Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Legacy of Zam of the Congo (a short story)

The Legacy of Zam of the Congo

Zam, in:
Kingdom of the Congo
And the Pygmies (1809)

Zam the Congo Boy

In the Congo, the Congo King welcomed the Europeans, especially the Portuguese traders, and many slaves were taken from this area, war criminals, debtors, captives, and so forth, sold by none other than Congo clan chiefs, and the Congo King, in particular, whom were then transferred to America, often on Portuguese ships; this of course dwindled the size of the population of the Congo down, and one of larger traders of Congo slaves were the Muslims.
Zam, was six years old at this time, he had never heard of such goings on, nor his friend Samba, nor his mother Zambia, they lived in the jungle, and within a tribe, a village. A distance away from Zam’s village, were a group of pygmies, among other groups and villages throughout the area. In all respects, the pygmy village and Zam’s village were made up of simple peasants.
Samba was a pygmy, and lived within a village of a half dozen huts, small in size compared to Zam’s, village, and Samba he himself was small in size compared to Zam, yet they were of the same age in reality.
Zam liked going to Samba’s village, they sang and danced a lot. It would seem to Zam, they were a deeply stratified society compared to his village, an ethnic group in essence.
Very small people they were, even at adulthood, Zam’s mother towered over the tallest adult of the pygmies. And they live, many of them lived in servitude to the more populace majority, a form of slavery to the elite; so Zam’s mother told him, yet slavery was just a word to Zam, one he could not understand, or sense, feel. On the other hand, it was a common slavery within a country that took their own kind, and sold them to strangers to be sold abroad; thus there resided—not far from Zam—discrimination of the minority, and a serious pattern developing, one nobody really saw.
Perhaps it is because the Pygmies were uneducated and the Elite Group was the more populace, advanced, that they could and did dominate their own kind. This was the first time Zam had come into the knowledge of freedom vs. enslavement: whereat, when he would become older, it wouldn’t completely be out of the ordinary to him anymore, although he was a stranger to its sentiment at this very moment.

The pygmies made up about ten-percent of the Congo at this time, and it was by way of Samba’s parents, Zam learned how to hunt and fish, they being very skilled in this area.
Gondi, an Elite Pygmy, had twenty-five slaves, and wanted Samba and his mother to be part of his group. It was said, he did give parcels of land to his slaves, after so many years of bondage.
It happened, during Zam’s sixth year of life on this earth, that Gondi took Samba and his mother, forcefully took them, and incorporated them into his African plantation, had his mother carry baskets of manioc roots, a starchy staple of the Bantu People, the elite of the pygmies, and felt he was generous, at paying fifty-cents a day for her sufferings, plus allowing her a hut to live in with her child (not all that much different than what Zam would experience in future times, in America as a slave).
Zam wanted to do something about this, but what could he do, he was six-years old, helpless in an adult world, a cruel world, a world that he would get to know quite well in due time—and what could his mother do likewise but observe from a distance, and his father, as I have previously mentioned, was killed by a great ape. Consequently, he was learning at a very young age, he would need somewhere along life’s line, a helping hand, right now it was his mother.
Accordingly, he was born in a time people did not see, or were blinded to such things as personal liberties, fixated in the interest of self-interest. It really was simple I suppose, men had learned how to dehumanize using color or the majority vs. the minority, thus, it was, or it became easy if you could get into such a box to dehumanize in the name of profit, use as a means to an end. And as Zam would find out in time yet to come, Samba was not the only one to feel the lose of freedom, he would have a life time to feel it himself, or close to it.

