Myth of the Pygmy

Excerpt from aegis-eu.org website: "...On a recent journey though the internet, searching for the ways in which the myth of the Pygmy lives on in the virtual world, I came across two seemingly trivial details. The first concerned the recent salvaging by the Academic Film Archive of North America of an ethnographic film from the 1930s about a group of Pygmies building a suspension bridge over a crocodile infested river in the Ituri forest. The second related to the Congo-born artist Augie N'Kele who has taken this same act of construction as the inspiration for a sculpture about ingenuity, perseverance and forgotten heritage. In this paper, I use these two modern instantiations of the myth of the Pygmy to discuss the colonial era film industry that grew up around Camp Putnam and Epulu and the complex patternings of imposition, collection, retrieval and display revealed through the resulting visual representations. Though seemingly trivial, the trope of the swinging Pygmy leads us towards an understanding of a continuing Euro-American mythologic process of ethno-genesis that has been transposed onto Africa, collected as truth, and transformed into the knowledge of the Pygmy..."

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