible heat of the sun. Never have I experienced such fantastic heat as at the bottom of this basin, never have I seen a more barren and sterile landscape; it was as if the mark of a curse had been imprinted on it. At two in the afternoon the heat became quite terrible, there was not a breath of wind, the air stood quivering, the ground was burning hot, underneath the wagons the thermometer climbed to over 40°C and in the sun it was over 50°C. To sleep was impossible, we lay panting in the heat, waiting for the evening. If the country was destitute and barren, so were the inhabitants, some few Bergdamara, thin and starved. Towards the evening they came down to water their goats and to fetch water, of which, since we had come, there was just nothing left. They begged for “tabakka” and good-naturedly let themselves be photographed without objection, in contrast to the aggressive people to the north. A whole family with women and children had come to drink and now squatted down to look at the strangers. Now and then they took out of their skin bags a dried locust that they seriously and thoughtfully stuck into the mouth and ate, sharing with the children whose swollen stomachs, thin limbs and hollow eyes indicated a starvation diet. Except for the milk they can squeeze out of the emaciated goats, they live, like the Bushmen, from what they can find in the veld. They fetch the water in shallow troughs of wood in which a handful of grass is placed to prevent it splashing out.

   I had to spend another day at this place because of the condition of my oxen. During this time I had the opportunity of seeing a company of Bergdamara when travelling. They came from Okouambi where they had paid a tax of salt to the chief under whom they are taxable. They arrived at the hottest time of the day. I especially noticed a mother who carried her baby in a skin on her back. The child, whose head was uncovered and exposed to the glowing rays of the sun, was on arrival immediately washed over with water; the mother dried the dust from its lips and let it drink, before she satisfied her own thirst. After a short stay they continued in a westerly direction, despite the heat.[69]   

Möller states that the ‘Bergdamara’,

call themselves, Haukoiku (preceded by a snapping, smacking sound) [= ≠Nūkhoen?], [and are] a people about whose origin there are only guesses. That they, as well as the Bushmen, can be regarded as the remnants of the aboriginal population of Africa who had been pushed southwards, is an opinion that may have the greatest probability.  

   In their appearance they very much resemble the pure Negro type as it appears in Senegambia, but combined with this is a characteristic of thinness and dryness that is forced upon them by the peculiar living conditions in desert areas.  

   They are often somewhat over medium height, with dark, turning towards black, skin colour and with an ugly [!!] but good-natured type of face. In their temperament they are much more easy-going than the other surrounding peoples and let themselves be used as workers for the colonists to the south. Although it differs widely in some ways, the language spoken by the Bergdamara is approximately the same as that of the Hottentots whose slaves they are in many places.  

   Like the Bushmen, the Bergdamara live in family groups, mainly in Damaraland and especially in its mountainous and more barren areas and in the desert parts of the Kaokoveld. They are at best tolerated by Hottentots as well as Ovaherero, but are persecuted and exterminated wherever they appear outside certain areas that are uninhabitable by other people.  

   The Bergdamara way of life most closely resembles that of the Bushmen; like them they live on locusts, ant larvae [grass and Monsonia seeds?] and wild roots and game, but as hunters they do not possess the energy of the Bushmen, preferring to steal cattle from the herds of the Ovaherero grazing on the plains below their inaccessible mountains. The Bergdamara themselves do not generally own domestic animals, at the most you see a few goats with them.  

   The dwellings of these people, like those of the Bushmen, are extremely primitive: a low hut of branches or some branches of bushes tied together is all that they demand as protection against weather and wind. They wear karosses of [154] skin over the shoulders and back, a bag of leather for food and small things, ornaments such as necklaces on which are threaded pieces of wood instead of beads, and sometimes bracelets and anklets of twigs. Their weapons are a bow with poisoned arrows and throwing clubs; the household utensils consist of some wooden troughs for carrying water, sticks for digging up roots, sticks for making fire and a wooden mortar for crushing certain tubers.  

