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Central Africa and Its People 434

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CENTRAL AFRICA AND ITS PEOPLE 434. An African forest village.—Bong and Rita are a black boy and girl who live in the great forest of Central Africa. Their village of thirty houses is on a small stream that flows into a river which is itself a branch of a great river called the Kbngo.

There is no winter in their country. The weather is always hot. The children there do not wear clothes, because they do not need them. Bong's father's house is just like every other house in the village. It is round, with a round roof shaped almost like the half of a ball. Such houses are easy to make. The children's father, Taree, and their mother, Tarita, with the help of Bong and Rita, built the house in a few days. First, they went into the woods and brought back some long straight poles. These were stuck into the ground a foot apart. The wall was made by weav ing long palm leaves basket fashion in and .out among the poles. The ends of the poles were then bent over and tied together with pieces of wild climbing vines. This made the rafters. They were covered with a frame-work of smaller branches to which long bundles of grass were bound. When it rains, this grass or thatch turns the water just as shingles turn the water on our own roofs.

To make a bed, four sticks with prongs on their upper ends are stuck into the ground. Two long, straight sticks make the sides. Across these, shorter sticks are laid to make slats. Then comes a mat of grass to serve as a mattress. The mats are made of grass of different colors. For beauty, many, many hours were spent making other grass mats to ornament the walls. Even the vines they tied on the roof were so placed that they made orna mental figures on the ceiling. How differ ent their house is from the one that Shoo e-ging-wa and her brother Okuk live in.

435. Their the village, the trees of the forest have been killed by fires built around their trunks. In the clearing thus made are many banana plants, peanuts and vegetables. Every body in the village likes bananas, as do millions of other black people in Africa and millions of white people in other countries.

When supper time comes, Taree takes a little piece of meat, wraps it up in a leaf, goes out to a banana tree, and with a sharp stick pins the meat fast to the banana tree. He has now paid the tree for a bunch of bananas which he is about to pick from it. He would be very angry if anyone said that he took things without paying for them. He then cuts off a bunch of bananas, and takes it to the house. Tarita, his wife, digs into a pile of ashes and finds in the bottom a few live coals, upon which she heats some stones. Taree and Tarita are very careful to see that the fire never goes out; it is a great deal of work to start a new fire, for they have no matches. Fire must be made by drilling a stick into a block of soft wood until it getS hot enough to burn. Tarita cooks some of the green bananas in a wooden pot, the water in which has been heated by dropping the hot stones into it. The wooden pot is carved with figures of bananas on the out side, for the Africans have a deep feeling for decorative beauty.

Bong and Rita now return from the forest with a quart of big, fat, white worms an inch long. These are the larvae, or grubs, of a large beetle that lives in the ground and in rotten logs. The children got them by poking sharp sticks into old stumps and rotten logs where the grubs live. Tarita roasts the grubs in the coals of the open fire, and the family has a fine African supper of boiled bananas and roasted grubs.

436. Fish and next day they want some fish. Rita ties a piece of meat to a strong string of twisted palm leaf fibers, and carefully drops it into the stream that runs beside the village. Soon a big fish comes along and swallows the chunk of meat. Rita pulls him up quickly to the top of the water, and Bong drives a sharp, wooden spear through him, and throws him out on the bank. The fish is big enough to feed the whole family even after the best of it is given to Tambo, the head man, or chief of the village. Tambo is their king.

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