Saturday, December 18, 2010

Royal Museum for Central Africa

My friend Joshua Galjour recently visited the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. Here are some of his fascinating pictures and commentary.

"The Unavoidable Inter-Congolese Dialogue."

A view of commercial centre of Leopoldville in the 1950's. Startling image, compared to what this looks like today. Leopoldville, 1950's. In 1940, there were 40,000 inhabitants in Leo, in 1954, there were 300,000. Today, Kinshasa (aka Leopolodville) has a population of over 10 million and is the largest city in the Francophone world.

Stanleyville (modern day Kisangani) in the 1950's. The top is the neighborhood for Europeans and the bottom the neighborhood for natives.

An"Évolué"* family in Kinshasa, circa 1950's.

Évolué is a term similar to Assimulado in Portuguese. In the colonial era, Africans who adapted or "evolved" or "assimilated" to European culture were sometimes able to obtain higher social status, better education for their children and more opportunities. Usually it did not bring about true equality.

A satire of "TinTin au Congo."

Have you read King Leopold's Ghost? Adam Hotchkiss describes the life and times of E.D. Morel, a customs clerk who first discovered the atrocities in Leopold's Congo. Morel became an unrelenting crusader against the slave trade in the Congo Free State.

Pere Kabila, before his assassination.

Patrice Lumumba, one of the architects of modern Democratic Republic of Congo.

This painting depicts Congolese soldiers hauling away Patrice Lumumba to his execution, which took place in Lumbubashi 1961 with the complicity of Belgium and the U.S.

Art displayed in the exhibition "50 years of Congolese independence."

Related Post:

TinTin au Congo

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Queen Nzinga

In the sixteenth century, the Portugese position in the slave trade was threatened by England and France. As a result, the Portugese shifted their slave-trading activities to the Congo and South West Africa. Mistaking the title of the ruler (ngola) for the name of the country, the Portugese called the land of the Mbundu people Angola—the name by which it is still known today.

Here, the Portugese encountered the brilliant and courageous Queen Nzinga, who was determined never to accept the Portugese conquest of her country. An exceptional stateswoman and military strategist, she harassed the Portugese until her death, at age eighty.

Her meeting with the Portugese governor, recorded by a Dutch artist, is legendary in the history of Africa's confrontations with Europe: Representing her brother, the ngola, Nzinga arrived at Luanda in royal splendor. Upon entering the room, Nzinga observed that the only seat in the room belonged to the governor. She promptly summoned one of her women, who fell on her hands and knees and became Nzinga's "seat". Outwitted from the start, the governor never gained the advantage at the meeting, which resulted in a treaty on equal terms.

Converting to Christianity for reasons more political than religious (primarily to forge links with the governor) she adopted the name Dona Anna de Souza. However, the governor could not honor the treaty as Portugal's rapacious appetite for black slaves had to be satisfied. She appealed to her brother to repel the Portugese, but he proved to be a weakling and Nzinga decided to take matters into her own hands.

Subsequently, Nzinga formed an alliance with the Jaga. She fashioned an organized army out of disparate elements, strengthened the alliance by marrying the Jaga chief, and ultimately created a land for her people by conquering the kingdom of Matamba. The fragile alliance with the Jaga chief ended when he betrayed her and attacked Matamba. Fortunately, dissension among the Europeans—the Dutch were encroaching on Portugal's share of the slave trade—created an opportunity for Nzinga. She established a strategic alliance with the Dutch, pitting them against the Portugese. After the Portugese routed the Dutch, Nzinga retreated to the hills of Matamba, where she established a formidable resistance movement against the Portugese regime.

She became renowned for the guerilla tactics she employed for resisting the technologically superior Portugese army. She was a brilliant strategist and, although past sixty, led her warriors herself.

Never surrendering, she died on December 17, 1663.

Her death accelerated the Portugese occupation of the interior of South West Africa, fueled by the massive expansion of the Portugese slave trade.

The nineteenth century saw European powers carving up Africa, culminating in the infliction of a brutal colonial system on all of Africa.

Modern-day resistance to the colonial system in Angola, taking a page out of Nzinga's book, was in the form of a lengthy guerilla campaign which ultimately led to Angola's independence from Portugal on November 11, 1975.

Copy and Pasted from

Obstetrics in Mozambique: Making Choices, Finding Solutions

Here's a video about a trend in Mozambique towards training technicians to perform emergency obstetric care. There is a shortage of doctors in Mozambique, especially in the rural areas. Therefore, training non-physicians to perform cesareans and hysterectomies may be essential to improving maternal mortality rates.

Related Post:

Midwives in Mozambique

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Linguistc Map of Angola

Also see Linguistic Map of Mozambique.

Linguistic Map of Mozambique

Click image to enlarge.

Something most Americans miss about Africa is that within every country there is an official language and then there are many, many African languages. Most Africans speak more than one language. If they have been to school, they are likely to speak the official language in addition to their maternal language.

In most African countries, the official language is a European language - English, French or Portuguese, although some countries use an African language as an official language too - as Tanzania uses Swahili.

Mozambique uses Portuguese as it's official language. Portuguese is used in education and business. But almost every Mozambican also speaks their maternal language, the language they speak at home, with their families.

In this map you can see the great linguistic diversity of Mozambique.

See also Linguistic Map of Angola.