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

Chapter 13: The Biafar heathen,   pp. 1-6 ff.

Page 4

4.   (

Before we go on to discuss the fertility of the land, let us
pause to answer those who ask why, in the same zone and on the same
parallel, there are blacks in some parts but not in others. Some say
that this arises from features of the land, the heat of the sun and
influences of the heavens, which may modify the special qualities of
of the earth imposed by God on certain places at the beginning of the
world. This is why we are inclined to say that in the course of time
the first men became light or dark on account of the (differing)
features of the earth and the heat of the sun, and their children /IF43|
afterwards inherited this from them. In the same way it can be under-
stood why some men have curly hair and others not. This will suffice
towards a full understanding of the character of localities and of
those who inhabit them.
Now let us discuss the fertility of the land. It is the same as
is general throughout Guinea, although there is little rice; the staple
foodstuff, funde, together with milho branco (white millet) and
massaroca, both very healthy foods, being more common. The earthcrops
are yams and macarras.     Varying quantities of these are grown,
depending on the skill of the inhabitants, some of whom are very hard-
working as well as being well-disposed. It has been claimed that the
people of Biafar are outstanding in this latter respect, which might be
gathered from what the Lord has written upon their physical features,
for this people has the most handsome features throughout West Ethiopia.
To contemplate the bearing, tue smile, the dignity and the fine physical
proportions of a Biafar, coupled with his mildness of character and his
devotion to the person who brought him up, gives one much to think
about. It is astonishing how forgetful they are, in their own land,
regarding their parents and relatives, who are shadowy figures in their
recollection compared with those they recognise (as their guardians)
and under whose authority they find themselves. I myself was greatly
struck by the attitude of a young boy whom I brought up in Serra Leoa.
Whenever I encouraged him, out of love for his motherland, to speak
about the succession to the kingdom, a matter which might some day
involve him as he was the son of a very important individual, his reply
was always exactly the same, that to him his motherland and his kingdom
were myself and the (other) padres. My experience of him matched this
answer, for I found him completely trustworthy in matters of moment and

(d) Pumpkins, beans, a few bananas.


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