ca. 1880 Kru and ‘Krumanos’

Nineteenth-century European trading factories in Congo and Angola depended on African labour for different tasks. Examples are the Kru, also called Kru-men, and the Krumanos. Both names sound alike, but there was an important difference. The Kru took up paid employment, whereas the Krumanos were forced into labour.

José Augusto. da Cunha Moraes, Portrait of a man from the Kru coast, ca. 1880, Collection Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, id.nr. A45-97 .

Frost explains Kru was the name given by Europeans to inhabitants of communities along the coastline of present-day eastern Liberia. Their highly developed skills in fishing and canoe faring proved and advantage in their interaction with the Europeans. It is believed the development of their maritime skills in the eighteenth century led Kru to be employed on slave ships to the America’s. After Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1808, Kru took up employment on naval ships of the West Africa Squadron; the blockade against illegal ships intent on carrying Africans into slavery in the America’s.1

Frost writes the mobility of the Liberian Kru increased in the nineteenth century when formerly enslaved people from the United States of America were settled in Liberia, under the auspices of the American Colonisation Society. These so-called Settler Liberians competed with the Kru in trade and land acquisition. Kru men migrated to the coastal cities, where European trading companies were expanding their business. Kru became employed as agricultural labourers. palm oil ships, as shoremen, and construction workers 2

‘Factory slaves’

William Holman Bentley (1855-1905) of the Baptist Missionary Society wrote:

‘When we reached to Congo in 1879 all the labour of the trading factories was performed by slaves. […] ‘Kru boys, from the Kru coast about Libera, were the labourers on the coast steamers and factories higher up the coast: so to throw dust in the eyes of those who would make inquiries, the factory slaves about the Congo were called Krumanos. The average price of a Krumano was £ 5.

[…] I have often seen these factory slaves working in chains, four to six chained together by a ring on the neck. Sometimes there might be among the chain-gangs a rowdy slave or two in the chain for punishment; but as a rule, they would be ordinary Krumanos, new or not trusted, kept in the chains to prevent their flight.3

José Augusto. da Cunha Moraes, Portrait of Krumanos, ca. 1870, Collection Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, id.nr. A274-86.

The word ‘Krumanos’ in the description of the photograph by Jose Augusto da Cunha Moraes might mean the men were unfree labourers. According to Vos, European trading companies used local networks to obtain so-called servicais, or enslaved labourers. They were bought or hired from local chiefs, who supplied them to serve for a short or indefinite time. 4 Besides, small numbers of slaves from the interior were a part of ivory caravans to the coast, where they were sold by African middlemen.
Vos cites a report of Onno Zwier van Sandick, (1861-1881), an employee for the Afrikaansche Handelsvereeniging, when he points out the unfree Krumanos received remuneration: they were paid in so-called ‘longs’ (a textile measuring unit of six yards)). They earned two to three longs a month, Vos states this was a reasonable salary compared to Kru ((four longs), canoe men (three longs), female servants (four to six longs) or linguisters (eight to ten longs). 5
Zwiers van Sandick explained the reasoning behind the payment of the Krumanos. They were at all times at the disposal of the Afrikaanse Handelsvereeniging, whereas Kru could be employed for a maximum of sixteen months. Zwiers van Sandick ruled out employing other free African labourers: ‘a free negro doesn’t think of working as soon as he has had enough to eat.’ 6
Vos includes a citation from the British consul Hopkins about the Krumanos of the Dutch Afrikaansche Handelsvereniging, who in 1877 held about 150 slaves.

