African History 3: Kongo
Today we're going to learn about the Kingdom of Kongo, where any attempts to farm on a large scale were brutally halted by the menacing...tsetse fly. Seriously. Check out the video.
|World History||African History|
It rose to power around 1390 and kept on keepin’ on till the late 19th century.
Giving it roughly the same lifespan as The Simpsons. [Gorilla chasing Bart Simpson]
In some ways, Kongo looked less like a kingdom and more like a federation.
Not because it had spaceships and fought Romulans.
Because each new king had to be elected by a council of lords from around the land. [Council of lords appear by huts]
There weren’t any long running dynasties here, which helped keep the society together.
Since the ruler of each little region had a say in who got the crown, there was more [Owl wearing crown appears]
of a chance that the new king would give a hoot about their region.
Which kept everybody a little bit happier.
But let’s be real…Kongo was a long way from a straight-up democracy. [Man waving from window]
The people of Kongo were divided into an elaborate hierarchy of families, towns, communities,
The Kongo people all spoke variations of a Bantu language called Ki-kongo.
But ethnically they were pretty diverse.
They had different customs, different beliefs, and different ideas about how to eat a Double
Stuf Oreo. [Kongo people eating oreos]
You open them and make Quad Stufs, obviously…
But enough with the differences.
Kongo's communities also had a lot in common. [Kongo community in a field together]
Like… they were mostly pretty small.
With its warm, thick jungles, Kongo was heaven for tsetse flies.
The flies killed off cattle and horse herds and made it a lot harder to farm big open [Tsetse flies flying over cattle and horses and animals die]
So instead, most people kept small gardens and hunted or trapped animals for food.
The only exception was the capital city, Mbanza Kongo.
It was built on a mountain too high for tsetse flies, because as every Congolese person knows: [Tsetse fly on a rollercoaster]
tsetse flies are afraid of heights.
Mbanza Kongo actually grew to a population of over 100,000 people.
That's, like, two blocks of New York City today, but for medieval Africa it was pretty
good. [2 blocks of new york city on a map]
Kongo was also a bustling center of trade.
It was actually one of the go-to places in the world for ivory.
The huge ivory-trade was great for Kongo’s economy, but terrible for the elephants that [Man with giant spear beside dead elephant]
had to die to support it.
The Portuguese explorer Diogo Cao was one of the first Europeans to make it to Kongo. [Diogo standing outside Kongo gates]
Not too long after, trade between Portugal and Kongo was booming.
Kongo’s main export soon became slaves, which were shipped over the Atlantic to work [Slave appears in a field]
Slavery hit all of Africa pretty hard.
But it was especially devastating to the west and central-west areas, because of the geographical
convenience factor for Europeans.
Kongo became like a drive-through restaurant for human cargo.
In a sad twist, women became even more valuable to Kongo communities than men. [Man places valuation on woman]
Because they could repopulate towns that’d been drained of people by the slave trade.
So instead of descending through fathers, families went through mothers. [Kongo children appear]
In the end, the slave trade seriously weakened Kongo by draining it of its manpower.
And eventually it was colonized by Europeans almost everywhere else in Africa. [Europeans travelling over Africa]
What can we say?
Sometimes history seems like an endless series of awful things done by terrible people… [Atrocities leaflet flicks through images]