In the footsteps of the 1946 Ogooué-Congo Mission

Every month, Europeana Music is curated by a guest contributor, highlighting the wide variety of music that exists in Europeana. This month, Europeana Music marks the launch of the online exhibition, “In the footsteps of the 1946 Ogooué-Congo Mission” looking at the fieldwork carried out across the former Middle-Congo (now the Republic of the Congo, Gabon and Central African Republic). The blog is written by Thomas Henry from the Centre for Research in Ethnomusicology.

On July 17th, 1946, three military planes left Paris to Brazzaville, the capital of French Equatorial Africa at the time. They carried the twelve members of the Ogooué-Congo Mission, a multidisciplinary scientific expedition organised by the Liotard Group and led by the 23-year old French ethnologist Noël Ballif.

From July to December, 1946, the expedition travelled across the former Middle-Congo and Gabon. Some of its members spent six weeks completely immersed in Babinga Pygmies tribes from the Haute-Sanga region, in the North of Middle Congo. Amongst them is Gilbert Rouget, the assistant of André Schaeffner in the ethnomusicology department at Paris Musée de l’Homme, who later became one of the big names of ethnomusicology.

Gilbert Rouget and a group of villagers, Ouesso (Middle Congo)  

Around 600 sound recordings were collected by Gilbert Rouget and sound engineer André Didier during the Ogooué-Congo Mission. They have been entirely digitized and are part of the collections of CNRS-Musée de l’Homme, managed by CREM (Centre for Research in Ethnomusicology*). They are now available in Europeana and lets us discover fascinating recordings that marked a key milestone in the history of ethnomusicology.

The virtual exhibition “In the footsteps of the 1946 Ogooué-Congo Mission” is launched on the occasion of the 101st birthday of Gilbert Rouget, the only member of the expedition still alive. It allows us to follow this adventure and discover previously unreleased photographs.

* LESC CNRS, Paris Nanterre University.

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