   The Bergdamara are decreasing rapidly; about forty years ago there were considered to be about 60 000 individuals, but at present they are probably reduced to about half that number.[70]     

Möller travels onwards to Okaukeujo:

I left Akahakana in the afternoon after a stay of one and a [146] half days; we now drove over stony, dry ground in an easterly direction.  

   There were numerous tracks of game here. On the waterless plains thrive the hartebeest, gemsbok and springbok, that often occur in great numbers. It is obvious that these animals can be without water for long periods, but when the thirst becomes too great for them they gather in large herds and move to other areas, searching for water. This veld is a favourite haunt of the ostrich which occurs everywhere here.    

   When the rains come and the young grass sprouts and there is water here and there, large herds of zebra and quagga, gnu, giraffe and eland come here. Among the carnivores especially the hunting dog occurs in great numbers and this rapacious beast causes great damage among the game.  

   After having driven all night we arrived at Oukouquejo [Okaukeujo] at dawn. Here were the Boers about whom I told earlier and who had had such difficulties on their way from Oundounga. Their wagons were standing in the thirst-veld but they had gathered the cattle that they had been able to save, about 250 animals, round the water and they were now waiting for rain to be able to return and fetch the vehicles. Several of the people had died of fever and there was general depression among them. The longed-for rain stayed away day after day, there was hardly any grass left and the hard-earned water was trampled and dirtied by the animals and almost undrinkable.  

   While we were staying here a party of Bushmen arrived, I loaded with the half-rotten dried meat of the oxen that the Boers had lost on their way from the north and on which the hyenas had already been gorging. The men were repulsive [!!], some were cross-eyed, all were emaciated, but they were accompanied by dogs gorged for the moment.      

   Close to Oukouquejo lies the large, shallow basin in the steppe, called the Etosha salt-pan. The formations called salt-pans occur here and there on the South African steppe. Round and close to them all vegetation ceases to grow, the ground becomes hard and smooth and gradually changes into a white, shining salt layer. …[71]    

As Möller states,

[a]s already described, the desert area which I had now fortunately crossed is populated here and there partly by Bergdamara, partly by Bushmen, rather similar as far as way of life is concerned, but as looks and character are concerned they are basically two different peoples.[72]

He relates that ‘Bushmen’ – the Nama words spoken by them, as recorded by Möller, indicate that they are Hai||om[73] – [197] considered by Vedder to be ‘impoverished Hottentots living a Bushman way of life’[74] – ‘living south of the Ovampo tribes pay a yearly tribute to them in salt, copper ore and game’ and that ‘[t]he Hottentots call the Bushmen by the common name of Ai Saab (preceded by a smacking sound)[75]. In terms of material culture, and from his own observations combined with those of Eriksson, he states that their huts,

consist simply of some branches from densely clustered bushes and trees bent and tied together and at best covered with some loose, leafy branches; as they protect neither from rain, sun nor wind, you may think they could as well be dispensed with. Among the household goods I noticed sticks with which to make fire, bladders and stomachs of larger antelopes and ostrich egg-shells for water containers and pointed sticks for digging up roots. Long, very bent bows[76] and reed arrows with poisoned points of bone are the most important weapons; throwing clubs are also used.  

   Clothing consists of a piece of skin at the front and at the back and sandals. Generally one or two skin bags are carried at the side to contain the food and round the neck hang some amulets and ornaments of bone, teeth and pieces of wood [149] strung on a thong; over the right shoulder the women carry the pointed sticks used for digging. The quiver is carried on the back and holds the arrows as well as a reed that is used to suck up water, even out of the smallest hole.  

   There is no other domestic animal among the Bushmen than the dog but often even this, the faithful companion of man, is lacking.  

