if you show it often enough..

November 12, 2007

Have you ever seen this ?

may be here ? or here or here or even here (where they say: “Think about the fact that the wealth presented in this image rested almost completely on the slave trade. “)

Well the picture is a fake.

It’s taken from the famous “Descriptions of Africa”, written by a dutchman called Olfert Dapper who according to the museum named after him never left Holland. Even more interesting is this page that says:

“There is virtually no evidence,” Jones writes, that Dapper “took much interest in what sort of visual material was to accompany his text,” and that it was the publisher, Van Meurs, “who probably did all the engraving himself”

Honestly, one doesn’t even need to know anything about Dapper or his publisher to know it’s a fake. Horses in the middle of the tsetse fly infested area ? A surrounding wall ? Large streets ?
A lot of things actually go against most descriptions from that period. Loango wasn’t much more dense than the rural areas and farmland wasn’t outside the walls. The lack of horses (and carriages) made large streets unnecessary and the vegetation was abundant. There was neither need nor material to build multi-story buildings.

Somehow the image keeps appearing and reappearing and people keep being impressed by the greatness of the imaginary and oh so european looking city of Loango. And you can even find serious academic papers using it as “proof” of the advanced development of precolonial central african cities. example (jstor), other example (PDF).
Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not that I believe Loango as a city wasn’t interesting. It’s rather the obvious eurocentricity displayed and the willingness of some to use it as proof of civilization.

But sadly, it can get worse:

Samba Pango; Roi de Loango. Digital ID: 1248472. New York Public Library


Roi D’Angola. Digital ID: 1248473. New York Public Library

full series here

Now, what were they thinking ?
A white Loango King ? With clothing looking half french half inca ?
I’m glad that one is not been used as an example of the different shades of black on afrocentrist websites.


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