‘[…] these people are so well treated that, to all intents and purpose, they are free, and they are never sold or exchanged; in fact, it is their boast that they are the children of the Dutch house.’ 7

José Augusto. da Cunha Moraes, Factory of the Afrikaansche Handels Vereeniging seen from the water, in Chissambo (Cabinda, Angola) ca 1870. Collection Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, id.nr.A274-28

However, from the report of Zwier van Sandick, a somewhat different picture emerges. He travelled May 1879 to November 1880 from the headfactory in Banana to smaller factories. The factory in Banana owned fifty slaves, Zwier van Sandick described they were bought at the coast, for about 30 longs, and shipped to Banana. Some ship captains were hesitant to take the Krumanos on board, out of fear for inspections by the British West Africa Squadron. As a solution each Krumano received a contract, the words ‘paid in Banana’ was a code for the AHV these were in fact ‘factory slaves’.
After arrival, Krumanos were immediately chained in a neck collar or libámbo. Zwier van Sandick recalled how the resistance of Krumanos to be chained was forcibly repressed.

‘In October 1879 I witnessed how one continuously yelled: senhór landaáz, grácia-grácia (Sir Dutchman, mercy, mercy). Whereupon the supervisor ordered to lash him into silence – which happened. Completely bloodied he lay numb and had stopped yelling.’

According to Zwier van Sandick these cruelties were persistent in the factories where he was stationed. In case a Krumano died, the costs were debited to the headfactory in Banana.
In the early 1900s, coastal factories would acquire enslaved labourers and traded them illegally or as contract workers.8

ca. 1880 ‘Linguister’

In the period 1870-1890 José Augusto da Cunha Moraes photographed  European trading posts along the coastline of Congo and Angola. The Dutch National Museum of World Cultures holds several of these images in its collection.

José Augusto da Cunha Moraes , Portrait of a mafuka or linguister with his family, ca. 1880. Collection Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, id.nr. A45-39.

Companies like the Nieuwe Afrikaansche Handels Vennootschap (NAHV) built premises, so-called ‘factories’, on plots of land that belonged to local rulers. In return, the companies were obliged to pay for the use of the land. Furthermore, local rulers provided each factory with a representative, or ‘mafuka’.  The mafuka, called ‘linguisters’ by the Europeans, were men of distinct families with in-depth knowledge of local law, politics, and the network of African traders. They negotiated prices between the trading companies and the African traders who brought agricultural produce; thus they were crucial for the profitability of European trade.

José Augusto da Cunha Moraes , Portrait of a mafuka or linguister, ca. 1880. Collection Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, id.nr. A45-38.

All trading companies depended on African labour for an array of tasks, these workers were managed by the linguister. 1 Men and women from the coastal region Cabinda in particular were recruited as canoe men, cooks, carpenters, and domestic servants. Appreciated by European trading agents, the Dutch NAHV-employee Onno Zwier van Sandick described the men and women from this region as ‘relatively developed’ and ‘with potential to be civilized’, claiming they learned their skills of British and Portuguese ships who patrolled the Congolese coast to prevent illegal transatlantic slave shipments.2.

José Augusto da Cunha Moraes, Man and woman from Cabinda, ca. 1870-1889. Collection Nederlands Fotomuseum, id.nr. WMR-902005

1857 – 1868 Kerdijk & Pincoffs

Photographs of José Augusto da Cunha Moraes (1855-1933, in several Dutch museum collections, provide visual information about a Dutch trading firm with settlements along the coastline of Angola and Congo, in the second half of the nineteenth century. Kerdijk & Pincoffs, and its successor ‘Afrikaansche Handelsvereeniging’ (African Trade Association) would come to dominate trade in a region that struggled with the troubled transition from the slave trade to forms of indentured labour.

José Augusto da Cunha Moraes, Office of the Afrikaansche Handelsvereeniging , located at the Largo Tristao da Cunha, Luanda, Angola, ca. 1870. Collection Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, id.nr. RV-A274-6.

