A Dance of Assassins: Performing Early Colonial Hegemony in the Congo

A Dance of Assassins: Performing Early Colonial Hegemony in the Congo

A Dance of Assassins: Performing Early Colonial Hegemony in the Congo

A Dance of Assassins: Performing Early Colonial Hegemony in the Congo

Synopsis

A Dance of Assassins presents the competing histories of how Congolese Chief Lusinga and Belgian Lieutenant Storms engaged in a deadly clash while striving to establish hegemony along the southwestern shores of Lake Tanganyika in the 1880s. While Lusinga participated in the east African slave trade, Storms' secret mandate was to meet Henry Stanley's eastward march and trace "a white line across the Dark Continent" to legitimize King Leopold's audacious claim to the Congo. Confrontation was inevitable, and Lusinga lost his head. His skull became the subject of a sinister evolutionary treatise, while his ancestral figure is now considered a treasure of the Royal Museum for Central Africa. Allen F. Roberts reveals the theatricality of early colonial encounter and how it continues to influence Congolese and Belgian understandings of history today.

Excerpt

The squirming facts exceed the squamous mind,
If one may say so. and yet relation appears,
… expanding like the shade
Of a cloud on sand. …

Wallace stevens, “CONNOISSEUR of CHAOS”

This book is about a beheading. the event occurred in December 1884 and has been articulated ever since through competing Congolese and Belgian histories attuned to particular audiences and political goals. Two protagonists engaged in a deadly pas de deux driven by immense ambition, each violently striving to establish hegemony along the southwestern shores of Lake Tanganyika in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): Lusinga lwa Ng’ombe, deemed a “sanguinary potentate” by the British explorer Joseph Thomson, who visited the chief in 1879, because of his ruthless slaving for the east African trade; and Émile Storms, belligerent commander of the fourth International African Association (IAA) caravan and founder of an outpost at Mpala-Lubanda near Lusinga’s redoubt (fig. 0.1). the IAA’s overt mandate was to promote scientific knowledge while helping suppress slavery. Lusinga and Storms were bound for confrontation, and Lusinga lost his head.

In the mid-1970s I spent most of my forty-five consecutive months of Congolese research among Tabwa people in and around the large lakeside village of . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.