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date: 08 April 2020

Ota Benga locked

(c. 1883–1916),
  • Jeremy Rich

Extract

a Congolese pygmy infamously exhibited at New Yorks’ Bronx Zoo, was born into a Twa (pygmy) community living in what is now the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He grew up in the domain of Ndombe, a small monarchy ruled by a Luba-speaking clan on the outskirts of the Kuba kingdom. Almost nothing is known of his early life or his family, although he is reputed to have been—like many of his people—an elephant hunter. Samuel Verner, a Presbyterian missionary from North Carolina stationed at the Fwela mission in Ndombe in the late 1890s, agreed to find pygmies to be exhibited at the 1904 Saint Louis World's Fair. Verner visited a town of Baschilele people near Ndombe in March 1904 At a slave market there he found Ota Benga who had been captured by African soldiers in the Force Publique colonial army of Leopold II s ...

A version of this article originally appeared in The Dictionary of African Biography.

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