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L. Pescador, 1995





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by Luciano Martinis.


Years ago, in Rome, roaming the Porta Portese flea market, I happened to flip through an old pictures album at a stall. It was a real suprise to discover that it was a set of faded sepia pictures. Small sized, some with captions in our language, regarding the former Belgian Congo from the year 1900 to 1912. Taken, in all likelyhood, by an Italian national that worked there in the past under the payroll of Leopold and the Belgian colonial administration later.


Intrigued and fascinated, I bought the album.


Subseguently, my enquiries about the identity of the fotographer and the European characters represented yielded no result. Unfortunately, apart from the dates and names of some places written directly on some of the pictures, I came to a dead end.


There are representations of places, of Africans, of Europeans and only one image of objects of worship. Some images are dramatic at first glance: forced labor, a burning village and an African chief destined to be hanged for having fomented a rebellion against colonial dominance. Another photograph shows two Arabs who were part of the expedition organized by Henry Stanley and Verney Lovett Cameron  that took place in the last quarter of the 19th century.


I am pleased to present them to you as I re-discovered them, hoping that someone can identify the places and characters of such a distant past and a Congo disappeared overtime for good. A Congo with faded memories. A Congo that is now a "Phantom", precisely.



Partial bibliography


Luigi Armani, Diciotto mesi al Congo, Milano, 1907;

Eduardo Baccari, Il Congo, Roma, 1908;

Arnaldo Cipolla, Dal Congo (Lettere al padre), Milano, 1909;

Ottone Del Grande, Il Congo, vita usi e costumi, Milano 1903;

Maurizio Piscicelli, Nel Paese dei Bango-Bango, Napoli, 1910?;

Verso l’Elila (affluente del Congo). Note di viaggio di Ernesto Cordella - capitano d’artiglieria -, Roma, 1907.



In search of the "Phantom Congo"


We offer to all lovers of Africa, a game/research based on these images.


Reading the written report on some of the pictures, can you identify in which locations they refer to exactly and to which regions and people of the Congo (Former Belgian congo/Ex zaire)?


Where is or was the location of the Shinka Tchhopo River? Which region was inhabited by the Basongola? ... And the Topoke, famous for their long shaped coins?


A picture also shows  an image of objects. To which population do they belong ?


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