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Alvares, Manuel, 1526-1583, et al. / Ethiopia Minor and a geographical account of the Province of Sierra Leone : (c. 1615)
(1990)

Chapter 5: The trade of this port and the characters of the settlers there and of the heathen who surround them,   pp. 1-8


Page 7

7.
Majesty in the East Indies, performed no small ones in Cacheu at this period.
For though a churchman, he hastened to the tabanca and mounted that frail
stockade with such valour that once he had set his foot on the timber, this
proved enough for Horcafem's men, their courage began to die away, and they
abandoned the struggle. Nor must I be silent about the good works of the
Portuguese captains whose ships were anchored there at that date, for they
lovingly rushed to help the Reverend Father to repel that disgrace to the
faith and the Christian religion.
This is the right point to speak more specifically about the heathen
who surround this town. All of them are Papels, otherwise known as
Buramos, and they have a number of kings, as the Banhus do. Their land
extends in length some 18 leagues, as far as Bissau, where it touches the
Balantas on the East side. In width, on the South side it reaches what we
call the Ilhetas or Little Islands, the Papel heathen's own ( ? home-)land,
and a larger island called Bussis which we shall discuss shortly. The
whole way round the land there are creeks which enter the sea, and this is
the reason why it is so unhealthy for strangers. The people present a good
appearance throughout, but are less hard-working than the Banhus. In the
interior, the men usually wear goat-skins which have been tanned with
mangrove bark. They draw the skin across their fronts by tying the corners,
or by having one corner which passes (between their legs) from behind and
is tied on the navel. The gentry wear dyed cotton cloths, called
barafulas, which the whites sell them. Some of them make Moorish smocks
from these cloths. To appear less immodest, poor people make from cibe
straw a cover-piece which only covers their rear. But this form of dress
is so ancient that all the kings of the Papels own such pieces. When they
take possession of their kingdoms they wear one edged with many hems in
red, yellow and other colours, and they dress this way at dances and feasts.
This strange garment is considered an insignia of royalty, together with
a
red cap and a bow with arrows. As for their other rites and ceremonies,
they are much the same as those of their Banhu neighbours. This is all
that need be said about the Papel heathen in this chapter. If anything
further occurs to us, we will mention it when discussing the Ilhetas or
Bussis Island /f.21/. However there is so little information available
about the islands we call Ilhetas that it seems to me best to insert it
here in conclusion. According to the Lusitanian bard, these islands are
the three sisters directed by one eye, for though there are three only one
can be seen. In terms of natural characteristics, the inhabitants are
Papel. Pirates come here to water and sometimes take valuable prizes,


 


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