(The Bantu language, of the Congo dates back to 3000 BC)

Zam, of the African Congo

Zam’s Village in the African, Congo

Zam and his mother sat in their hut in the village, he sat on a stump of a tree he used for a chair, a bit uncomfortable, but his mother wanted to give him instructions, he was now seven years old, and he needed to know a few things about the jungle, in particular, the lion, the hungry beast of the jungle, the merciless savage, the unleashed beast that was untamable. As she readied herself, laying on a cover made out of wood, crossed-legged, to tell her son the extent of how to deal with an offensive beast like the lion, in a defensive way, silence overtook the hut, the silence inside of man and beast that is, not the silence of the jungle, for sounds of the jungle, many sounds of the jungle, all seeped in and around the hut, hooked onto the shelter like the grip of anacondas, for the jungle is never ever quiet—and as she went to open her mouth to explain, she said:

“(Translated into smoother English for the reader, where it was of course in a dialect of the Congo, in the early 19th Century) To capture the big cat, you must be taught, perhaps more told than taught, and I shall Zam, tell you now, what your father had told me (his father had been killed by a great ape), here son, is how to approach, and if need be—kill the beast, or run from the predator: such as, the giant cats, lions, tigers and of course the great apes and anacondas…”
Zamia had heard her husband teaching other children of the village, when Zam was an infant, too young to learn and retain any skill in this matter, the lions, the big cats often snuck into villages, in the high grasses and pulled their children off to a safe zone, and to feed on them; as for the anaconda, they swallowed them whole. “It is best,” remarked Zamia, “according to what your father told me, and those children, ‘…avoid hunting the lion or great apes, they will hunt you, and there is plenty of other foods in the jungle, one needs not take such risks as to catch the lion, but if you must, follow these instructions,’ and now son listen closely, I will try to say it as you father told me: you may have to invent along the way, if the cat is next to you, for a moment become a village priest, a king, be all, and the cat will see this transformation, and while he stirs in his mind for hunger or survival, you be ready for whichever one is the strongest he will react to, and while he stirs, moves a paw, or shows his great teeth do not move a finger, create mouth sounds but do not move your lips, but only a light distraction, it will chill the blood of the beast, it will darken his veins, the beast will see your quietness, your unblinking eyes, make the lion think you are greater than he, let him see the ‘I am that I am,’ the god in you, let him see you are the chosen one. Then it is your move, and do it slowly but move, steadily, and do not let the beast see your eyelids close—if you blink, make sure the beast is unaware of it—so, the beast will know you are not like everyone else, and you are speaking a language it can understand, you have reached the skeleton of the beast, you have tamed him for the moment, tranquilized him, and must make fruitful your quest, either attack, or run, for the moment is against time unknown. Your skill with the spear will depend on a quick attack!”

There was such a moment, a reality, that occurred to Zam, and also there was something left out of the speech, something his mother didn’t know, didn’t overhear her deceased husband say, something Zam would now learn. For at this ripe young age of seven, he was faced with this very scenario, and did exactly as he was told, but Zam didn’t run, nor attack, he stood his ground, he became all he could, and the beast moved away. He had learned one thing, which could be used for the greater good or a man’s demise, that not moving, was also a decision, and in this case it was the right one, in future time, he would face it again, and soon.

(Note: to kill a lion, even with a gun, the bullet must be placed strategically and close up; it is unwise to hunt lions, you usually end up being hunted by them)

Zam, in: White Gorillas

There was no worry, or confusing thoughts of the future, for Zam, and his mother (they lived in the present), the black boy was eight years old, it was 1811, the future wasn’t even on his mind, only the occasional recollections his mother told him to remember, his mother Zamia—to remember what he had learned of survival, because of his environment, the tropical forest of the Congo was his home, a most alluring picture of beauty at nature’s best, but also nature’s beasts for his father was killed by one of the great white apes, during his infancy. Hence, the equatorial sun beat through the tense jungle, the leafy sea of green overhead, this canopy of leafage devoured much of the sun.
Today was a hot summer’s day, on this side of the world, the year was 1813, he, Zam had just turned ten-years old, and it was a day for loafing, like many days in the rainforest, outside the large village he and his mother lived in, he was running his fingers through his mother’s hair as they lay against a tree, simply adoring her! He had no brothers or sisters.
She, his mother looked at her son, for a few minutes she watched him, caressed his arm, stroked it, she had produced this boy, and she was proud of doing so.
She had catlike eyes, saw everybody and everything that approached too close, and like a lion she’d even snarl at it, produce a deep growl, if she sensed danger, yet she was a small women, blood-soaked eyes.

