'The Black Knights of Fortune': A Study of the Zappo-Zap and Euro-African Encounters in the Late Nineteenth-Century Kasai
Recent popular publications have emphasised the brutality and suffering inflicted upon African communities at the onset of colonialism in the Congo, under the Belgium King Leopold II. Yet this Euro-centric approach works to obscure African agency and collaboration under the Congo Free State, and the dependency of the Free State officers upon their African partners. Through following the trajectory of the Zappo-Zap, a distinctly under-studied slaving ethnic group who migrated to the western Kasai region, this dissertation makes a headway into understanding that the violence of the Congo Free State was fabricated from existing modes of exploitation in the Congo prior to European penetration, such as the Arab-Swahili commercial empires. Notably loyal, the example of the Zappo-Zap serves to evaluate the role of African agents in the shaping of exploitative Free State policies, and elucidates the extent that the Zappo-Zap adapted to, and gained from, the reliance of the Free State on them, in the midst of numerous rebellions in the Kasai such as the infamous Luluabourg Revolt.