Between 1885 and as late as 1958 – two years before the Congo declared independence from Belgium – men, women and children were shipped from the Congo to be put on show in Belgium’s major cities. Many of those brought over to be displayed by the colonialists would die on the way or on arrival from the torments of the long journey or exposure to new European diseases.
The purpose of the human zoos was to allow Leopold and his acolytes, who had run and plundered the Congo Free State as the monarch’s personal fiefdom since 1884, to show off the “work of civilisation among the primitive Congolese population”.
The Congolese people, some of whom had been taken from the Force Publique, the colonial army of black soldiers led by white European officers, would row in canals, play instruments, demonstrate metallurgy and display their bodies by the side of their “huts” in rain or shine for the enjoyment of the locals gawping from behind fences.
Source: The Guardian