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Edward Carpenter:
IOLÄUS: AN ANTHOLOGY OF FRIENDSHIP (1908): Africa


The full text of IOLÄUS is available.

Page numeration is indicated by [square brackets]

[Introduction: Edward Carpenter's Ioläus is an attempt to provide a historical context for male friendship. One should not be misled, however. Carpenter, one of the earliest English homosexual activists, is writing about homosexual relationships and trying to provide a historical grounding for them. As such his work is of interest not only for its references, but also as evidence of the strategies of the early gay movement .]


I: FRIENDSHIP-CUSTOMS IN THF. PAGAN AND EARLY WORLD

[4] THE Balonda are an African tribe inhabiting Londa land, among the Southern tributaries of the Congo River. They were visited by Livingstone, and the following account of their customs is derived from him:

" The Balonda have a most remarkable custom of cementing friendship. When two men agree to be special friends they go through a singular ceremony. The men sit opposite each other holding hands, and by the side of each is a vessel of beer. Slight cuts are then made on the clasped hands, on the pit of the stomach, on the right cheek, and on the forehead. The point of a grass-blade is pressed against each of these cuts, so as to take up a little of the blood, and each man washes the grass-blade in his own beer vessel. The vessels are then exchanged and the contents drunk, so that each imbibes the blood of the other. The two are thenceforth considered as blood-relations, and are bound to assist each [5] other in every possible manner. While the beer is being drunk, the friends of each of the men beat on the ground with clubs, and bawl out certain sentences as ratification of the treaty. It is thought correct for all the friends of each party to the contract to drink a little of the beer. The ceremony is called 'Kasendi'. After it has been completed, gifts are exchanged! and both parties always give their most precious possessions."
Natural History of Man. Rev. J. G. Food. Vol: Africa, p. 419.

Among the Manganjas and other tribes of the Zambesi region, Livingstone found the custom of changing names prevalent.

"Sininyane (a headman) had exchanged names with a Zulu at Shupanga, and on being called the next morning made no answer; to a second and third summons he paid no attention; but at length one of his men replied, 'He is not Sininyane now, he is Moshoshoma '; and to this name he an swered promptly. The custom of exchanging names with men of other tribes is not uncommon; and the exchangers regard themselves as close comrades, owing special duties to each other ever after. Should one by chance visit his comrade's town, he expects to receive food, lodging, and other friendly offices from him."
Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi. By David and Charles Livingstone. Murray, 1865, p. 148.

*****

[12] The following passage from Livingstone shows the existence among the African tribes of his time of a system, which Wood rightly says " has a singular resemblance to the instruction of pages in the days of chivalry ":

" Monina (one of the confederate chiefs of the Banyai) had a great number of young men about him, from twelve to fifteen years of age. These were all sons of free men, and bands of young lads like them in the different districts leave their parents about the age of puberty and live with such men as Monina for the sake of instruction. When I asked the nature of the instruction I was [13] told ' Bonyai,' which I suppose may be understood as indicating manhood, for it sounds as if we should say, ' to teach an American Americanism,' or, ' an Englishman to be English.' While here they are kept in subjection to rather stringent regulations.... They remain unmarried until a fresh set of youths is ready to occupy their place under the same instruction."
Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa. By David Livingstone, 1857, p. 618.

M. Foley ( Bulln. Soc. d'Anthr. de Paris, 1879) speaks of fraternity in arms among the natives of New Caledonia as forming a close tie- closer even than consanguinity.

END


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