Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies)


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With the end of the caravan trade which closed many coastal factories, these craftsmen moved to Brazzaville where they set up stalls or hawked their wares door to door. They also promoted their craft at the annual Fourteenth of July Fair, which was added to the official program in to show-case the 'industry' and 'progress' of Africans under French rule.

By the time the post at the Pool was established, a generation of Gabonese had graduated from mission schools. After the capital of French Congo had been moved from Libreville, some clerical workers were transferred to Brazzaville. They are especially remembered as stylish dressers who influenced fashion trends, and they were among early football stars.

They lived with European and African men in a variety of arrangements, although they were generally lumped together under the rubric of 'prostitutes' in European reports, when they were not married under civil law or in the church. Gabonese women particularly sought out white men who could give them more support and status than African workers. Having been in touch with Europeans at Libreville and coastal factories, some had adopted European dress, had learned French cuisine and could organize the household of a white man.

A European man might set up house with an African woman at a fixed fee per month, or they contracted a temporary marriage through paying a bride-price to the woman's relatives, or they engaged in casual sex. Relationships were often quite stable, lasting for the duration of a man's stay in the town, with such women being refered to as 'housekeepers' menageres by European men. For the Swedish missionary Samuel Hede, Brazzaville was 'a hard mission field like all such commercial centres' and 'hundreds of women from upper Congo are professional prostitutes'.

Not surprisingly, rather few did. According to a report of , about fifty 'turned up every Saturday to be examined at the dispensary'. West Africans were recruited to perform specific tasks, from clerks to factory agents, and soldiers to carpenters. Many Senegalese originally arrived in Central Africa as tirailleurs, hired by Europeans who stopped at Dakar en route to Equatorial Africa. The pattern was established by Brazza in his first expedition, and others did likewise. The hope was to find soldiers with some previous experience in the conquest army, but the policy was also useful as a divide-and-rule device.

When experienced soldiers were unavailable, Europeans would take raw recruits, and give them a crash course on being a tirailleur on board ship or at Libreville or Loango, before setting out for the interior. Only one had served as a tirailleur senegalais.

As for the others, they had perhaps seenriflesin the distance in the hands of soldiers on parade. Their army 26 Leisure and society in colonial Brazzaville training, the respect and fear in which they were held by local populations and their familiarity with European notions of time and discipline made veterans highly sought after for positions of authority. Army veterans monopolized the police force or militia, positions which former tirailleurs welcomed, since they paid more than most other jobs and included the possibility of rewards through abuse of position.

Six former tirailleurs hired by Bouteillier had come to Central Africa to fight in Ubangi-Shari campaigns. After leaving military service, they worked for the Compagnie de Sangha before going down-river to Brazzaville. When they appeared for work, they were still wearing their red fezzes and military jackets. Bouteillier issued them with work orders and appointed them over Lari and Loango labourers to sort rubber and cut grass. In , the Public Works Department employed fourteen Senegalese masons and seven carpenters. The French suspected the Belgians of encouraging Senegalese workers to break contracts by offering them high wages as earthworkers on the railway.

According to Baratier, the Senegalese 'return to the French side and show more arrogance than ever, accepting the sixteen franc fine for breaking their contract'. Guiral noted ex-soldiers who were making 'a fortune, buying products cheaply on the upper Ogowe and Nguni rivers and selling them to factories'. He added: 'They follow European styles as closely as possible and aspire to be grande monde'15 Some obtained plots of land in Brazzaville and opened stores in the Plateau and Plaine districts, dealing primarily in cloth.

In his report on the state of Brazzaville, the Mayor referred to 'numerous Senegalese traders'. Initially, the colonial administration paid for the transportation and support of wives of foreign workers whom they recruited, but in this was cancelled because of the expense. Others married local women who converted to Islam. The growing number of Brazzaville Muslim families, which included workers from Chad and An African crossroads 27 Ubangi-Shari as well as West Africans, was shown in the establishment of a Koranic school in West Africans were chiefly recruited by concessionary companies in their regions of origin.

A family might let a young man go to gain experience in business and, once it became known that good jobs were available, others followed.


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Some took 'temporary wives' for the duration of their stay in Congo as Europeans did, or married local women. Most, but not all, returned home after a few years, perhaps to invest their earnings in trade and build large houses. Some low-level West Indian civil servants lived in the African section of town and were particularly influential in introducing new ideas on popular music, as were accordion-playing workers from the Gold Coast and Sierra Leone.

