Madness of a gold prospectors – memory of Congo from the interwar perdiod.

15 Posted by - May 17, 2016 - articles

On May 17 Democratic Republic of Congo celebrates liberation day. On this occasion we would like to share with you a piece of reportage written by a Polish traveler and journalist of the interwar period – Kazimierz Nowak. Warning, only for adults…

Year 1933. On the third night, when I was looking around for a best place for a tent, I heard the buzz and clattering. Soon enough I saw bonfires and strikes of light.  I encountered gold prospectors camps, one of many in Congo. Despite the late hour the camp was loud and hectic. The steam drill worked it’s full capacity, probing the secret interior of unspoiled land. The gold rush did not allow people to sleep. They worked days and nights measuring and analyzing the extracted pieces of gold.

Someone invited me for a supper, someone else offered a wine, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the moral dirt of people obsessed with gold. I did not enjoy such company, representing such different world than my own. I’ve rested in one of the guest tents and I dreamed of going to sleep, but the steam drill noise kept me awake. It felt like the drill pierced through my chest and not through the ground. The laugh of African women reminded me, that I was among people, who came to primeval forest, only to destroy it, without any appreciation of divine creation around them.

The inventory of gold prospectors included female residents of the surrounding villages, often twelve or thirteen years old girls, purchased for a few hundred francs from their parents. This is civilization and Europeanization of Africa. Africa is, after all, in their opinion, the country of gold, hunting and women, and one who, at their discretion, will not experience these three sports, will not know the real Africa at all…

Africa looses it’s exotic charm, the natives are forced to live in reservation. Picturesque villages disappeared, colorful and fantastic outfits were replaced with Japanese junk or old tail-coats found in dumpsters of the Western world.

The world became grey and dull. All five continents are subjects to the same laws, creation of people’s imagination – folk costumes and architecture – disappeared. Even flora and fauna is modernized to make twenty century people’s life even more comfortable than it already is. The world cares nothing about the needs of the natives, that inhabit various latitudes and longitudes on Earth.

*This excerpt is a part of collection of travel reportage written between 1931 – 1936 by Kazimierz Nowak, during his cycling escapade through Africa. (Public domain)

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