Legitimate trade

In 1849 Henry Kerdijk and Lodewijk Pincoffs founded a firm that traded in indigo and madder. Located in the port Rotterdam, shipping was another branch of the company, which gained in importance following the stagnation of the dye trade in the 1850s. 1 In 1857 Kerdijk & Pincoffs bought the British trading company Horsfall & Co. in the village Ambriz, northern Angola.
Together with the firms Tobin & Co. and Hatton & Cookson, Horsfall was one of the three firms from Liverpool in Ambriz. Historians assume these company premises functioned as barracoons for enslaved Africans up to 1807 – when the United Kingdom prohibited the transatlantic slave trade. 2 After 1807 the nature of their business changed to so-called ‘legitimate commerce’ or ‘legitimate trade’: European manufactures, predominantly cotton pieces, weapons and spirits, were traded against African raw materials, notably palm oil, gum copal and ivory. 3

José Augusto da Cunha Moraes, porters of an ivory caravan, Luanda, Angola ca. 1870. Collection Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, id.nr. RV-A45-51.

Ambriz

In 1836 Portugal outlawed the transatlantic slave trade. Nevertheless, the number of illegal shipments of African captives sharply increased between 1830-1865. Whereas Luanda had been the most important port of embarcation in Central Africa during the slave trade, Portuguese-Brazilian merchants and slave smugglers from Spain and Cuba relocated further north to the port Ambriz.4 Slave trading firms from Rio de Janeiro organized shipments of enslaved Africans to Brazil, when these were abolished in 1850 they concentrated on Cuba.5

Johann Moritz Rugendas, Newly enslaved Africans, Viagem Pitoresca Atravé do Brasil (1835) (Editora da Universidade de Sao Paulo, 1989). Source: Biblioteca Digital Curt Nimeundajú,
https://flic.kr/p/25K8W9D

The illegal slave trade and the legitimate trading companies were connected. In theory, the trading companies strictly limited their activities to lawful barter trade. In reality, the clientele of Cuban and Brazilian middlemen provided the trading companies with cash payments. These slave smugglers bartered the purchased European goods for enslaved men, women and children from the African interior. 6 In the first year in Angola, Kerdijk & Pincoffs started trade with Portuguese slave dealers in Ponta da Lenha. 7

Christiano Junior, Enslaved African man, born in Cabinda (right) and enslaved African man, born in Angola (left), 1864, Rio de Janeiro. Collection Museu Historicó Nacional, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Source: Google Arts and Culture

Advertisements found in the database Delpher show the first shipment of Kerdijk & Pincoffs arrived in May 1858 in Rotterdam from Luanda, the administrative center of the Portuguese.8 Within a year of opening a factory in Ambriz, Kerdijk & Pincoffs followed British traders to nearby Kisembo, in order to avoid the high Portuguese custom dues in Ambriz.9

Advertisement for the auction in Rotterdam of goods from the first shipment of Kerdijk & Pincoffs from Luanda: dye, gum, wax and 246 elephant tusks. Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant (May 5, 1858).

‘Free emigrants’

In 1860 Kerdijk & Pincoffs opened a factory in Banana, along the Loango coast of Congo. The factory was adjacent to the trading company of Victor and Louis Régis, from Marseille. In the early 1830s, Régis began trading in Senegal, and expanded southwards to Sierra Leone and Angola. In 1841 the French state granted the company permission to open a trading post in Dahomey at Whyda, in the ruins of a fort that had functioned as a depot for enslaved Africans. 10
Régis became pivotal in a scheme of the French government to procure human labour for the colonies in the Caribbean. In 1831 France ended the slave trade and signed a convention with the British against human trafficking. This convention expired in 1856, which opened the way for France to contract Régis to recruit and transport African labourers for Guadeloupe and Martinique. 11

Lt. Henry Hand, A French Free immgrant on his way to the barracoon of M. Regis.
Source: “Enslaved Africans Sold to French, 1858”, Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed July 27, 2020.
http://slaveryimages.org/s/slaveryimages/item/408

Between 1857-1863 Régis purchased enslaved people from African authorities, declared them free and signed them to indentured labour contracts. The French ‘redeemed’ enslaved Africans mostly in Boma, one of the former centers of the Atlantic slave trade, but housed the so-called ‘free emigrants’ (émigrés libres) in newly built factories in Banana and Loango. In each factory up to fourteen hundred people could be housed.12 The French considered the redemptions as ‘an act of humanity’, yet the mortality on the early voyages was high. At the end of the scheme, Regís had carried around seventeen thousand people to the Caribbean colonies, their properties in Banana were sold to neighbouring Kerdijk & Pincoffs. 13

José Augusto da Cunha Moraes, Factory ‘Rotterdam’ at Banana, at the mound of the Congo-river, 1884. Collection Nederlands Fotomuseum, id.nr. WMR-902009.

