A group of Pygmy musicians were temporarily lodged in a Republlic of Congo zoo while visiting Brazzaville for a music festival. Visitors to the zoo snapped photos as the 22 pygmies collected wood from the zoo forest and cooked their meals. From the Associated Press:
Congolese officials, who invited the band of Pygmy musicians to perform at the Festival of Pan-African Music, or Fespam, said their intention was to place them in a "familiar setting."
"It's not a case of discrimination," said Yvette Lebondzo, the director of arts and culture for the Republic of Congo. "We lodged them in the park near running water and a forest simply because that will remind them of their usual surroundings – which is the forest." Link
Spurred by protests from civil rights groups, the pygmies were moved this weekend to a local school. According to a Reuters article, "All the other musicians playing at the July 8-14 pan-African FESPAM festival were provided with hotel rooms." Link
Interestingly, this isn't the first time that tourists have come to a zoo to see real, live pygmies. Over at Cryptomundo, Loren Coleman puts this latest bizarre episode in historical context. In 1906, the Bronx Zoo opened a new exhibit in the monkey house featuring a 22-year-old pygmy named Ota Benga. According to a National Public Radio profile of Benga last year, "it's estimated that 40,000 visitors a day came to see him." Link
to Cryptomundo, Link
to NPR profile
BB reader Chris Zable says, "My first question when I read the item about the pygmies lodged at the zoo instead of a hotel was, has anyone asked THEM what they want?" He found the answer in a BBC report:
"It's not good for men, women and children to all be in this one tent. We need some space," dancer and musician David Motambo told the BBC. "We can't live here where there are so many mosquitoes. Here in the city we can't stay in the forest." Link
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