How American Cowboy Movies Inspired Revolution In The Congo

cowboy of kinshasa in congo
Tremain Prioleau II
May 14, 2024

In the 1950s many Congolese youth from rural areas moved to cities like Kinshasha for a better life. Their dreams were crushed by the Belgian regime that colonized Congo and imposed segregation on the land that it had stolen.

Meanwhile in the United States, Hollywood produced Old Western cinema, a genre with characters like Buffalo Bill who stood for freedom with bravado and fearlessness.

Congolese theaters regularly showed American Westerns. They attracted young people craving inspiration. They merged their identity with film depictions of the American cowboy. Soon gangs like the “Bills” and “Yankees” sported cowboy hats and boots. The youth were united and had a revolutionary mission.

Congolese youth changed the political trajectory of their nation. The Bills rioted in Kinshasa in 1959 demanding independence from Belgium. As a direct result of their collective action, the Congo gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Congolese youth took the best of Western film heroes to build a movement. When colonization threatened their community and identity, they formed a new one with revolutionary aspirations to attain liberation. How could we do the same?