Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa

Source: David Livingstone, Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa. Including a sketch of sixteen years’ residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast; thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi, to the eastern ocean (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1898), pp. 322-323

Text: Shinte was most anxious to see the pictures of the magic lantern; but fever had so weakening an effect, and I had such violent action of the heart, with buzzing in the ears, that I could not go for several days; when I did go for the purpose, he had his principal men and the same crowd of court beauties near him as at the reception. The first picture exhibited was Abraham about to slaughter his son Isaac; it was shown as large as life, and the uplifted knife was in the act of striking the lad; the Balonda men remarked that the picture was much more like a god than the things of wood or clay they worshiped. I explained that this man was the first of a race to whom God had given the Bible we now held, and that among his children our Savior appeared. The ladies listened with silent awe; but, when I moved the slide, the uplifted dagger moving toward them, they thought it was to be sheathed in their bodies instead of Isaac’s. “Mother! mother!” all shouted at once, and off they rushed helter-skelter, tumbling pell-mell over each other, and over the little idol-huts and tobacco-bushes: we could not get one of them back again. Shinte, however, sat bravely through the whole, and afterward examined the instrument with interest. An explanation was always added after each time of showing its powers, so that no one should imagine there was aught supernatural in it; and had Mr. Murray, who kindly brought it from England, seen its popularity among both Makololo and Balonda, he would have been gratified with the direction his generosity then took. It was the only mode of instruction I was ever pressed to repeat. The people came long distances for the express purpose of seeing the objects and hearing the explanations.

Comments: David Livingstone (1813-1873) was a Scottish missionary and explorer of Africa. Livingstone took a magic lantern with him on his transcontinental journey across Africa, 1852-56. On his return to Britain he became famous following the publication of his Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa. This account records a magic lantern show late January 1854 in the upper Zambezi area. Shinte was chief of the Balonda people. This entry has been classified under Zambia, but in 1854 there was no country with national borders.

Links: Copy at Internet Archive (American edition)