The precolonial Pool economy had been disrupted through the imposition of European commercial capitalism and a stratified society based on new technical skills and work in the colonial economy was taking shape. At the same time, there were many workers who were still attached to lineage-based, rural economies and participated in the urban economy erratically while continuing to befirmlyattached to village societies. This was true, for example, of the women from the Pool, Boko and Mindouli regions who sold surplus food to the Brazzaville market, or Tio and Bobangi boatmen and fishermen who profited from smuggling on the Pool.

Within the colonial economy, a class of African elites had emerged, many of them West Africans but also those from Gabon and Loango, as well as local populations who were missionary educated. Those with technical skills, such as river-boat mechanics, stone-masons and carpenters, also took leadership roles in urban society, for they had a cash income and specialized knowledge that others did not have.

A mission of inspection sent from France in to investigate the potential workforce of Moyen-Congo carried out a study of the situation in Brazzaville. Their report gives some insights into the various levels at which workers were integrated into the economy. I 1, Brev fran Kongo, H. A further factor making estimates uncertain was the opposition of the followers of Andre Matswa to any kind of collaboration with the colonial government. Three categories of workers were distinguished. The most 'lazy' and 'despicable' were those recruited in distant villages, who had deserted or had high levels of absenteeism.

Of almost one hundred workers recruited on a three-month contract by the Public Works department in the Niari valley, fourteen 'fled' before they arrived at Brazzaville, and sixteen fell sick from beriberi. The remaining fifty-eight averaged eighteen-and-a-half days per month, and some did not appear in the workplace for three to five days at a time.

A second group of workers, recruited by the Mayor in villages close to Brazzaville for construction work in the town, received a monthly wage and daily rations. However, once these men had earned a certain income, they left once they were paid. This meant that each month there was a turnover of about a third of the labour force, with new workers having to be recruited. A third group, those who lived in Bacongo and Poto-Poto, were referred to by the inspector as 'quite a stable workforce'.

In particular, reference was made to workers at the administration's brickmaking plant, 'some of whom have worked there for four to five years'. However, even the Senegalese 'often miss work the day after they are paid'. Incipient class divisions were also evident. The Mayor's report in referred to the 'growing number of Africans with European manners and tastes who buy European goods whenever possible'. Segregating space For the first twenty-five years of Brazzaville's existence, only a few scattered buildings indicated the European presence.

Yet they symbolized the primary institutions of colonialism see map 3. A cluster of mudbrick thatched houses marked the administrative post where a handful of colonial officials lived on the Plateau. Nearby was the military post, appropriately enough called Chad. For a Belgian visitor in , the marines and tirailleurs carrying out manoeuvres on a large parade ground were 'the principal vital element' in the French settlement. Individual traders included two Portuguese, a Spaniard and three Senegalese who had stores by the river. Under the direction of the energetic and ambitious Monseigneur Augouard, Bishop of Upper Congo, , a gothic-style cathedral that could hold over a thousand people was dedicated in Built in stone, brick and wood, with a bell-tower topped by a cross that rose twenty metres into the air, it was surrounded by a two-storeyed bishop's 'palace', schoolrooms, dormitories, workshops and gardens where children and workers laboured to grow essential food supplies.

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The whole complex, contrasting sharply with the simple houses of colonial officials, was a constant reminder of the power of the church and the weakness of the state, a bitter pill to swallow for many turn-of-the century Frenchmen, engaged at home in afiercedebate to reduce the power of the church. Augouard's domineering manner did nothing to endear him to colonial administrators, but it made him a powerful figure among his congregation, as did his longevity at a time when most Europeans stayed less than two years or succumbed to tropical fevers. The bishop's stamina was only rivalled by that of Mother Marie, who spent almost fifty years in Africa, most of them as head of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Cluny convent at the foot of the 3.

By the end of the century boys, many of them bought out of some kind of servitude along the Ubangi river where the inland slave-trade was still active, attended the Catholic mission school, while 95 girls and young women were in training at the convent for Christian marriage and motherhood.

As they graduated and were married off to each other by their missionary sponsors, the couples settled in one of five Christian villages around the mission station. Reliable censuses of the town's population are only available for the s onwards and any estimates before then are just that, and vary considerably. The coming and going of migrant labour, and of women and children according to the agricultural cycle, made for a fluctuating population.

