All this time the Otando people were busy making otaitais, or porters' baskets. The otaitai is a very ingenious contrivance for carrying loads in safety on the backs
of men. I have brought one of these baskets home, and preserve it as a keepsake.
It is long and narrow; the wicker-work is made of strips of a very tough climbing plant; the length is about two and a half feet, and the width nine inches ; the sides are made of open cane-work, capable of being expanded or drawn in, so as to admit of a larger or smaller load. Cords of are attached to the sides, for the purpose of securing the contents. Straps
made of strong plaited rushes secure the basket to the head and arms of the carrier, as shown in the picture.
The portrait represents what might be styled a Dinka dandy, distinguished for unusually long hair.
By continual combing and stroking with hair-pins, the hair of the negro loses much of its close curliness. Such was the case here: the hair, six inches long, was trained up into points like tongues of flame, and these, standing stiffly up all round his head, gave the man a fiendish look, which was still further increased by its being dyed a foxy red.
This tint is the result of continual washing with cow-urine; a similar effect can be produced by the application for a fortnight of a mixture of dung and ashes.
One of the most influential personages of the neighbouring race of the Lao was a woman, already advanced in years, of the name of Shol. She played an important part as a sort of chief of the Meshera, her riches, according to the old patriarchal fashion, consisting of cattle. As wealthy as cattle copuld make her, she would long since have been a prey to the Nubians, who carry on their ravages principally in those regions, if it had not chanced that the intruders needed her for a friend. They required a convenient and secure landing-place, and the paramount necessity of having this induced them to consider plunder a secondary matter.
Shol, on her part, uses all her influence to retain her tribe on friendly terms with the strangers. The smallest conflict might involve the entire loss of her property.
A Niam-niam minstrel
As the darkness came on. our camp was enlivened by the appearance of the grotesque figure of a singer, who came with a huge bunch of feathers in his hat, and these, as he wagged his head to the time of his music, became all entangled with the braids of his hair. Altogether the head was like the head of Medusa. These "minne-singers" among the Niam-niam as known as "nzangah." They are as sparing of their voices as a worn-out prima donna; except for those close by, it is impossible to hear what they are singing. Their instrument is the local guitar, the thin jingling of which accords perfectly well with the nasal humming of the minstrel's recitative.
The occupation of these nzangah, however, notwithstanding the general love of the people for music, would not appear to be held in very high esteem, as the same designation is applied to those unfortunate women, friendless and fallen, who are never absent from any community.