HERE BE CANNIBALS

CANNIBALISM IN NIGERIA



Directly an enemy was slain, his head – and sometimes his body, if the people were strongly cannibalistic – was taken to the village and a great dance given, either at once or after the skull has been cleaned of its flesh by boiling, or by being buried for a time in the ground. At the feast, every man-slayer of the village danced round, generally with a skull in one hand and his machete in the other. Sometimes the body of the enemy was brought in whole; sometimes it was cut in pieces in advance to facilitate transport. It was then boiled in native pots and shared out, occasionally among the man-slayer's family and friends, but sometimes among all the people of the village, until it was wholly consumed. In some tribes it was forbidden for women and children to partake of human flesh; in others, for example among the Kalabari, the eldest sister of the hut was forced to taste it, however strongly she might protest.

Among the Abadja, the whole body of anyone slain was ordinarily taken back to the village and there consumed, though it was tabu to eat women or children. A man only divided his ‘kill’ among his own family. The body was cut up and cooked in pots; the fingers, palms of the hands, and toes were considered the best eating. Sometimes, if a family had been satisfied, part of the body would be dried and put away for later.

When an Nkanu warrior brought a head back, everyone who heard of the deed gave him a present, and much palm-wine was drunk. The trophy was boiled, and the flesh cut away. The skull was then taken out, accompanied with all the others in the village, and the flesh was then boiled and eaten.

Much cruelty was practised among certain of these tribes. For example, the Bafum-Bansaw, who frequently tortured their prisoners before putting them to death. Palm-oil was boiled in a big pot, and then by means of a gourd enema it was pumped into the bowels and stomachs of the prisoners. This practice was said to make the bodies much more succulent than they would otherwise have been. The bodies were left until the palm-oil had permeated them, and then cut up and devoured...

P. A. Talbot, Southern Nigeria, Clarendon Press, 1926 (3 vols.)




Every moment, men, women and even children passed me. One would be carrying a human leg on his shoulder, another would be carrying the lungs or the heart of some unfortunate Kroo-boy in his or her hands. Several times I myself was offered my choice of one of these morsels, dripping with gore.

Father Bubendorf of Freiburg, an eye-witness to the slaughter of a group of captives outside the hut of a tribal chief, Onitsha, Nigeria, c. 1921