Ota Benga: Caged Congolese man dem put with monkey collect sorry from zoo 114 years afta – See why e take dem time to apologise

Dis na Ota Benga wit monkey for US

Library of Congress
Dis na Ota Benga wit monkey for US

Dem Kidnap Ota Benga from wetin we know now as Democratic Republic of Congo for 1904 and take am go US for show. One Journalist Pamela Newkirk, wey don write well-well ontop dis mata and bin tok about different attempts ova di years to cover up wetin happun to am.

More than 100 years afta e still dey draw international attention for exhibiting one young African monkey house, Di Bronx Zoo for New York finally don tok say dem regret dia action.

Di Wildlife Conservation Society apology for dia 1906 exhibition of Ota Benga, wey from Congo, dey come afta worldwide protest wey follow di death of George Floyd wey police kill wey torchlight di racism mata for United States.

Christian Samper, di Wildlife Conservation Society president and CEO, say e dey important “to reflect on WCS own history, and di persistence of racism for our institution”.

Im promise say di society wey dey run di Bronx Zoo, go dey open about dis mata wey become big story for Europe and United States from 9 September 1906 – a day afta dem first exhibit Ota Benga – until dem release am from di zoo on 28 September 1906.

Who Ota Benga be?

  • Na March 1904 US trader Samuel Verner capture Benga from wetin dem bin dey call Belgium Congo. Nobody know im exact age, tori be say im bin dey 12 or 13
  • Dem carry am for ship go New Orleans wia dem show am later dat year for World Fair for St Louis with eight oda young men
  • Dem continue di fair until di winter wia dem keep di group without better cloth or house
  • For September 1906, im do show for 20 days for New York Bronx Zoo, wey gada plenty crowd
  • Na wen Christian ministers para for im mata na im come make dem free am come move am go New York Howard Coloured Orphan Asylum wey African American Reverend James H Gordon bin dey run
  • For January 1910 im go live for Lynchburg Theological Seminary and College for black students for Virginia
  • Na dia im teach boys for di neighbourhood how to hunt and fish and tell dem stories about im life for back home.
  • Im later dey depressed as im bin dey miss im home and for March 1916 im shot himself with gun wey im hide. Tori be say im bin dey around di age of 25
Bronx Zoo

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Di Wildlife Conservation Society, wey dey run di Bronx Zoo, said e condemn certain dishonourable chapters for dia history

For years, di Wildlife Conservation Society bin engage for one cover-up wia dem fail to clear pipo di real tori of wetin happun.

One letter from early 1906 for di zoo archives show say officials, bin wan bring up tori say Ota Benga na zoo employee as pipo begin dey criticise. E work for years.

To add to dat tori na one book wey publish for 1992 wey di grandson of Samuel Verner, di man wey go Congo heavily armed to capture Ota Benga and odas to exhibit dem for di 1904 St Louis World Fair bin oin write.

Di book tok about di tori of friendship between Verner and Ota Benga.

In at least one newspaper account since di publication of di book, Verner also claim say Ota Benga – wey resist im captivity well-well – bin dey enjoy to perform for New Yorkers.

Even now, Mr Samper don apologised say dem exhibit Ota Benga for “several days”, and not for di three weeks dem hold am captive for di monkey house.