Official counts generally fell below the actual figure. The annual report of the Administrator of Moyen-Congo in summed up the problem: This must be very approximate, for a census is in the eyes of the population above all a financial measure, which they seek to avoid as long as they can.

Administrators have to count as discreetly as possible for villagers get annoyed and see it as an infringement of their person: they send women and children into the bush. These are used in table 1, however, in preference to passing comments by travellers and other short-term visitors to Brazzaville, when official estimates are lacking. It was the haphazard nature of urban growth that most caught the eye of early visitors to Brazzaville.

Given the sprawling nature of the town, people lived beside their places of work. Living near those from the same region was a secondary consideration, although these two factors might coincide, as it did for domestic servants from Loango who established a 'village' near their employers on the Plateau. It is a 'scene of picturesque disorder'. Africans and Europeans clustered around the workplace on the Plateau, at the military post, along the Plaine, or around the mission station.

Former tirailleurs, who worked for the administration, like those from the Loango coast, had their own village on the edge of the Plateau. Challaye was surprised to find an African market adjacent to the European club and a Dutch store nearby. Administrator Bonchamps in a long report to his superiors in Libreville reluctantly agreed with Monseigneur Augouard, who had reported that Brazzaville administrators lived in 'hovels'.

He furthermore warned his superiors that something must be done or European colonial officials would leave to work for the concessionary companies which offered better conditions. Challaye summed up the situation: 'They live in Brazzaville like troops on manoeuvres in a poor Alpine village. Between buildings the bush ran wild, with expanses of tall grasses, ravines, streams that flowed into the Congo, and woods, making cross-town communication difficult. The removal of the capital of French Congo from Libreville to Brazzaville, and its establishment as the capital of AEF, brought the matter of town planning to a head.

In , the colonial ministry finally granted a subsidy for town 'improvements'. Two years later, Brazzaville was given independent status as a 'Commune' with a mayor and a fourmember town council appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor of MoyenCongo from 'leading Frenchmen over twenty-five years old'. Two years later, several kilometres away on the other side of town just north of factories on the Plaine, a second African area of PotoPoto Lingala, 'mud', for the marshy ground on which it was located was surveyed and plots allocated for house construction.

The colonial discourse on town planning revolved around several considerations, some growing out of prevailing European thought on colonial cities, and some based on local circumstances. Primary considerations may be summed up as prestige, health policies, the cultural 34 Leisure and society in colonial Brazzaville incompatibility of Europeans and Africans, and law and order. Underlying all the arguments was the slow but sustained growth of the town's population and the administration's search for a better means of control in the face of rioting over food shortages and poor living conditions.

For Mayor Girard, writing after segregation measures had been introduced, African houses built next to those of Europeans had 'constituted a serious obstacle to the growth of the town', and moving out workers had 'left land free for the construction of important buildings'. Descriptions of visitors on both sides of the river are replete with invidious comparisons.

From the earliest years of the Brazzaville post, Europeans on the French side crossed the Pool frequently for supplies, leisure amenities and the social crowd in Leopoldville. In , the Chief Administrator of Brazzaville, newly arrived at Leopoldville via the Matadi railway, had the unfortunate choice of crossing the Pool in Monseigneur Augouard's steamer or the boat of the Free State Governor, since the Brazzaville administration did not own one.

By , the European town boasted a new Governor-General's residence, the offices of the Lieutenant-Governor of Moyen-Congo, a treasury, law courts, a post and telegraphs building, the Pasteur Institute, a military hospital and a town hall. A single dirt road linked the Plateau to the Plaine, ravine crossings were improved and a wooden bridge spanned the Mfoa river.

Since all the major public buildings were in the European town, architectural distinctions reinforced racial and legal ones. Administrator Bonchamps, observing the flood of concessionary-company workers at the turn of the century, drew attention to the 'health hazards of thatched huts being put up everywhere'.

She went on to reiterate the commonly held view that 'Europeans have every interest in living far from the natives, to "separate" themselves, and to "segregate" themselves in order to avoid tropical illnesses'. The prevailing theory at the turn of the century was that prevention was helped by distancing Europeans from malarial parasites carried by Africans and transmitted by mosquitoes, primarily during the night.

Such issues took on greater urgency for officials with the arrival of more European families see table 2. Distance and natural barriers had, therefore, to be placed between white and indigenous populations. For the British, experience in India was the principal model, while the French drew their inspiration from North Africa where a segregated settlement existed in Algiers even before the conquest of In towns such as Freetown and Lagos where an influential class of African property-owners was already entrenched, Europeans opened up new areas of town rather than alienate strong indigenous elites.