   The Bushmen live solely from what the barren nature itself can supply; they do not know of any agriculture. When they roam round in the veld they are on the watch for food everywhere: in the trees to discover wild honey, birds' nests and wild fruit, on the ground to find the tracks of game, ant larvae, locusts, lizards, frogs and snakes - nothing is rejected. Their most important food, however, consists of certain tubers and bulbs that grow here and there in the veld. Whenever they march along you see them scouting round, occasionally their sharp eyes discover a root plant among the grasses and with the pointed end of the stick, which they carry with them, they dig it up quickly and dexterously, or they discover a mole-hole that they also dig up to catch its inhabitants. Food such as the tubers are generally eaten on the spot, without even being cleaned of earth and sand, as a result of which the teeth of the Bushmen are generally very worn and look unusually small.  

   When an area has been explored and food becomes scarce they move over to another part. They need extremely little water and can live in areas where nobody else can survive because of lack of water. However, one must note that the Bushmen know of water supplies in stones, hollow trees, etc. known to nobody else; but they also roam round in veld where these supplies do not occur, bringing water in ostrich egg-shells that they dig down in places in the sand and use when required.  

   It is obvious that they are excellent hunters. Their method of hunting consists of catching the game in game pits, or in running the animals down, or else in stalking them quite closely and shooting the deadly, poisoned arrows into the unsuspecting animals.  

   Game pits are especially dug round watering places at [150] points where the animals move in both directions; they are sprinkled over with the dung of the animals and are well hidden and delusive.  

   When the rains have fallen and the ground has become soft so that it is easy to follow the tracks of the game, then come the halcyon days of the Bushmen, for there is not an animal in the veld with which a young Bushman cannot catch up. The right hunting time comes, a track is located - let us suppose of some larger antelope. The hunter finds the animal out on the open plain and cannot stalk it; the animal takes flight with long leaps and disappears across the wide steppe. Now begins a unique chase. Running at a brisk pace the hunter follows the track for hour after hour; the animal, which has slowed down and stopped several times, finds itself continuously pursued by a persistent enemy. It is getting towards midday, the animal starts to tire, it twists and turns in its course, but to no avail, the Bushman does not let himself be confused for to his trained and sharp eye the path of the animal lies distinct and clear, he keeps running without a moment's hesitation. The sun becomes scorching hot, the animal is exhausted; panting, with hanging tongue, it continues forwards with difficulty, its winding turns become smaller and smaller, the Bushman intercepts them here and there and at a suitable moment he shoots the deadly arrow from a distance of a few paces. With this the hunt of the day is over, the hunter lets the animal go, looks for some water for himself in the neighbourhood, lights a fire and has a good night’s rest. The following morning he takes up the track again, the poison has now worked and the animal is found dead not far away. While he slaughters and hangs the meat of the animal for drying, his family, who have also followed the track, arrive and there begins a time of ease and gluttony until hunger again appears and drives him to renewed efforts.  

   Not only antelope but also larger animals, such as giraffe, can be killed by a single hunter in this way; if the animal is not reached in a day the hunter rests at the track during the night and resumes the pursuit the next morning. Eriksson, my informant, assures me that there is not an animal, the horse not excepted, that a Bushman so trained in hunting will not [151] eventually tire out and reach; all this on condition that the tracks are distinct.  

   The common method of hunting used the year round is to creep up to a few paces from the game and shoot it with a poisoned arrow and, after some hours when the poison has done its work, to search for the animal and kill it. The ability of the Bushman to stalk unobserved close to the game is remarkable, a small tuft of grass or a stone is coverage enough for them, and by flattening themselves motionless on the ground they make themselves invisible even on flat veld. They outwit the watchful and sharp-eyed ostrich by drawing an ostrich skin over their backs and threading the skin of the neck and the head ofthe bird on a stick; the hunter, disguised in this manner and imitating the movements of the ostrich, approaches the unsuspecting birds, and when within range the bow string hums and the arrow kills the otherwise unapproachable bird[77]. [**see later image from Denver expedition, 1925, and sceptical comments by Gordon].