Zam’s muscles were rigid, and he was a large boy for ten, broad and heavy shoulders on him, like a bull-ape’s, likened to his father. Gray eyes that would turn dark brown; he stood up, looked about, squatted, played with the monkeys, and ate some bananas, and even a few grub worms, he was hungry.
He wasn’t scared of anything except a bull-ape, the kind that killed his father, and to the monkeys he was their antagonist.
It was a life, for the most part, of brutal content, they lived like the sparrows, bellies full of whatever they found to eat, even monkey meat. He never heard of the white man, or other countries in the world, he was in his world, the jungle, the rainforest—his destiny, according to his mother was to survive each day, and die to feed the earth, to make room for another, to give back something. That if necessary, you court death to save his family from the fangs of the lions, these wild beasts were the enemy, not man per se. Never-failing, as the King of the Village knew, this would be Zamia’s down fall as it would be her son’s.

(We must not blame them for their ignorance, in what took place this day for even in the most modern countries of its time, to this very day, man selects leaders, and leaders in most cases work on the theme, of self-interest, and it was to be that way with the king, yet he, himself the king, would have a surprise, you play with the devil, expect no mercy.)

For the most part, Zam was still developing those layers of untried muscles, the ones he would use in future time undeveloped and untried fighting muscles, and he would learn how to bite and fight, and run, and throw the spear, if given time to do so, and his mother was quite proud of his achievements at his present young age. But his attention was distracted when he saw the strangest thing, white men, or were they gorillas, talking to their king. He asked his mother,
“Is this a new kind of ape?”
He knew the beetle, and the caterpillar, the mouse and the elephant, and the lion and many more animals and insects, like the ape and monkeys, and the many kinds of birds, but this new creature was different, had beards and moustaches, and lots of cloths on, and they were snatching black-men—like catching mice—even as they run off they ran after them, they leaped on them, while in pursuit. The thought in his mind, in Zam’s mind, was: the king must be angry, his face showed it, for evidently they had done some kind of wrong, these comrades, black-men, had done some kind of wrong, and these new creatures were trying to capture the natives for him.
The king approached Zam and his mother, introduced the seven white men to them, not a formal introduction, but one saying in essence, ‘these are my special friends from far away, they came to do business,’ and the king was going to leave it at that, leave the boy and his mother where they were; the boy noticed they had chains with them, having fondness for the king, Zamia didn’t run, didn’t consider an escape. The king said, “The boy needs his mother, he is too young for the journey on that ship of yours,” he had said this to the white men, but Zam didn’t know what a ship was, or journey, and felt quite alone with his mother as they talked about him and his mother in the third person, as if they didn’t’ exist. He could scarcely formulate the correct thoughts, to figure out what was happening.
Then the leader of the white men said: “They’re all savages, even the king, attached or unattached take them all,” and they grabbed Zam and his mother, and the king, these men knew neither fear nor gave mercy, they were to Zam a strange inexplicable force, and now the mother and Zam both fought to gain their freedom.
One of the men dropped a noose around the boy’s neck, this stopped the mother from fighting, and he, the king was unconscious, he was hogtied to a pole, carried by two chained black men, and when he awoke, on the coast, he was angry as a boar, but his grunts only gave reason to the white men to slash a whip across his back. And the boy looked at his mother, said, “White Gorillas,” he saw them as his enemy, the enemy of his father, the ones that killed his father.
The river winds, the village the huts he was born in, lived in, familiar with, all that was, and all that used to be, was no more to be, gone with his youth, for a new tormenting life on a ship he thought looked more like a monster crocodile than a wooden vessel.

