Travels in Africa - Park Denham, Clapperton, Lander, and Others

Of the Hottentots of the colony and its vicinity, it is said that they have become noted and almost proverbial for presenting man in his lowest estate, and under the closest alliance with the inferior orders of creation. It must, indeed, be admitted that they take particular pains to render their external appearance the most hideous that the human body can possibly present. Grease is poured over their persons in copious streams, which, being exposed to the perpetual action of smoke, forms on their skin a black and shining cake, through which the native color, a yellowish-brown, is scarcely perceptible. Grease in Africa forms the chief distinction of rank - the rich besmearing themselves with fresh butter, while the poorer classes are obliged to tear the fat from the bowels of slaughtered animals. They assign as a reason for this singular practice, an effect which has been readily admitted by judicious travelers - namely, that such a coating has, in this climate, a most salutary influence in defending them from the rays of the sun, and in averting many cutaneous disorders. Nature seems to have aided the task of disfiguring them, by covering the head with irregular tufts of hard and coarse hair, and causing singular prominences, composed of fat, to jut out in parts where they are least ornamental. Nor do their habits of life present anything to redeem this outward deformity. Their kraals or villages, consist of a confused crowd of little conical hovels, composed of twigs and earth, in which large families sit and sleep without having room to stand upright. The fire in the middle fills these mansions with thick smoke, the floors being deeply covered with every species of filth. At festivals, when an ox or a sheep is killed, the Hottentots rip open the belly, tear out the entrails, which they throw on the coals, and feast on them before the animal is completely dead. Yet they are a friendly, hospitable race, living together in the greatest affection and harmony. The sluggish and senseless stupidity with which they have been so generally taxed, seems to have been in a ' great measure produced by their degrading subjection to the Dutch boors.' It has been asserted that the Hottentots are destitute of all ideas of religion; but this is not correct. It is ascertained that they believe in a Supreme Being, as well as in an inferior spirit of malignant nature; and that they practice certain superstitious rites, such as are usual among savages.

Such is the description given of the Hottentots as they were under the Dutch rule. Since the Cape came into the possession of the British, they have not been treated with the same neglect and cruelty as they experienced from the Dutch, who used to prohibit Hottentots, equally with dogs, from entering their places of worship; still, with some exceptions, arising from the beneficial effects produced in some places by the missionaries, the account seems to remain substantially true. Immediately to the north of the colony, and on the borders of the Snewburg or Snowy Mountains, are the Bosjesmans, or Bushmans, the most savage and degraded of all the South Africans. They were visited in 1797 by Mr. Barrow, private secretary to Lord Macartney, with the view of ascertaining whether friendly relations might not be entered into with them, to prevent their incursions upon the farms of the Europeans.

Mr. Barrow, at the same period, crossed the frontier which divides the colony from the country of the Caffres, and made acquaintance with this race, differing widely in almost all respects from their neighbors the Bushmans. He found them a handsome and spirited people, of frank and generous deportment, leading a roaming pastoral life, and possessing numbers of cattle, in the rearing of which they seemed proficient.