   Even elephants, which pass through the area of the Bushmen during the rainy season, fall prey to these clever hunters. To hunt them the Bushmen need a kind of spade-like cutting tool of iron made by the Ovampo. Eriksson tells me that the largest elephant of which he ever heard in South Africa with tusks that each weighed 120 kg, was killed by a single Bushman with such a tool. When at midday the elephant seeks protection from the heat in a dense thicket, where for several hours it stands still, half-sleeping, fanning itself with its large ears, the Bushman creeps up to it. With a forceful thrust of the well-shaped tool he cuts off the hamstring of one of the hind legs of the colossus and then nimbly slinks away from the enraged animal that cannot move from the place as it cannot walk on three legs. In the above-mentioned case it took our Bushman eight days before he finished off the life of the poor animal. He had given the animal a cut and then another again when he could creep up to it and at last the animal collapsed from hunger and loss of blood; it can only be hoped that its sufferings then came to a fairly quick end. After the Bushmen have succeeded in killing an elephant they stay at the carcass as long as there is anything to eat. They cut the hide of the animal in strips, which are wrapped round the branches of [152] some tree where they are left to dry and after some time become bone-hard, resisting even the strong beaks and claws of the vultures. They can remain there for years, until there is one day a scarcity of food, when they are fetched and consumed. I met an elephant hunter who had been saved from starvation and death by such a provision depot.  

   The Bushman tribes who give tribute to the Ovampo chiefs in game must bring this in alive as it is feared that dead animals may be poisoned. For this purpose it is mainly springbok that are caught. A team of hunters who have tracked a herd of springbok wait for the moment when the grazing animals come into a suitable area, preferably a depression in the veld, then the hunters surround the animals on all sides in a wide circle, which is quickly reduced, with the concealed hunters approaching the centre where the animals are. As soon as the animals become disturbed, the hunters rush in from all sides and the confused antelopes burst forwards to break through, but are stopped by the throwing clubs flying in from all directions, breaking the legs of some and stunning others; if everything goes well then not a single one escapes out of a herd of about fifty animals. What now follows bears evidence of a cruelty without comparison: the leg bones of the fallen animals are broken just below the knee, the leg sinews are loosened and with these the legs of the animal are tied together; in that way the prey is then carried alive to be put down before the feet of some Ovampo despot.  

   The Bushman appears to be shy and uncommunicative. The white man has generally nothing to fear from him as long as he is not wronged. In particular he must not be given reason to be jealous because they are very careful about their women; the bones of many white hunters are whitening in the desert where the arrow of the revengeful Bushman had struck him.  

   Like all African people, the Bushmen have fetishes that give luck in hunting, protect against predators, etc. It is also I maintained with conviction that some of them have the means I of making themselves immune from scorpion stings and snake bites. They are said to have to undergo special training in their youth consisting mainly of swallowing increased quantities of poison of the above-mentioned creatures.[78]             

From Okaukeujo Möller travels southwards to Omaruru, his wagon ‘loaded with horns and trophies from my hunts as well as ethnographica’, [156] observing available water in deep wells to often be ‘soiled and stinking from the cattle of the Ovaherero’[79]. South of Ombika at Otyovazandu [Otjovasandu / Urub], which he reaches ‘one morning at dawn, a company of Hottentots were camping, the first I met within their own area’:

[a]s the Hottentots have for long been notorious for their robberies and plundering from the black population as well as from the whites whom they encounter, I was already warned against them. I had hardly discovered one of them before the whole yellow-skinned company had surrounded me. They demanded cartridges and ammunition, whereupon I immediately answered that if they gave me goat’s milk for my coffee I would give them a handful of Ovampo tobacco, but that we should not speak about ammunition. Luckily they let themselves be satisfied with this; the headman withdrew and did not show up again, but I escaped without trouble from this meeting. The fact that the Boers were at Oukouquejo and that the Germans had a military station at Oumarourou certainly contributed to this.      

   There is uncertainty about the origin of the Hottentots, as well as that of the Bushmen. Are they to be regarded as the aborigines of South Africa, or are they a mixture of Bushman and some other light-coloured race who immigrated from the north? In appearance the Hottentots most closely resemble certain Bushman tribes; the languages of the two peoples also [158] show the same origin and sound similar … The country northwards from the Orange River through Namaland and up through Damaraland and eastwards to the Kalahari Desert is at present the tribal area of these people.  