With the settlement in Banana as the centre of the commercial activities, Kerdijk & Pincoffs expanded further in the Angolan region Cabinda. In 1868 Kerdijk & Pincofss became a limited company under the name of Afrikaansche Handelsvereeniging (African Trading Association – AHV). By 1871 the company had opened thirty-three factories in Angola and Congo, in 1877 this had risen to forty-four. 14 In 1879, after a financial scandal, the company continued as ‘Nieuwe Afrikaansche Handels Vennootschap’ and traded in Africa until 1982.

Further reading & listening

ca. 1870-1889 ‘Serviçais’

José Augusto da Cunha Moraes, Two Angolese men carrying a European man in a hammock, ca. 1870-1889, Collection Nederlands Fotomuseum. Rotterdam, id.nr. WMR-902002.

A studio portrait by José Augusto da Cunha Moraes in the collection of the Nederlands Fotomuseum (Dutch Photomuseum) shows two Angolese men carrying a European man in a hammock, locally known as a maxilla. Pictured in Angola at the end of the nineteenth century, the two men were in all probability unfree labourers, or so-called ‘servants’ (serviçais).

Drawing on an extensive range of sources, social historian Roquinaldo Ferreira showed that in seventeenth and eighteenth-century Luanda, the economy was entirely dependent on the enslaved population. They performed a wide array of activities, ranging from menial labour to specialized tasks as carpenter, sailor, blacksmith, and brickmaker. In Luanda, enslaved women and men could be rented out by their owners, or temporarily perform paid jobs. On the streets of Luanda, it was a common sight to see European settles being carried around in a hammock by a myriad of enslaved men.1

José Augusto da Cunha Moraes, European man in Luanda, Angola, ca. 1970-1915, Collection Rijkmuseum, id.nr. RP-F-W-1975.

Throughout the nineteenth century, consecutive legislative measures led to the Portuguese prohibition of the transatlantic slave trade in 1836 and culminated, in 1869, in the abolition of slavery in the Portuguese African territories. In the words of Angolan historian Maria da Conceição Neto, abolition in Angola was belated and ‘neither immediate nor complete’.2
The decree of 1869 determined that those with the legal status of ‘slaves’ (escravos) were to gain their freedom and become ‘libertos’ before April 1878. However, in 1875 Portuguese legislators annulled the status of libertos and supplanted this with the legal category of ‘servants’ (serviçais).3

Clarence-Smith explained the economic foundations of slavery remained unaltered in Angola until the second decade of the twentieth century. Firstly, every ‘servant’ (serviçal) had to sign a five-year contract with the slaveholder who ‘freed’ him. Although cash wage payments to serviçais were mandatory, the salaries were continuously reduced. Furthermore, it was not uncommon for slaveholders to solely pay in paper bonds, which could only be used in the stores they owned.
A second mechanism was formally illegal. At the end of the initial five-year contract, it was prolonged for another five years, mostly by means of intimidation and corruption. The colonial administration was heavily involved in the third mechanism: the ‘subcontracting’ of serviçais for financial compensation. This led to a continuation of the buying and selling of human beings as if they were commodities.4

Clarence-Smith insists slavery continued in an economic sense, whereas in a legal sense the status of ‘serviçal’ ensured fundamental rights to life and property.5 In the same vein, Conceição Neto acknowledges the effects of the era slave trade were prolonged through colonial policies, yet she insists historians should carefully distinguish between the different types of unfree labour.6

ca. 1870 ‘Angolenses’