((For Rosa) (7-16-2008)

Rape Feast:
On the Slave Ship “Monk”
(Zam, 1813)

The Slave trade originated in Europe, and was in essence, a holocaust in the making. A massive murder, like in due time America would do to the Indian Race, the Europeans were doing to the blacks long before. They, Europeans, were coming out of the, Middle Ages, and their new form of nationalism, turned into a spotted form of racism, thus the trade between Africa and Europe was one of convenience, technology vs. free labor. Of course slavery was not new to Europe, Feudalism was a form of Enslavement, and Europe was well acquainted with that.
And now, let us not forget the Arab slave trade, they like Europe and America would get in on this bonanza of human flesh that offered the new era so many possibilities. It would be fair to say, the Muslims violated their own faith during the time they took advantage of this new occurring bonanza (roll-over wealth); because it was all based on gain, money, self-interest, dehumanization.
Like so often peoples and countries do, have done and are doing today: the Arabs came into Africa as friends, hands out for comradeship, and peace and good will, only for the Africans to find out, they were as ruthless as the Romans had been before them.
It would seem the Portuguese and the Arab slave trade met along the golden highway, and cooperated with one another for personal gain.
Now back to Europe. Here was a Christian world, which pushed upon a civilization imprisonment for no wrongs commented, for the ships were all of that and more. And who created the documentation for these human cargos—Europe? This I suppose justified the buyer, and of course victimized the slave. People can say what they will to wipe their hands clean, but the market was there, as it was in America, South America, and with the Arabs and let us not forget, the Caribbean Islands.
I don’t know how the adaptability was, nor does anyone else for sure, but from all my learning in counseling and psychology, one would have to form a dual personality to survive, depending on prevailing conditions, if not become neurotic, or even catatonic, disassociation, and borderline schizophrenia, and perhaps many did go beyond the borderline.

The Last Account:
Rape Feast (Zam)

What Zam never knew (or couldn’t remember when he grew up and became Josh) was that on board the Monk, the ship he was brought over on, there was what was called a Rape Feast. The cargo, doors were opened and the sailors were let loose to rape at will in the cargo hold. Zam’s mother, whom was called, Seclusion, because she hid with her child way back in the corner of one of the departments in the hold, you could hardly see her and her boy. But they did find her, and after the rape, and after several more rapes, she was left like a walking zombie, and once in New Orleans, during a storm, she had walked off the ship, somehow unnoticed, or if noticed, she was left to walk as she did—perhaps of no value to the owner at this point: knowing, or perhaps she was pretending, to be ill, psychologically ill, and so convincing was she, as she walked through the streets, she lost her son in the mist of the storm, perhaps killed, or again taken by some other evildoer. Who’s to know, in those far-off days, of unpredictability?
The Captain of the ship, “The Monk” it was said, he was related to the ex pirate Black Sam Bellamy, whose ship sunk in 1717, that Captain Sam Clifford, had black as well as white blood in him.
Sam, had a good business, like most slave ships, he went to West Africa to load up with slaves, stopped in Britain, and onto the Americas, sold the slaves to plantation owners, and then purchased cotton, corn, sugar, tobacco, and the things the slaves were producing, and then he’d go on back to England and sell them, and then back to West Africa to pick up another load, many of the slaves coming from the Congo, sold by their own kind.
Henry Arnold, one of the ship’s mates on the Monk, wrote “I took whom now is called, Seclusion and her boy, Zam, from the chief of one of the tribes of the Congo, whom the Captain, Clifford would later enslave the Chief himself, I took her and her boy, put them in chains and took them to the coastline, the ship was in the distance, it looked to her as if it was a mountain that came out of the sea, her eyes bulged as if in shock. As she boarded the ship, the little cloths they had on, they stripped her and the boy, she ran off the deck of the ship jumped into the water, and swam to shore, fast, no one could catch her, but we had her boy and she knew it, and she came back four hours later, by the time we got her settled and her boy, Zam, the ship’s deck needed to be washed down, the spit, mucus, urine, feces, soiled the planks and deck, and the smell floated around the ship like a bird, a deadly bird waiting for the decaying prey. We talked about hitting New York City first, after England then on down to the south and the plantations.”