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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Kaffres

(from the Arabic Kafir, infidel, i.e. non-Mohammedan), a people in south- eastern Africa, who received this name from the Moorish navigators of the Indian Ocean. When the Dutch colonists came in contact with the most southern tribe of the Kaffres, the Koosas, or Amakosa, the Moorish name was given to them exclusively, and in this restricted sense it is commonly used by the Dutch and English colonists. It is, however, well ascertained that not only the tribes now commonly called Kaffresbut the Tambookies, Mambookies, Zulus, Damaras, the inhabitants of Delagoa Bay, Mozambique, and the numerous Bechuana tribes who occupy the interior of the continent to an extent as yet unexplored, are but subdivisions of one great family, allied in language, customs, and mode of life. The Kaffre languages (in the wider sense of the word) are divided (by Fr. Miller) into an Eastern, Middle, and Western group. The former comprises,

1. the Kaffre languages (in the narrower sense of the word), embracing, besides the Kaffre proper, also the Zulu dialect;

2. the Zambesi languages, embracing the languages of the Barotse, Bayeye, and Mashona;

3. the languages of Zanzibar, embracing the languages of the Kisuahili, Kinika, Kikamba, and the Kihian.

The Middle group contains,

1. the Sechuana languages (Sesuto, Serolong, and Shlapi);

2. the Tekeza languages, embracing the languages of the Mancolosi, Matonga, and Maloenga.

The Western group contains,

1. the Bunda, Herero, and Londa languages; 2. the languages of Congo, Mpongwe, Dikele, Isuba, and Fernando Po. The Kaffre languages are sonorous, flexible, and definite. The southern tribes have adopted the peculiar smacking sounds of the Hottentots, which frequently change the meaning of words. The government of the Kaffre tribes is feudal-an aristocracy of chiefs, acknowledging the supremacy of the sovereign, but, except on extraordinary occasions, acting independently of him. The general chief is the sovereign of the nation, and in a council of chiefs is very powerful, and is looked upon by all the nobles and people with unbounded respect. The kraals (hamlets) generally consist of a dozen low, conical huts, the diameter of which is no more than about ten feet, into which one has to creep through a low opening, closed during the night by trees. In the middle of the hut is a room for the cattle. Wars generally arise out of the stealing of cattle. In personal appearance the Kaffres are a remarkably fine race of men. They are of dark brown color, have a beautiful and vigorous constitution, dark woolly hair, a lofty front, and bent nose like the Europeans, projecting cheek-bones like the Hottentots, thick lips like the negroes. Their beard is thin. The women are handsome and modest; their clothing consists of cloaks of skin, while the men are almost naked. They have no national religion; there are some traces of a belief in a supreme being and in subordinate spirits, but no kind of religious worship and no priests. They are very superstitious, and pay a high tribute to sorcerers. "They have no idea," says Philip (South Africa, i, 118), "of any man's dying except from hunger, violence, or witchcraft." Like many other savage tribes, they practice the worship of their ancestry, "They sacrifice and pray to their deceased relatives. although it would be asserting too much to say absolutely that they believe in the existence and the immortality of the soul. In fact, their belief seems to go no further than this, that the ghosts of the dead haunt for a certain time their previous dwelling- places, and either assist or plague the living. No special powers are attributed to them, and it would be a misnomer to call them deities (comp. Lubbock, Primitive Condition of Man, N. Y. 1871, 8vo, ch. iv sq.). They practice circumcision, but only as a custom, not as a religious rite. Polygamy is allowed, and as the heavy work is chiefly performed by the women, it has proved a great obstacle to the introduction of Christianity.

The various tribes of the Kaffre family are estimated by Rev. J. J. Freeman, secretary of the London Missionary Society, at 2,000,000, spread from the eastern frontier of Cape Colony beyond Delagoa Bav, and then across the whole continent, without break, to the Atlantic in latitude 20. A part of the territory of the Kaffres, from which, in particular, constant raids were made into English territory, was annexed to the British dominions under the- name of Queen Adelaide province, It was subsequently restored to the chiefs of the Kaffres; in 1847 it again became all English province, under the name of British Kaffraria, and King William's Town, on the Buffalo River, was made the capital and the military head-quarters. The capital has a population of 5169, the sea-port, East London, of 2134. The population of the towns consists chiefly of English and German settlers, while the country people are Kaffres. In 1857 the province numbered 3942 kraals, and had a population of 104,721, but a terrible famine, which was caused by a false prophet of the name of Umhlakasa, reduced it in 1858 to 1291 kraals, and a population of 52,186. In 1880 the province embraced about 3006 sq. miles, and a population of 122,159. The British influence more and more extends over Kaffraria proper, which is situated between British Kaffraria and Natal, and embraces about 1890 sq. miles and 543,000 inhabitants. North Natal and the Transvaal republic extends the land of other Kaffre tribes, the territory of which is estimated at 62,930 square miles, with a population of about 440,000. Cape Colony, according to the census of 1875, had a Kaffre population of 166,979.

As the Dutch government of Cape Colony was hostile to all Christian missions, the missions among the Kaffres did not begin until the government had passed under British rule. The Moravians, who then for the first time found the necessary protection for their re-established missions among the Hottentots, (See HOTTENTOTS), extended in 1818 their labors also to the Kaffres, in particular to the tribes of the Fongus and Tambakis, whence in 1862 a station was established among the last. named tribe of Independent Kaffraria. The missionary Von der Kemp, who in 1798 was sent out by the London Missionary Society, laid the foundation of the missions of this society among the Kaffres. The Wesleyan missionaries have (since 1820) numerous-stations in all parts of the Kaffre territory. Their missionaries have for a long time been almost the only ones who ventured to penetrate into the uncultivated districts of the free Kaffres. The Free Church and the United Presbyterians of Scotland have a number of stations in British Kaffraria, and have begun to extend their labors to (independent) Kaffraria, among the natives whom the British government has induced to settle there. The Berlin missions have also, since 1834, established a number of stations in British Kaffraria. The Anglican Church, which has bishops at Capetown (1847), Grahamstown (1853), and in the Orange Free State (1863), has station's both in British and in Free Kaffraria, and is eagerly intent upon extending its work. The Dutch Reformed Church had done nothing for the Kaffres until the establishment of a special missionary board in 1863 (Synodale Zendings Comissie in Zuyd Africa), which displays a great zeal in the establishment of missions among the pagan population. More recently the German Baptists have sent out missionaries to British Kaffraria. The Roman Catholic Church has also a few stations in British Kaffraria. See Grundemann, Missions atlas (2d number, Gotha, 1867); Necomb, Cyclopaedia of Missions; Moffat's Southern Africa (Lond. 1842); T. B. Freeman's Tour in South Africa (Lond. 1857); Lichtenstein, Travels in South Africa; Burchell, Travels in Southern Africa. (A. J. S.)

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Kaffres'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/k/kaffres.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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