   In earlier days, when the Hottentots extended all the way down to the Cape, they owned large herds of cattle, sheep and goats, but as the European immigration increased the aboriginal inhabitants of the country were pushed away and their property and land were taken over by the intruders. At present the Hottentots have only a few cattle and practise a little agriculture, but they mostly travel round hunting or making a living out of robbery and plundering. I have already told about their marauding expeditions towards the north …

   Although I encountered Hottentots on several occasions I had no trouble with them, but before the Germans annexed the country and commanded respect the Hottentots were the fear of all traders and travellers. It was then their habit to plunder every white man who travelled in the country and who was not strong enough to defend himself; usually they then took everything that could be taken, leaving an empty wagon and a few pairs of oxen. A trader, who owned a shop in Autjo [Outjo], told me that Hottentots as well as Damaras used to plunder his supplies; ironically, on these occasions the Hottentots demanded that what they took should be noted in the big account book, they wanted only to borrow for the moment and would later pay everything, something which, of course, never happened. The whites in the country were at that time treated as pariahs by the natives. It was not unusual for a white man first to be plundered and then tied and whipped with his own sjambok. [159] In character they are arrogant, insolent and quarrelsome [!!].  

   A Hottentot considers himself at least as good as a European, and if he has succeeded in getting hold of the necessary clothes, then he is overcome by vanity and likes to play the big man.  

   These people have long ago left their primitive state. Thus the karosses, which originally constituted their dress, have been exchanged for clothes cut after European pattern and made of tanned animal hides or, more frequently, of cloth. Apart from their own language the Hottentots generally speak Dutch and at the same time pretend to be Christians.  

   Their dwellings are still occasionally the old beehiveshaped huts, covered with plaited grass mats - I saw such ones at a few places in Damaraland - but they now usually build ridged [rectangular] huts of grass or clay.  

   Among their weapons the bow and arrow are now regarded only as toys for children, throwing clubs are still in use, but the gun constitutes their main weapon; there are exceptionally good shots among the Hottentots.  

   Politically they are divided into different tribes, the chiefs of which compete among themselves for supremacy over the “red people” [“Rooinasie”] as they also call themselves. Among the prominent chiefs are Hendrick Witbooi and Jonker Afrikander, both clever leaders in the wars against the black population as well as the whites.  

   Although inferior in number, the Hottentots have been able to survive in the struggle with the Ovaherero against whom they have fought the most bitter and lengthy battles. They have also fought bravely against the Germans, the new masters in Damaraland, and had the Hottentots had enough ammunition the Germans would probably on several occasions have been powerless against them. A German officer doing service in Damaraland told me how on one occasion the Hottentots had taken position on the top of an inaccessible kopje, that the Germans had for a long time unsuccessfully tried to occupy. With good marksmanship the Hottentots fired their shots and killed several of their opponents, among them an officer; only on the third day, when their ammunition was finished, could the Germans storm the position. On [160] arrival up among the rocks on the top they searched in vain for their opponents who understand the art of hiding themselves almost unbelievably well; the Germans took very few prisoners, the great majority having stolen away unseen and unhurt among their enemies. Such skill they have learnt in the hunting-veld.[80]

At this point in the Möller provides a lengthy description of the skill of one of ‘his people, a Hottentot’ in hunting a gnu standing alone ‘on a bare plain in the shady of an acacia, the only tree in the vicinity’, followed by a transcription of a ‘Hottentot fable’ called ‘The Lion and the Jackal’[81].          

