LEWANIKA OF BAROTSELAND: ‘An African King’ - The New York Times, January 1899

12 November 2018
Author  Sibeta Mundia, Barotseland Post
LEWANIKA OF BAROTSELAND: ‘An African King’ - The New York Times, 1899 Copyright © The New York Times

 

In their January 29, 1899 Edition, and on page Number 19, The New York Times published a piece from Blackwood's Magazine about Lewanika I, King of Barotseland, simply titled “An African King”, in which the author seemed to have been immensely awed by Lewanika’s persona and sense of fashion!

This publication was in 1899, three years before Lewanika embarked on the journey to attend King Edward VII’s coronation where he was given the British Admirals’ Uniform, which has now become part of Barotseland’s ceremonial etiquette for all successive Kings.

This article is very important as it dispels innuendo and propaganda rife in Zambia about the origin of the King of Barotsend’s ceremonial regalia, the British Admirals’ Uniform, which many Zambians mock and allege was given to Lewanika for lack of proper clothing, assuming further that Lewanika must have looked primitive and uncivilized, prompting Edward VII to give him the Admiral’s Uniform!

To the contrary, by 1899 King Lewanika I of Barotseland already had plenty European style suits, several of which he wore on this famous trip to Europe in 1902. Even while he was the distinguished royal guest of Edward VII, Lewanika charmed his hosts with pleasant humour and ‘refined’ mannerisms! He was a very smart gentleman and an immaculately dressed King who freely mingled with British Royalty as contemporaries, as he had already embraced European civilization, having befriended European missionaries like François Coillard way before he attended King Edward VII’s Coronation.

François Coillard arrived in Lealui, the Capital of Barotseland, on 17 July 1834 and ministered there until 27 May 1904.

The New York Times Report went as follows:

An African King

From Blackwood’s Magazine

King Lewanika’s costume was rather remarkable. On his head he wore a black, broad-brimmed felt hat over a scarlet night cap. A long, bright-blue dressing gown, much embroidered with scarlet braid, in Manchester style; a flannel shirt, tweed waistcoat, trouser, and aggressively new yellow boots completed his costume.

This was evidently his holiday attire, for on other days his scarlet night cap was replaced by a blue Tam-o-shanter and the dressing gown by a shoddy Ulster.

We seated ourselves opposite the door looking out on the river, while the rest of my party were grouped in a circle round us. It was not etiquette for any but the King and his interpreter to enter the hut, so Letia and the councilors remained outside while we carried on desultory conversation on the subjects of our respective journeys, hunting, etc, enlivened by the gentle tinkling of the piano and the subdued singing of the King’s choristers.” END.

Published: January 29, 1899 - Copyright © The New York Times.

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