Anyway, the upper crust of white society, the administrators and military officers, already occupied the prime spot on the Plateau with a magnificent view over the rapids. Gilles Sautter also notes that the 'influx of population had decided the public authorities to separate the European and African population' and that 'Europeans wanted to sleep and drummers kept them awake'.

Not only was 'drumming and noisy dancing' limited in time and space, that is to hours prescribed by the administration and on the outskirts of the town, but Africans had to give advance notice and pay a fee, which was particularly resented, since it was set at a rate that was difficult for workers to meet. The whole question of 'turbulent' neighbourhoods needs to be explored at different levels, however, and beyond the cultural realm to the harsh realities of daily life. Riots by workers also forced drastic action by the authorities, and designing the locations of Bacongo and Poto-Poto was as much an effort to diffuse an explosive situation through reorganizing space as it was to satisfy European demands for a more prestigious, healthy and culturally pleasing colonial town.

The most serious problem facing African workers on a daily basis was hunger. Although those employed by the administration had rations as part of their pay, many had to spend a great deal of time finding food.

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Reports of undernourished and starving people are common in early accounts, and they continued as late as the s. It was a problem created by colonialism. Having disrupted the pre-colonial exchange system which delivered food to the Pool markets, the administration was unable to ensure a supply itself. The difficulties that had dogged the town 38 Leisure and society in colonial Brazzaville since its early days, when the nearest Tio villagers refused to supply the foodstuffs, continued. In , Administrator Bonchamps reported: 'I have tried to get them to take up food cultivation but have hardly succeeded.

If the administration accused villagers of being 'apathetic' and 'uncooperative', the problem was all too often of their own making. One report noted that, 'the native's heart was no longer in the fields as it had been before. He could not forget the terrible years of rubber collection and famine. Even when he planted food for himself he was always afraid of seeing his sorghum and manioc requisitioned. The administration also found it hard to attract food supplies from producers to the south and west of the town, although it was in plentiful supply in local markets.

After caravans with food were stopped and pillaged on the road to Brazzaville by desperate workers, women refused to bring their produce to town. As a counter-measure, the government introduced a decree making it illegal to stop porters carrying food destined for sale in the town 'on the roads or in the urban area', but this appears to have remained a dead letter.


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To some extent they 'solved' the problem through the labour of school children in the mission gardens and by sending their steamers upriver beyond the Pool to load up with fish, meat and manioc. But in , and , the missionaries had to send some children home because of lack of food and high prices. Reviewing his term of office, he noted: A large workforce was indispensable to ensure the good order of public services and the success of the many private enterprises in the capital. Now, in order to recruit workers easily and to avoid desertions which create havoc on the work sites, we had to feed our workers well.

This workforce existed in Brazzaville, but its food supply was extremely difficult to ensure and was notoriously insufficient. The arrival of manioc was rare and there were very few caravans. Chikouangue or manioc bread, the basic food, currently sells for fifty centimes, and still we could not get what we needed.

The market often seemed a scene of unimaginable An African crossroads 39 disorder; barriers were broken down and convoys pillaged by the starving. The police often had to intervene and themselves undertake the allocation of food arriving in the market. Attempts to supplement government workers' diets through importing rice from Belgian Congo and Indochina had little success, since workers refused to accept rice in place of manioc bread, and some of them fell sick with beriberi. Faced with chronic desertion rates, the administrators sent police to requisition food from the main markets to feed Public Works employees, but to little effect.

It was in this context, therefore, that the policy of spatial segregation was introduced. Bacongo and Poto-Poto were divided up into quartiers with appointed 'chiefs' responsible for upkeep, security, tax-collection, health control, policing 'vagabonds' and 'perpetrators of disorder', and providing corvee labour on demand. Every Sunday the chiefs met at the Mayor's office to discuss problems and receive further instructions.

The 'perfectly aligned streets' of the Christian villages as well as the discipline and inspection carried out by missionaries in the name of hygiene and order was a model for Bacongo and Poto-Poto. Furthermore, the kind of systematic police operation that could be mounted against a consolidated village had been shown in , when fighting broke out in the Christian village of Notre Dame de la Merci. In a pre-dawn raid whip-wielding policemen had moved in, and suspects were rounded up, imprisoned and fined. While some workers were glad to exchange the squalid conditions of workers' camps for the chance to acquire plots of land and build more substantial houses, others resisted regimentation in their new 'villages' and efforts to mobilize them in activities such as street cleaning.