The Rijksmuseum and The National Museum of World Cultures (Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen – NMvW) in The Netherlands together hold over more than two hundred photographs by José Augusto da Cunha Moraes (1855-1933) in their collection. His father opened a photography studio in São Paolo de Loanda (now: Luanda) in 1863, and J.A. da Cunha Moraes became a professional photographer in the 1870s. By the 1880s he had produced over four hundred photographs. According to historian Jill Dias (1944-2008), his individual portraits were exceptional, for they captured the social contrasts in the capital of colonial Angola.1

José Augusto da Cunha Moraes, View of Luanda (ca. 1876-1886), Collection Rijksmuseum, id.nr. RP-F-2001-7-683-1.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, inhabitants of the coastal town Loanda were divided into two categories: civilized and uncivilized.2 White Europeans constituted the elite of society, among them were landlords, traders and slave owners. 3 A minority were free Portuguese settlers, the majority came to Angola as convicts (degredados). Since early modern times Portugal had practiced degredo: the limiting or degrading of the legal status of convicts by means of forced exile.4 The exiles served a practical purpose: 97% of Portuguese migrants choose Brazil as their new home. The African colonies were no less important in the Portuguese self-perception as an imperial nation. Forced colonization provided the necessary manpower to make the overseas territories profitable. 5

José Augusto da Cunha Moraes, portrait of two women, one dressed in Angolan panos the other in a European dress, ca. 1870. Collection Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, id.nr. A274-56.

Since Portuguese settlers and degredados were almost exclusively male, they formed families with local women. Their mixed race descendants were included in the Loandan elite of ‘civilized peope’. 6 These Euro-Africans acquired positions in education, in the army, clergy and public offices of the colonial administration – although their main economic occupation remained trade, including slave trade. 7

José Augusto da Cunha Moraes, portrait of a Luso-African woman in Loanda belonging to the Gamboa family, ca. 1880, Collection Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, id.nr. RV-A45-52.

Dias stated Da Cunha Moraes preserved the image of this elite, 8 but didn’t include any examples. Hitherto I haven’t been able to find other secondary literature on this subject that provides photographs from the end of the nineteenth century. Unfortunately somewhat speculative, I wonder whether some of the photographs in the collection of the NMvW are portraits of women belonging to the Luso-African elite. In some of the captions of the NMvW it is explicitly mentioned the women are of mixed descent. One description (RV-A45-52) contains the family name of the sitter: Gamboa.

Experts emphasize that the Loandan elite of the nineteenth century was culturally and racially mixed.9 The category of the ‘civilized’ included Africans of different ethnic groups, who were educated, Christian, cosmopolitan, possessed assets, capital and dressed in a European manner. It might not be impossible that Da Cunha Moraes portrayed African families of the Europeanized elite of his city, who designated themselves as ‘filhos da terra‘, ‘filhos do país‘, (sons of the country) or ‘Angolenses‘.

José Augusto da Cunha Moraes, Portrait of a couple from Loanda, ca. 1870. The woman is wearing Angolese panos, the man is dressed in a European suit and shoes. The appropriate object on the table in the studio was a boat. Collection Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, id.nr. RVA274-67.

Around the turn of the century, social relations in Angola transformed, leading to the subordination of the ‘filhos da terra’. Portuguese planters and administrators who failed to achieve economic and social development ascribed this to the ‘inherent barbarism’ of Africans. In their perspective, modernizing Angola equaled increasing the white population. As a consequence, the white population of Angola tripled between 1900-1930. Furthermore, a new, racially differentiated wage system was established, along with a limit for the number of Africans that could be employed in the civil service. Hence, being white became a prerequisite for positions of authority in the colonial administration. 10. By 1920 the Euro-African elite had been excluded from the administration of the colony and public life. 11

José Augusto da Cunha Moraes, Portrait of a mother and daughter, ca. 1870. The girl is holding a missal in her hand and wearing shoes, an important marker of ‘civilization’. Collection Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, id.nr. RVA274-64.