BEFORE THE CAR WAS A ‘HUMAN CAR’
By Our Reporter
Since time immemorial, comfort has been everything. No wonder transportation is almost never just about getting from point A-Z. The means one uses therefore ought to matter, especially if said person has royalty flowing through their blood. See, by virtue of their status, Kings and queens will use the best of the best. But there was a time before engines, a time when humans had to be the transport that was needed.
In fact, in Africa, historians will insist it was different before the colonialists stepped foot in the country. They will also argue that this was partly because there were no paved highways that were sizeable or smooth enough to accommodate cars. But we had a solution; a litter, a human car!
A litter is a class of human-powered transport operated the same way as stretchers. Typically, most took the shape of an open chair or bed sheltered by single doored umbrellas made of plant fiber or leaves. They were supported by two parallel handles made of hardwood that doesn’t break easily, like mahogany. Kings would be ferried by two or more subjects depending on his weight. Though most subjects preferred placing the carrying poles on their shoulders as it was effective. Occasionally they carried it by hand especially if the king in question had a fright for landing hard on the ground—in situations where porters miscalculated their strides or slid.
These were popular among the Iru, Kiga and Bunyoro Kingdoms and came in two types. One for the rainy seasons and one for the dry. Whilst the shelter of the former was usually thatched tightly to prevent easy penetration of water, the latter was made of colourful hand woven reeds. To ensure that the King got the best litter there was, powerhouse artists in the kingdom were usually tasked with designing the most durable and colourful samples. From their collection, the best was picked. In appreciation, its maker was awarded with cattle, especially among the pastoral tribe. If from a farming tribe, they were usually awarded with chunks of Agricultural land. In comparison to the kings, the queen’s litters were more airy with small compartments where their snacks and necessities would be kept.
Tribal crafts of Uganda by Margaret trowel and K.P Braunholtz
Lango i kara acon (Lango before colonialism), Father Angelo Tarantino