It was rather the division of the African population between Bacongo and PotoPoto which corresponded in the official mind to pre-existing population divisions based on 'race'. Given the European mind-set, 'turbulence' in the town's population was perceived in 'tribal' terms and the 'solution' had to be fitted into a similar framework by giving different 'tribes' separate areas of the town in which to live.

In so doing, Europeans fostered a new urban ethnicity whereby, as elsewhere in Africa, 'invented' labels could be appropriated by Africans and filled out through their own initiatives and imagination. Nor were populations clearly defined by language as much as administrators thought, for Kituba, which originated as a lingua franca among the traders and railway workers of lower Congo, was the dominant language on the north side of the Pool, spoken all over the town.

The very name Bacongo, as well as its location on the south side of the town, indicated that it was to be for people from the Pool and the lower Congo region, while Poto-Poto, located to the north of the town was reserved for 'people from the upper river' and foreigners such as those from West Africa and Gabon. The tidy nature of these arrangements, in the European mind, was summed up by Governor-General Merlin, who told his Executive Council: 'The natives now have their own quartiers according to their race. All men in wage employment, or who paid taxes, also had to produce their cards, which the Mayor noted was 'a means of efficiently controlling the coming and going of individuals'.

In Brazzaville, as elsewhere in Africa, missionaries made some crucial decisions which privileged certain languages over others and helped familiarize people with a new lingua franca. Since their arrival in the upper Congo, the Holy Ghost Fathers had worked in stations along the Ubangi river and had started to use Lingala in their work. With the establishment of Poto-Poto for the 'people from the upper river', Monseigneur Augouard decided to split the Brazzaville work in two with Kikongo- and Kituba-speaking priests given responsibility for Bacongo and others told to start learning Lingala for the work in Poto-Poto.

The effect of missionaries in contributing to perceptions of ethnicity and language should not be minimized, especially when coupled with official policy. By the eve of the First World War, missionaries claimed that about a third to a half of the town's population were baptized Catholics, while the mission youth club was drawing hundreds of young people after mass on Sunday and after work. Masses were said in French, Lingala and Kituba. In , the Catholic missionaries reported the success of their work with the 'Bangalas' that is those in Poto-Poto , with 1, baptized Catholics and 1, catechumens.

The identification of those from the Pool region and the lower Congo as the main local source of skilled workers had already taken place. Noting that 'the Balalis and Basundis quickly became auxiliaries of our occupation', Mayor Girard went on: 'Numerous Bakongos are agents of European factories; they know how to read and write sufficiently to keep inventories and order stock and have a keen interest in their work.

It included foreigners such as the West Africans, other Central Africans and a growing crowd of casual An African crossroads 43 labourers coming off the boats from upriver, who often ended up in such administrative categories as 'vagrants' and 'prostitutes', or the 'floating population' of the town. These people were perceived as potentially dangerous, not only because they were difficult to control as they came and went from the town, but because their socialization and acculturation to colonial order was weaker than that of populations who lived on the Bacongo side of town.

By the eve of the First World War, the modern contours of Brazzaville were in place. Space had been divided up on an administrator's drawing board. In tracing lines on the town plan, however, colonial officials had created an urban space whose long-term social impact they may not have fully realized, for Africans took over space and made it meaningful. As Cooper has argued, 'society not only shapes space, space shapes society'. The pre-colonial economy of the Pool had been overtaken by the arrival of concessionary companies.

The Tio who had orchestrated trade for over three centuries had been marginalized, although they continued their independent economy on the Mbe plateau and profiting from smuggling in the waters that they had once controlled. A small but influential group of foreign and local elites had established themselves as auxiliaries to a growing number of European administrators, businessmen, missionaries and soldiers.

Some workers were well integrated into town life, although they and their families maintained strong ties with the rural areas. While Europeans designed the colonial town for their own ends, which were in part to do with pressures from African workers, they aided the creation of identities shaped by new boundaries of space, language and class. The distinction of Poto-Poto and Bacongo was consolidated by the tendency of most people to spend leisure hours on the side of town where they lived. Severe logistical problems had been created through the long distances that separated different parts of the town.

