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.
Interested in learning more about the films and ideas discussed in the interview?
- 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
- 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)
Images (Click image for details)
Banner image: Meta and Thérèse (aka Roy). © Photo Jean Depara, Kinshasa, ca. 1950–65. Courtesy of Revue Noire