The Magic Trumpeter: An exceptional BaKongo statue & its links with Jazz & World War I

Duncan Caldwell, Fellow, Marine and Paleobiological Research Institute
Thursday, April 28, 2022 -
5:00pm to 6:00pm
144 Louis A Simpson International Building
Thursday, April 28, 2022 -
5:00pm to 6:00pm

The Magic Trumpeter: An exceptional BaKongo statue & its links with Jazz & World War I.

After examining the history and practices surrounding the most impressive Bakongo statues pierced with metal, which are known as minkondi, this presentation analyzes the attachments and hidden structures of one modeled on a soldier. Several of the attachments, including apparent grenades, the regulatory knob from a German lantern used on the Western Front, and a trumpet sold by a New York company that supplied American military musicians during the First World War, were probably obtained in France, where Congolese soldiers fraternized with African-American troops in a sector with so many black soldiers that it was dubbed ‘L’Afrique’.

The talk seizes the opportunity presented by the statue and its extraordinary assemblage to tell more about the hundreds of thousands of Africans who were thrown into battle and used in logistical capacities from France to Tanganyika, as well as the story of how those troops mixed with ones from the African diaspora, including musicians like Will Vodery, Tim Brynn, and James Reese Europe, who introduced jazz to Europe, and, by ricochet, back to white Americans. The consequences of those contacts in the midst of fighting in which black men were told to kill whites and exposed to unparalleled violence spawned civil rights.

A biographical blurb:

Duncan Caldwell is known for his work on rock art, human evolution, Thoreau, and sub-contemporary African practices and history. His research has been published by African Arts, which is published by UCLA, RES - Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics, which is published by the Peabody Museum at Harvard and University of Chicago Press), Arts & Cultures, published by the Barbier-Mueller Museum, both Antiquity and American Antiquity, The Journal of Archaeological Science, Rock Art Research, Art Rupestre, Préhistoire, Art et Sociétés, and many other journals. He has given the University Seminar on the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at Columbia University and lectures annually in a doctoral module of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. Finally, he is an honorary fellow of the Marine and Paleobiological Research Institute. For more information, please consult his website,

Sponsored by
The Program in African Studies