Instead of living close to the workplace, many had to spend a great deal of time and energy just getting to and from work. Inhabitants of Poto-Poto who worked for the administration or as domestic servants had to allow at least forty minutes to walk to offices and residences on the Plateau, while those in Bacongo who worked for the concessionary companies on the Plaine had the same problem.

And many had to repeat the return journey twice, since they went home during a two-hour lunchbreak and 44 Leisure and society in colonial Brazzaville returned in the afternoon. As the town expanded, women also had to walk further and further to their gardens. Five kilometres separated Bacongo from Poto-Poto - thus, when an individual arrived home from work, he or she hardly bothered to walk back to the other side of the town in search of sociability or recreation, and at times such coming and going was controlled by curfews, since it involved walking through the European part of town after dark.

Occasionally, on Sundays or for special events, people might make the cross-town trek. While not suggesting that where one lives is a definitive factor in the creation of identity, there is no question that in colonial Brazzaville, the distinction between living in Poto-Poto or Bacongo was significant, especially in the later colonial period when a politicized ethnicity emerged.

Equatorial Africa remained near the bottom of France's colonial priorities until when General de Gaulle, casting about for a piece of French soil to legitimize the existence of Free France, found it on the banks of the Congo river. Communications with the global economy were improved with the opening of the Congo-Ocean railway linking Brazzaville to Pointe-Noire in The actual construction was a severe drain on AEF's thin population and economic resources.

In the years after the Second World War, when Brazzaville received capital for several large construction projects, the town became a magnet for workers and young people from rural areas seeking schooling and employment. Between the world wars, a permanent town population with a keen awareness of their needs and aspirations came into being. Over the first four decades of the century, the number of immigrants who arrived and stayed increased, although they also maintained strong links with rural areas, particularly those who came from the Pool, Boko and Mindouli regions.

Swedish missionary schoolteachers in the late s continued to find that school-children, especially girls, from the Pool and lower Congo districts tended to disappear in the wet season, when they returned to their family land with their mothers to work in farming.

Furthermore, the allegiance of the Lari who lived in Brazzaville to Andre Matswa, a nationalist agitator in the eyes of the French, was sustained in the face of persecution through support from rural chiefs. Between and , as Brazzaville's population tripled, sub-communities based on recreational activities were significant in building social networks and developing a consciousness of place in the urban milieu see table I.

With improved 45 46 Leisure and society in colonial Brazzaville housing, health care and schooling in the European town, more women and children arrived see table 2. Economy and population Forty years after its establishment as a colonial post, Brazzaville was still a small commercial, military and administrative centre.

In , it was the headquarters of four large companies and thirteen smaller trading houses which had survived the First World War. African workers were employed in much the same kind of work as they had been earlier in the century. Much of the interior was still in the grip of the 'pillage economy' imposed by the remaining concessionary companies which, in the face of increasing outrage in France, were finally phased out by Furthermore, the weak economy was made worse by the First World War, whose impact was similar to that of the huge expeditionary forces of the late nineteenth century.

Just as these had drained resources from Brazzaville's struggling economy and harassed local people, so did military operations during the war. As the AEF capital was the command centre for the defence of the 3, kilometre frontier between the French colony and German Kamerun, Brazzaville's residents again experienced the ebb and flow of men and supplies.

The provisioning of soldiers at the military camp accentuated the long-standing problem of food supplies in the capital.

Nothing had been done to prepare for their arrival, and in the face of a potential mutiny, starving troops were let loose on Bacongo and Poto-Poto to fend for themselves. Gardens were pillaged, women with provisions attacked, houses looted, and traders too scared to go to the market. The economy was further weakened by transportation problems. Fewer ships arrived in the Atlantic and the army requisitioned available river transport to carry men and supplies to the front.

AntiGerman propaganda and preparation, which included a line of cannons along the Pool, were almost too successful as they seemed to confirm Taking hold of the town 47 rumours of an imminent German invasion. The fearful fled and others only stopped long enough to pick up uniforms and advance pay before disappearing into the bush. The colonial authorities set up surveillance posts along the frontiers with Belgian Congo but they could not stem desertions and flight.

In , misery was compounded by the Spanish influenza epidemic which killed several hundred Africans and seventeen Europeans.

On their return, veterans with experience of European town life introduced new tastes in fashion, music and dance, and demanded more leisure amenities. It invokes a resiliency required to endure stressful times and could thus bear positive meanings for Africans laboring and surviving in precarious conditions. It suggests mimicry that may border on, or pass directly into, mockery.