Möller sums up his observations stating that,

[a]mong the above-mentioned peoples in Damaraland the Bushmen and the Bergdamara constitute the pariahs of the country; the Hottentots were the masters of the country until the beginning of this century, when there came an immigration of new people which brought a struggle for might. These immigrants were the Ovaherero, as they call themselves. During my journey through Damaraland I first met these people at Otyamungundi [Otjamungundi or Aimab), where there were a company of them with their cattle; after that I had daily contact with them during the remainder of my journey.      As indicated above, the Ovaherero immigrated into the area where they are at present settled. As far as can be ascertained the Ovaherero, who comprise a branch of the great Bantu group of peoples settled over the whole central Africa, came wandering from the north-east, living for some time on both sides of the Kunene from where they moved down across the Kaokoveld in the south-west, where they seem to have stayed for some time, and finally penetrated southwards to their present region, Damaraland, where they arrived as late as in the end of the last century and in the beginning of this century.

   The Ovaherero have left obvious traces behind them as they [164] moved forwards. Thus there are still both on the other side of the Kunene and in the Kaokoveld remnants of the large migration, the so-called Ovachimba, who were once one with the Ovaherero people, but who stayed behind in the inhospitable area that the majority of their tribal relatives did not find good enough; here they have degenerated and are despised by the actual Ovaherero.[82]      

The Ovaherero encountered by Möller have ‘a large number of fire-arms of older as well as more modern types’[83].

Möller arrives in
Omaruru on 9th February observing here ‘a German military station’ with ‘[t]wenty-five German soldiers and non-commissioned officers … with a Lieutenant Volkmann [Volksmann] in charge’ who treats him to breakfast with ‘[a] nicely laid table with flowers and bowls of fruit and grapes’[84]. Omaruru itself gives,

the impression of a neat and well-kept place. The river always has some water running over the sand. The surrounding landscape is beautiful; green plains of camel-thorn trees with kopjes and mountain masses.[85]   

Leaving Omaruru he passes through ‘a large Damara [Herero] village where the chief, Manasse, on of the most important in the country, has his abode’, photographs an Ovaherero village at Erongo where ‘there is not a blade of grass, only bushes’, observing that although this should be the rainy season ‘there has not been any rain this year, so everything is dry’[86]. On 15th February he arrives at ‘a cattle-post, Oukhas [Aukas] where some Bastards have settled along the dry sandy river, Kaan [Khan]’[87]. His expedition stops at Kätma Noams§ [Nkätma Noaams / Ketmannsnam?], an oputspan ‘marked by the remains of burnt out fires and wagon tracks’ from where it is a two hour walk into the mountains to get water, [171] and at Heikankop [Haigamkab / Haigamehab] in the Swakop River where there is water and where because ‘the place is close to the border of the English Walfish Bay, the Germans had built a small customs station where there were four German soldiers and a non-commissioned officer at the time’[88].

Möller arrives Walvis Bay on 21st February noting that,

[s]ome Hottentots are settled here; apart from fish, which they collect on the beach at low water, they live from the nara fruit (Acanthosicyos horrida [now horridus] Welw.), a kind of cucumber with fruits the size of an orange, that are numerous on the sand-dunes. After another hour's travel in deeper sand we saw the houses of Walfish Bay; I stopped, took a last photograph of the wagon, and then drove forward to the trading station where I was well received by Mr. Gunning, and for the first time in a long period moved into a room. After having written some letters, which had to accompany my people inland again, I took farewell of my men and paid them off, the whips snapped again over the poor oxen which quickly had to start the long way back as there was nothing for them to eat or drink - water for the whites at this place comes from the Cape with the steamer.  

   There is not much to say about Walfish Bay. Some houses of corrugated iron and wood are on the beach. This place and the one just north of it, Swakop, are the import and export harbours of Damaraland. Hides, goat-skins, ostrich-feathers and horns are the main exports.[89]  

Möller returns to Sweden via the monthly steamer to Cape Town and publishes an account of travels in 1899[90].

[1] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899]; i.e. Möller appears to have been ahead of the curve in terms of making people a primary focus of his photographs some time prior to the Denver expedition to photograph Bushmen in northern Namibia of 1925, which Gordon (**) analyses as unusual in terms of photographic emphasis in South West Africa.

[2] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 1.

