By Jeremy Rich Ph.D. MA BA
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Additional info for A Workman Is Worthy of His Meat: Food and Colonialism in the Gabon Estuary
2 Male sociability crossed the lines of race and language. The decorum surrounding this meal may have been unexpected for Wilson, but it was part and parcel of eating and commerce for a Mpongwe trader in Atlantic commerce. Centuries of passing traders had left behind forks, plates, and etiquette. Orange trees around Mpongwe villages testiﬁed to the coming of Portuguese visitors centuries before Wilson met Rapontchombo. The unfree hands that served food to Wilson visibly displayed Rapontchombo’s power of to command bodies as well as tastes.
119 Electricity and refrigeration were within the grasp of well-off Libreville residents. The town contained the highest number of schools in the entire colony. Drivers sped on paved roads, and airplanes ﬂew to Europe, African cities, and to other parts of Gabon. 120 Though Libreville enjoyed the beneﬁts of urbanization common to other African capitals, it remained a difﬁcult place to reach from the countryside. The government’s plans to integrate the capital with the rest of the colony sputtered until the 1960s.
Townspeople thought of eating as a vital necessity, even though scholars of Gabon and of urban Africa generally have not spent much time addressing sustenance. Rather, the fact that food is so rarely mentioned in urban histories of Africa means that scholars have missed out on a central concern of townspeople as consumers, farmers, traders, employers, and ﬁshermen. Against the backdrop of the preceding sketch of major events, the present study examines how urban people ate, from whom they obtained their nourishment, and how a separate Libreville set of lifestyles emerged.