They can be seen to register, evaluate, and reconfigure ideas and relations specific to African experiences of the emerging colonial city. Addressing the almost spontaneous positive appraisal of football in the Pool region, Martin writes:. Western sports were new in their structure, in their plethora of rules, and their time frame which reflected the industrial society in which they were born. Sport as physical, organized, and competitive exercise was not completely foreign to the young workers who watched Europeans play football, however. Certain values such as courage, endurance and individual skill were also qualities admired in village recreational activities.

The view that football resonated with pre-colonial physical activities seems indisputable. The object was to kick the lemon past the guard of the other team. From her research we learn that W. Wrestling, Paul argues, was well suited in diverse ways to consolidate social relationships and exchanges within a given locality. Planning and organizing the festival was a means of strengthening solidarity between members of the local group.

Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies)

In different roles, all or at leas many of the community had to contribute time, effort, and goods; they had to organize themselves and prepare for meeting opposing groups with proper hospitality and collective harmony…[W]restlers and their judges had an opportunity to demonstrate fairness, expert command of rules, and readiness to compromise, thus exhibiting qualities sought after in potential marriage partners and allies in economic or martial enterprise.

Martin shows that though it was once a highly popular activity in the Brazzaville area, the local popularity of wrestling declined significantly over the course of the course of the twentieth century. It is equally true that colonial period football was shaped by appropriations of traditional and neo-traditional ritual and magical beliefs and practices. A photograph of the select team foregrounds these differences fig. Even limited visual data is useful in a preliminary assessment of how different the sociocultural dynamics embodied in wrestling and football were.

The uniforms poignantly distinguishing the specialists the players themselves from all onlookers, the rectilinear, neatly marked boundaries of the field, and the evenly layered bleachers that bracket the football event from the surrounding natural environment all point away from the suggestions of unbroken social-environmental cohesion conveyed in the wrestling photograph.

Instead of seamless community, the football photograph conveys multiple signs of specialization, strict demarcation, and differentiation. A tighter focus on the concrete execution of the two sports furthers critical appreciation of their socio-cultural distinctiveness. Wrestling is without a division of skills.

The winning wrestler is the most complete wrestler and therefore the embodiment of the complete man, at least at the level of physical prowess. In sharp contrast, divisions of skill and purpose are fundamental to football. Goalkeepers, sweepers, defenders, midfielders, wings, and strikers each have highly specified tasks and thus are required to focus on cultivating equally specific skills.

Culture does not simply mirror; it symbolizes and thus always has a sign-function it is semiotic. More than that, any living culture must be viewed as a communicative process in which a society not only expresses but also generates and forms its world. One way to deal with the enormous complexity of all culture is to concentrate on some carefully chosen expressions…and take these to be answers to specific problems or questions. The lust for sport took shape within the township neighborhoods, surprising colonial and church authorities, and sparking what was to become a constant quest for adequate resources.

Five inter-related subtopics serve as points of departure for investigating the multiple, sometimes contradictory meanings and values of the game. These subtopics are rules, the minimum vital , differentiation and allegiance, magic, and violence. In The Tao of Cricket , Ashis Nandy describes parallels between conceptions of fate implicit within the British practice of cricket and those found at the core of many heroic narratives within Hindu mythology.

It remains clear however that football has also always been entangled in very worldly socioeconomic processes and conflicts. Football differs deeply from the two great imperial sports—cricket and rugby—in at least one very significant respect.

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These traits are, broadly speaking, a function of nineteenth-century European class relations. The assumption was just the opposite with football. It was hoped by many who promoted the game in Europe that workers and working-class youth would assimilate proper masculine values of vigor and discipline in the very act of playing the sport. In his Sociologie des Brazzavilles Noires , Balandier repeatedly cites the lack of stable investment and construction projects plaguing laborers and the broader economic life of the city.

The immediate environs possessed little of interest in mineralogical or agricultural terms. Whereas the daily and seasonal routine of the urban wage-seeker was dictated by fluctuations in investments and initiatives completely beyond his control, football constituted a space where the individual player could deploy his energies as he saw fit. Teamwork and discipline were ineluctable aspects of any game, but what a difference to give and take commands in relation to a goal one has willingly chosen to pursue with fellow African players, rather than according to the externally imposed hierarchies of the workplace.

