Free Children's Admission on July 27 - National Day of the Cowboy and Cowgirl!

What Is a Western? Interview Series: Tropical Cowboys

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Topics: Imagined Wests

two cowboys from the tropics

As part of a series exploring the significance of the Western genre and the ways in which the movies shape our understanding of the American West, Autry Curator Josh Garrett-Davis interviews Professor Ch. Didier Gondola about the story of the “tropical cowboys,” 1950s youth subcultures in the Belgian Congo who modeled themselves on cowboy movies that arrived from abroad. 

What Is a Western? Interview Series: Tropical Cowboys

Learn More

To Read

Ch. Didier Gondola’s Tropical Cowboys: Westerns, Violence, and Masculinity in Kinshasa (Indiana University Press, 2016) 

For a history of the Belgian Congo try King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, by Adam Hochschild 

To Watch: 

Pony Express (1953), the film that inspired many of ‘les Bills’, directed by Jerry Hopper and starring Charlton Heston as “Buffalo Bill” Cody 

The Lone Ranger (1949–57) was another popular culture icon idolized by ‘les Bills’  

Le retour d’un aventurier (1966), a short film from Niger which demonstrates the influence of cowboy tropes elsewhere in Africa (and here is a version in French without subtitles) 


Land Acknowledgment

The Autry Museum of the American West acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (the Los Angeles basin and So. Channel Islands). We recognize that the Autry Museum and its campuses are located on the traditional lands of Gabrielino/Tongva peoples and we pay our respects to the Honuukvetam (Ancestors), ‘Ahiihirom (Elders) and ‘Eyoohiinkem (our relatives/relations) past, present and emerging.

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