Marijuana in Africa: The Story of the Bashilange

I tell my daughter of the Bashilange, 

In the late-nineteenth century, at the time of the dissolution of the great Luba Empire in Central Africa, a number of smaller kingdoms emerged. The Baluba chief, Kalamba-Moukengee subjugated neighboring tribes at gunpoint and struggling to unify his new confederation, ordered all the ancient fetishes to be burned in public, and in their place instituted the Bantu custom of smoking hemp to reincarnate the soul. The Baluba men gathered around the fire in the center of the village each night and solemnly smoked cannabis from a huge calabash, and a tribal offender was publicly punished by being forced to smoke hemp until he lost consciousness

A tribal faction within this new coalition, the aggressive Bashilange led by Moamba Mputt, established the Ben-Riamba cult – the so-called “Sons of Hemp” – who quickly put down their spears and foreswore their walike ways. The Sons of Hemp quickly gained many followers. The Bashilange became less violent, began to treat with other tribes and made more laws. The land of the hemp smokers along the banks of the Lulua River began to be called Lubuktu, which is translated as “Friendship,” and the partisans of rhumba were widely known as “Friends” and greeted each other with the Bashilangean word for Life! (Moio!)

It’s a pretty tale as far as it goes, but not all was perfect in paradise. Bashilangean women were not allowed to smoke hemp and were consigned to work in the fields, keep the house and raise the children while the men made cloth, went hunting or, for the most part, smoked hemp in the village square and talked “with incredible fluency.”

I urge my daughter to remember the Bashilange…

This post is dedicated to the Memory of Julian Stobbs, (1961-2020) of Dagga Couple, South Africa. R.I.P.

(Textural Note: The word Bashilange is a European mangling of the Bantu phrase Beena Luluwa, which means “people by the Luluwa River.” Today, the mispronounced Bashilange are more properly referred to as the Luluwa. rc ).

Excerpt printed with permission from  Cannabis – Philosophy for Everyone: What Were We Just Talking About?

(Wiley/ Blackwell, 2010). Edited by the late great Dale Jacquette with a Forward by Rick Cusick)

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