She notes that in the s:. A rift between administrators and African footballers developed from their conflicting views on the purpose of the sport. Africans, though serious about improving their skills, were in it for fun and unwilling to be regimented by whites in training sessions. The system of wage regulations known as the minimum vital was inaugurated by the colonial administration in to establish criteria for the proper payment of workers.

Manioc, fish, oil, and salt were the only items listed in assessing nutritive requirements. Balandier argues that, crude as it was in qualitative terms—reducing the local diet, in principal, to fish and manioc—the vital was even more punishing in quantitative terms, with an annual provision of kilos of manioc and seventy-three kilos of fish. The vital presumed that, though wages were allotted on a daily basis, workers would work continuously throughout the year even though the demand for labor across a given period was often profoundly uneven.

Though the regulated wage responded to high inflation, real wages declined between and More hours of uncertain work were required to purchase the same insufficient amount of essential goods. The vital , and more particularly the blindness to individual human qualities that it exemplified, was probably among the sociopolitical problems that football helped Brazzavillois address; or rather, football was shaped in ways that allowed players and spectators to reflect upon and reject the ways they were defined by colonial authority. Some footballers saw the lack of compensation for their efforts as illustrating the seemingly boundless extent of their exploitation.

The very absence of financial gain for players could however be transformed into a kind of useful symbolic capital. A report on the make-up of AEF labor resources defined three-quarters of the regional population as lacking in any distinguishing technical or intellectual skills. Work experiences, ethnic ties, and religious belief strongly influenced the attachments Africans formed in the new, and not so new, communicative contexts and institutions that emerged with the rapid growth of the regional capital. Football participation, as player or fan, was among the pivotal spaces of collective social action and differentiation, but was also distinctive in the types and intensities of allegiances it generated.

One could study fan support in specific matches to gauge the range and intensity of cultural and political allegiances taking shape within urban African society. Drawing on reports of instances and patterns in fan violence, Martin deduces that the most poignant allegiances were generated by shared neighborhood identity, followed by support or refusal to support Church-sponsored teams—both dynamics in which ethnic attachments also factored powerfully.

In studying the massive popularity of football however it is at least as crucial to explore the range as it is the depth of the expressions of allegiance it fostered. Football, like most sports, differs from many aspects of social life in its emphatically annual nature. The season opens, all teams compete for supremacy, some kind of championship occurs. The number of leagues in which these stages could unfold in any given place in a given year is, weather permitting, unlimited. A marked pause in competition in any given league occurs before the entire cycle begins anew the next competitive season, giving each fan the opportunity to shift or retain former allegiances and favorites across time.

The very loose organization of football competition in the constantly growing capital of AEF, where teams were quickly emerging, disappearing, and reconfiguring themselves, forced local fans to develop situation-specific criteria for support, and the forms that support would take.

This is not to argue that fans never demonstrated steadfast allegiances or that there were no solidly built, enduring teams. Martin shows that the opposite was often the case. Still, opportunities for changing the lines of one support, or altering its intensity, were manifold. Processes of meaning investment spurred by football undoubtedly resembled and diverged from forms of commitment spawned in other arenas of collective life.

Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Mar 03, Chris rated it it was ok. What is a town? What is a village? These seem to be pressing question for the colonial officials of Brazzaville. While I appreciate that Martin brings this preoccupation to visibility, her treatment of the question moves little beyond description. First, to be a village seems to mean occupy a lower rung of civilization, as is What is a town? How did French administrators make this distinction; what essence is imbued by a town and not a village?

Interestingly, these aesthetics can also be considered technological innovations in some sense i. In this way beauty is linked not only to civilization, but also to progress. In keeping with this thinking, I also found it interesting to see segregation also falls under the colonial classification of beautification, which endows racism with an aesthetic dimension p.

Hygiene, too, also becomes a way of policing the borders of difference and can be read as an aesthetics of purity p. Martin deals with space and time as productive of difference in helpful ways.

ISBN 13: 9780521524469

In contradistinction from event-based time, we see how industrial time provides becomes a means of internalizing control over colonial subjects. By providing a means of measuring output by a supervisory figure, industrial time permits comparisons of production levels. Martin would have benefited from doing more to explain this transformation of meaning. Carol rated it it was ok May 10, Rebecca rated it really liked it Sep 14, Chau rated it really liked it May 31,

Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies) Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies)
Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies) Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies)
Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies) Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies)
Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies) Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies)
Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies) Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies)
Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies) Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies)
Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies) Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies)
Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies) Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (African Studies)

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