[3] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 51, cf. Taussig’s Mimesis and Alterity**

[4] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 2.

[5] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 3.

[6] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 3.

[7] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 4.

[8] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 5.

[9] i.e. Kingdom of Dahomey, see 020119.

[10] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 6-7.

[11] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 7.

[12] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 7.

[13] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 7.

[14] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 8.

[15] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 8.

[16] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 9.

[17] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 10.

[18] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 11.

[19] Rudner and Rudner 1974[1899], pp. 11-12.

[20] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 36.

[21] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 13.

[22] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 13-14.

[23] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 14.

[24] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 15.

[25] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 15.

[26] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 17.

[27] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 20.

[28] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 45.

[29] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 20-21.

[30] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 23.

[31] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 24.

[32] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 24-25, f27 p. 177.

[33] Rudner and Rudner 1974[1899], f29 p. 178.

[34] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 26.

[35] Rudner and Rudner 1974[1899], f29 p. 178.

[36] Rudner and Rudner 1974[1899], f29 p. 178, after De Almeida 1965.

[37] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 27, up to high plateau after Muninho§, southern Angola.

[38] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 29.

[39] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 30.

[40] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 30.

[41] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 31-33.

[42] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 33-34, also in Rizzo 2012, p. 34.  

[43] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 34-35.

[44] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 35 – Casinga later becomes ‘the most important iron mine in Angola’, f39 p. 179.

[45] Rudner and Rudner 1974[1899], f69 p. 182.

[46] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 46-47, f64, f67 p. 182.

[47] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 47.

[48] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 48.

[49] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 48.

[50] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 49.

[51] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 49.

[52] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 49.

[53] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 51-52.

[54] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 60.

[55] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 60.

[56] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 61.

[57] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 62.

[58] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 63.

[59] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 64.

[60] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 106-107.

[61] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 109.

[62] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], f60 p. 181.

[63] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 137.

[64] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 137-138.

[65] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 138, f148, f150 pp. 195-196 (in italics).

[66] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 139-141.

[67] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 141.

[68] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 143-144.

[69] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 144-145.

[70] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 153-154.

[71] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 145-146.

[72] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 147.

[73] Rudner and Rudner 1974, f158 pp. 197-198, also ‘Comparative vocabulary’, p. 173, f177 p. 201.

[74] Rudner and Rudner 1974, f154 pp. 196-197, cf. also f158, p. 198 - ‘Vedder (1938) has long maintained that the South West Africa Bushmen should be divided into true Bushmen who speak Bushman languages, and the Saan Bushmen, who are “wild” Hottentots living a Bushman way of life and who speak a Nama dialect. To the latter belong the Heikom of the old Damaraland and Ovamboland’.

[75] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 148.

[76] ‘The Heikom Bushmen have long, very bent bows like those of the historical Cape Hottentots, in contrast to the Kalahari Bushmen who have short, rather flat bows. Today the Heikom Bushmen of Ovamboland use the same bows and arrows as the Ovambo’ (Rudner and Rudner 1974, f155 p. 197).      

[77] ‘Stow (1905) and several early travellers refer to various Bushman “disguises” when hunting, including the use of an ostrich skin with a stick through the neck to keep the head erect’ (Rudner and Rudner 1974, f156 p. 197).

[78] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 148-152.

[79] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 155-156.

[80] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 157-160.

[81] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 160-162.

[82] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 163-164.

[83] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 164.

[84] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 169. Volksmann had previously taken part in the Naukluft Campaign against the Witbooi Nama led by Leutwein [see 1894] and had been left with two officers and 23 men at Omaruru after Leutwein had signed a treaty with Capn. Manasse of Omaruru to ‘station a military force at Omaruru to protect the Herero’ (Rudner and Rudner 1974, f173 p. 201).

[85] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 169.

[86] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 170.

[87] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 170.

[88] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], pp. 170-171.

[89] Rudner and Rudner [Möller] 1974[1899], p. 172.

[90] Rudner and Rudner 1974; Rudner and Rudner 2007, p. 6;