Being Colonized: The Kuba Experience in Rural Congo, 1880-1960 (Africa and the Diaspora)
What was it like to be colonized by foreigners? Highlighting a region in central Congo, in the center of sub-Saharan Africa, Being Colonized places Africans at the heart of the story. In a richly textured history that will appeal to general readers and students as well as to scholars, the distinguished historian Jan Vansina offers not just accounts of colonial administrators, missionaries, and traders, but the varied voices of a colonized people. Vansina uncovers the history revealed in local news, customs, gossip, and even dreams, as related by African villagers through archival documents, material culture, and oral interviews.
Vansina’s case study of the colonial experience is the realm of Kuba, a kingdom in Congo about the size of New Jersey—and two-thirds the size of its colonial master, Belgium. The experience of its inhabitants is the story of colonialism, from its earliest manifestations to its tumultuous end. What happened in Kuba happened to varying degrees throughout Africa and other colonized regions: racism, economic exploitation, indirect rule, Christian conversion, modernization, disease and healing, and transformations in gender relations. The Kuba, like others, took their own active part in history, responding to the changes and calamities that colonization set in motion. Vansina follows the region’s inhabitants from the late nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century, when a new elite emerged on the eve of Congo’s dramatic passage to independence.
documents, as well as an exceptionally rich photographic 8 Introduction and even cinematographic record, all of it produced by resident colonials (administrators, missionaries, traders) and foreign visitors (commissions of enquiry, tourists, journalists, ethnographers). Because these sources were all created by and mostly for foreigners, they need to be complemented by more direct and reliable evidence about Kuba perspectives on their experiences of colonial rule—that is, sources emanating
refused any assistance. But still, the rubber juggernaut rumbled inexorably on for nearly another two years. From Protest to Recovery On the first of January 1908 the Kasai Herald, the local journal of the American mission, published an article by Sheppard entitled “From the Bakuba Country” in which he wrote of the happy state of the Kuba until “a few years ago” and then contrasted this as follows: But within these last three years how changed they are! Their farms are growing up in weeds and
passed along that way on the same steamer, the Stanley, with the nuns whom I had to accompany from Léopoldville to Luluabourg as I will tell later, the ship was immediately recognized and we were attacked with arrows and spears on the pretext that the ship had brought the plague into the countr y. We had to flee with all speed; but before he returned to Leo the captain found a remedy that completely succeeded. His boat had always been gray; now he had it painted black. Misled by that new dress
overview for the history of the Belgian Congo in general. This chapter does that, and therefore the Kuba do not occupy center stage in it. But the chapter focuses on the colonial context overall as a prelude for the following five thematic chapters that are devoted to Kuba experiences during the same period. The Coming of the Railway Years before Belgium took over Congo, the vast mineral wealth of Katanga and parts of Kasai had been recognized, and several well-financed companies were set up in
became an independent republic on June 30, 1960, with Kasavubu as president and Lumumba as prime minister. Less than a month later the country nearly disintegrated as it fell prey to political and military chaos. F R Anstey, Roger. King Leopold’s Legacy: The Congo under Belgian Rule, 1908–1960. Oxford, 1966. Fetter Bruce. Colonial Rule and Regional Imbalance in Central Africa. Boulder, Colo., 1983. Hunt, Nancy. A Colonial Lexicon of Birth Ritual, Medicalization, and Mobility in the