In a western society, one often gets caught up in all things Europe or North America, and tends to ignore the rest of the world. Mea culpa.
I have on occasion written about and published stories about Japan – because I lived there – and sometimes about Australian and New Zealand (because I like the beer and women, not in that order)… but have ignored a lot of other places on this planet… which I will do my best to rectify.
So… what I have for you here, is a myth… a myth about Africa’s first flyer… or at least the one we all assume to be the first. Since I assume you all read the headline, you are aware that I am talking about Kibaga. The thing is… he’s not a pilot. He is a man who had the ability to fly.
I can’t give you a “date” for when the following adventure took place.
While most representations of Kibaga simply refer to him as an African, Sir Henry Morton Stanley recorded the story of Kibaga in his 1871 book “Through the Dark Continent“, calling him a Uganda warrior.
For those wondering why the name Stanley seems familiar, note that Sir Henry Morton Stanley, GCB (Knight Grand Cross – knighted in 1899) was a Welsh-American journalist and explorer who was famous for his exploration of central Africa and his search for missionary and explorer David Livingstone. You know: “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?”… though that in itself may not have actually been the words of their initial contact, and may have been concocted later as a “selling point”.
You should, at the least read the Wikipedia entry on Livingstone, where you might learn that it wasn’t his real name.
He was born John Rowlands on January 28, 1841 in Wales, dying on May 10, 1904 as Sir Henry Morton Stanley.
Rowlands aka Stanley was a journalist and explorer, who was famous for his exploration of central Africa and his search for missionary and explorer David Livingstone, finally finding him on November 10, 1871.
The story of Kibaga describes the warrior as being able to turn invisible as he flies over his enemies to first do aerial reconnaissance, and later return to drop rocks upon them (first possible mention of aerial bombardment). Kibaga was killed when the enemy shot their arrows up into the air, killing him with blind luck.
Like many such cautionary tales, it was meant to discourage humans from getting too close to god and heaven… like the story of Icarus… for some it is a cautionary tale, for others a tale of inspiration.You can read about Icarus HERE… in my second ever article written for this blog.
Here’s what Stanley had to say about Kibaga:
“One of the heroes of Nakivingi (one of the ancient kings of Uganda, whom Stanley calls the Charlemagne of Uganda) was a warrior named Kibaga, who possessed the power of flying.
“When the king warred with the Wanyoro (I believe this is a family name in Uganda… of the Kingdom of Bunyoro – part of the Bantu peoples), he sent Kibaga into the air to ascertain the whereabouts of the foe, who, when discovered by this extra-ordinary being, were attacked on land in their hiding-places by Nakivingi, and from above by the active and faithful Kibaga, who showered great rocks on them and by these means slew a vast number.
“It happened that among the captives of Unyoro, Kibaga saw a beautiful woman, who was solicited by the king in marriage. As Nakivingi was greatly indebted to Kibaga for his unique services, he gave her to Kibaga as wife, with a warning, however, not to impart the knowledge of his power to her, lest she should betray him.
For a long time after the marriage his wife knew nothing of his power, but suspecting something strange in him from his repeated sudden absences and reappearances at his home, she set herself to watch him, and one morning as he left his hut, she was surprised to see him suddenly mount into the air with a burden of rocks slung on his back.
On seeing this she remembered that Wanyoro complaining that more of their people were killed by some means from above than by the spears of Nakivingi, and Delilah-like, loving her race and her people more than she loved her husband, she hastened to her people’s camp, and communicated, to the surprise of the Wanyoro, what she had that day learned.
To avenge themselves on Kibaga, the Wanyoro set archers in ambush on the summits of each lofty hill, with instructions to confine themselves to watching the air and listening for the brushing of his wings, and to shoot their arrows in the direction of the sound, whether anything was seen or not.
By this means on a certain day, as Nakivingi marched to the battle, Kibaga was wounded to the death by an arrow, and upon the road large drops of blood were seen falling, and on coming to a tall tree the king detected a dead body entangled in its branches.
When the tree was cut down, Nakivingi saw, to his infinite sorrow, that it was the body of his faithful flying warrior Kibaga.”
Now… Stanley’s story is pretty interesting, but I’ve heard a slightly different version of it.
Kibaga was the legendary chieftain of some African tribe – a great warrior who could make himself invisible by wrapping a cloak about himself.
If the cloak of invisibility wasn’t enough, he could also fly.
So, whenever some tribe would get it in their heads to cause trouble, Kibaga would don his cloak, and fly invisibly over the lands of his enemies and throw down spears, arrows rocks and more.
But, one day, a tribe hearing about Kibaga set a trap for his invisible flying self.
Using a men to act as decoys, other men of the tribe watched as rocks would suddenly appear in the sky to fall upon their brethren.
Some stories say that Kibaga was flying around and around, others say he perched himself up in a tree… regardless, the enemy tribe that was watching figured out where Kibaga was and fired their arrows up at him, killing him, eventually finding his body up in a tree after his cloak became dislodged.
So… is this the African version of stealth aerial warfare?
Which story is more correct? It doesn’t matter too much.
Stanley’s version gives names to the Uganda warriors and enemies and seeks to make a woman the downfall of the superhuman Kibaga.
The other version is more sparse, but provides greater detail as to how they figured out something invisible was above them.
Perhaps the “truth” of the myth depends on who is telling the story, and who and how it is retold.
Mayhaps that in the retelling, facts and stories get turned into something more fantastic.
Perhaps Kibaga was simply an expert of stealth… a regular human warrior who climbed a tree within an enemy camp while wearing a green leafy cloak to blend in. Once high up in the tree, the sunning Kibaga threw rocks and other projectiles down onto his enemy… who eventually figured out that there was someone hiding up in a tree raining destruction down upon them, and counter attacked by simply firing arrows up into the tree to kill their “invisible” enemy.
Or… maybe there really was a magical Uganda warrior who could fly and did wear a cloak of invisibility.
By the way… you think I would be able to find at least one drawing of Kibaga somewhere on the Internet… but no… not a single representation of this wonderful African story.
If I could draw, I would create one myself.