Bunga Bunga!

Virginia Woolf is far left
     On Feb. 7 1910, Virginia Woolf, along with her brother and Horace de Vere Cole dressed as "Abyssinians" to fool the British Navy into showing them their flagship, the HMS Dreadnought. The disguises worked, and the supposed Abyssinian emissaries were allowed on board. 
     The group inspected the fleet. To show their appreciation, they communicated in a kind of porridge of words derived from Latin and Greek, as well as the oft repeated phrase "bunga bunga." They asked to pray on the ship's deck and bestowed fake military honors on the officers.
     The disguise's only limitation was that the "royals" could not eat anything or their make-up would be ruined. At a luncheon served for the Abyssinian delegates, the group's interpreter (Cole) had to explain that Abyssinians never eat "on board a ship or off in this way." When asked what he meant, Cole offered, "things such as this are quite nuanced," at which the matter was dropped.
     When the real Emperor of Ethiopia visited sometime later, British children called out "bunga bunga" as he passed on parade.

No comments: