The African Pygmies


The point of my serial topic is to learn more about a culture, that until recently I had never heard of, and how that culture is treated and viewed by different peoples. The culture I am referring to is the African Pygmies and the goal of this paper is to learn more about them and their treatment in Cairo. I became interested in this topic when I read an article in my section of the paper entitled “Pigmies in Cairo.” The title struck me as interesting and caught my attention as I was spending hours on OCR correction. I read the article and quickly discovered that this was a topic that was very interesting to me and would, hopefully, make a good serial question for my individual project.

One problem that I have encountered in my research for this analysis is that the querying process refused to work on my computer. I followed the procedure found in the tutorials on the course website word for word but it refused to work for me. I then began an arduous process of looking through multiple page images in order to find an article about the Pygmies in someone else’s issue. The articles that I have found were very similar to the ones in my paper with very few differences mostly relating to where the pygmies would go next and any troubles in the process of getting there. One such problem was gaining permission to travel to London, England. This was largely the subject of the first article about the pygmies in my issue.

Because of the similarity in these articles, I had some difficulty in finding out who the pygmies were as a people. I decided to do a bit of research into the people to get a general idea of the culture discussed in the articles. What I found is that the pygmies are largely similar to any other indigenous African people with their own language, dances, village life and customs. The large difference between this culture and others is their height. These people are much smaller than the people of other cultures with the height of the average full grown man being 4’11”. This fact made the pygmies very interesting to the Europeans and those trying to make a buck off of their interest.

This is where Colonel James Harrison of Yorkshire comes in. He came across the indigenous pygmy people in the Ituri Forest during his travels and brought some of the pygmies back to Cairo. This was only a waypoint as he eventually paraded them all around London so that people could see the short people from Africa. In this sense, they were seen almost as circus freaks as many people in England had never seen a fully-grown adult that was as short as the Pygmies. Colonel Harrison promised to return these people to their homes when the tour was done and whether or not that promise was kept is not known to me as it was not discussed in the articles that I found.

Cassandra Frederick
Cassandra Frederick

The author, a student at Florida State University, was enrolled in the digital microhistory lab in fall 2016.