"twenty cannibals splashing around and pushing"
Bangala warrior and his family (1889)
Public DomainBangala warrior and his family (1889) - Credit: Alexandre Delcommune

In addition to Conrad and the other European passengers, the Roi des Belges carried a crew of twenty-five Africans. Norman Sherry writes that the crews of Congo steamers were ‘from the upper Congo, mainly from Bangala’ and suggests that the Bangalas were ‘joyfully cannibalistic'.

Contemporary accounts would appear to confirm Sherry’s assertion. W. Holman Bentley, describing how the  ‘whole wide country [of the upper Congo] seemed to be given up to cannibalism, from the Mobangi (a major tributary of the Congo) to Stanley Falls, for six hundred miles on both sides of the main river’, records how one Bangala chief, when asked if he ate human flesh, answered, ‘Ah! I wish that I could eat everybody on earth!’ He also describes meeting an elderly Bangala man who was reported to have killed and eaten seven of his wives. S. L. Hinde, who travelled on the Congo at this period, reports how, on a return journey from Stanley Falls, six of the steamer’s Bangala crew were kept in irons and ‘delivered up to justice … for having eaten two of their number during the voyage up to the falls.’ G. W. Williams, an African-American visitor, noted in 1890 that some of the Congo soldiers were ‘bloodthirsty cannibalistic Bangalas’ who fed on the bodies of slain children.

Other Congo tribes said to have practised cannibalism include the Batwas, the Basongos, and the Bambalas.


Further reading:

www.heretical.com, Here Be Cannibals: Cannibalism in the African Congo


Bangala men (c. 1921)
Public DomainBangala men (c. 1921) - Credit: Isaac F. Marcosson
Bangala chief with his harem (c. 1905)
Public DomainBangala chief with his harem (c. 1905) - Credit: Henry Wellington Wack