Isaac Bacirongo is a man who can stand tall, even though he is short in stature, not for any other reason than he is a man from the Congo: a man who comes from a race of people who are hunter gatherers and have been since the late Stone Age; the Pygmy.
But how does a man raised in this culture end up living in Sydney? Now a grandfather, he has faced endless challenges to become the first man from his culture to present his story to the world.
In doing so he delivers a huge insight into a race that have always been considered as something of an oddity; a unique race of whom many somehow, still manage to live the life they have always done despite the invasion of modern culture.
Raised in the Congo as a hunter gatherer, Isaac managed to be able to attend school when his father left the jungle in search of work. This was not an uncommon undertaking for the men to go outside of their village to work, but often the work was short lived, as once they had enough of the work the Pygmy would simply up and return to their forest lifestyle.
Isaac fell in love with learning and eventually challenged the missionary teachings, causing himself a number of difficulties at school. His love of all things scientific was to be his touchstone to moving on in the world.
As he spent many months in the ‘township’ attending school and finding work when possible he fell in love with Josephine, a ‘townie’, and wanted to marry her. His mother challenged this as she would not fit into the traditional way of life, enlisting the help of the witchdoctor to try and remove Josephine, one way or the other. Josephine and Isaac are still happily married.
He established a small business in Bunyakiri, a simple street stall which in spite of the problems associated with doing business as a Pygmy, in a Dictatorship, managed to make money. Isaac, never one to let an opportunity go by, realised there was money to be made in pharmaceuticals and eventually set up a small ‘pharmacy’, where he employed staff, becoming a man of means.
Unfortunately he made a mistake by not agreeing with a slogan put about by President Mobutu, eventually finding himself in prison, which inadvertently set the pathway to his being given an Humanitarian Visa in 2000 and relocating to Australia with Josephine and his 10 children.
His many challenges learning to assimilate into a new and completely challenging culture are documented, which while this is Isaac’s story, also tells the story of the many migrants who face immense difficulty until they too become a member of their new community.
His story is fascinating, far reaching, honest and unique. It paints a portrait of life in two vastly differing communities and how with strength, determination and an indomitable spirit all things can be overcome.
By telling his story he hopes to set to rights the many misconceptions there are about the Pygmy people and states that they are human just like everyone else, with hopes dreams and aspiration.
In his words, ‘What we have in common is the aspiration to discover new things in life’.
|Author||Isaac Bacirongo & Michael Nest|