News Archive

Randolph College Helps Sponsor International Pygmy Conference

Event registration is limited

8/31/2007 4:29:46 PM


LYNCHBURG -- In 1906, a Pygmy named Ota Benga was put on display at the Bronx Zoo. While such an exhibition seems inconceivable today, the Pygmies of central Africa are still being marginalized and exploited. As recently as July, Pygmies in the Republic of the Congo were being housed in a tent at a zoo, forced to scrounge for firewood to cook their food as tourists watched (

Lynchburg College, along with Virginia University of Lynchburg, Sweet Briar College, and Randolph College, is helping sponsor an international conference on their continuing plight on October 25-27: “Lynchburg, Ota Benga, and the Empowerment of the Pygmies.”

Lynchburg may seem an unlikely place to talk about Pygmies, but the tragic life of Ota Benga came to an end here. The conference will explore not only Ota Benga’s life, but western intervention and occupation of Africa in the late nineteenth century and the Batwa (Pygmy) role in central African history through the present.

Special guests and speakers invited to the conference include:

  • Pygmy leaders from the African Congress of the Pygmies (CONAFPY): President Antoine Lonoa, Vice President Grégoire Bokungu Ifangwa, and Thérèse Pambo;
  • Carrie McCray, now 92, who knew Ota Benga and will speak on “Ota Benga Under My Mother’s Roof.”
  • Dr. Phillips Verner Bradford, author of the book, Ota Benga’s: The Pygmy in the Zoo, and grandson of the explorer who brought Ota Benga to America;
  • Mitch Keller of The New York Times, who wrote the article, “The Scandal at the Zoo;”
  • Juan Fernando Nuñez, associate social affairs officer, Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, United Nations; and
  • Representatives from the embassies of Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Conference panels will be held at Lynchburg College on October 25, at Virginia University of Lynchburg on October 26, and at Sweet Briar College on October 27. For a full schedule of events, go to

All events are free and open to the public. Registration is required. Due to limited space, registration is limited to the first 200 persons at Lynchburg and Sweet Briar colleges. Registration is limited to 700 at VUL. Registration deadline is October 15. Registrants do not have to attend the entire conference. They may attend only one day or a choice of days.

Register on line at: In lieu of a registration fee, donations are being accepted for the Pygmy Travel Fund at Lynchburg College:

In conjunction with the conference, Amazement Square is hosting a Pygmy Music and Culture night from 4 to 6 p.m. October 10 in its Imagination Studio. Discover more about the music of the Pygmies by making drums and rattles. The children’s museum is also having a Pygmy Woven Basket craft table set up from September 18 to October 29. Visitors will be able to make their own basket from craft materials. Finally, Amazement Square is holding an art contest for middle- and high-school students. The Ota Benga Inspired Juried Art Exhibition will be on display from October 23 to November 28.

African Art from the Collection will be on display at Lynchburg College from October 20 to December 9. African baskets recently donated to the Daura Gallery by the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, Laurel, Mississippi, feature a wide assortment of materials and techniques.


Ota Benga was born in

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CONTACT: Brenda Edson, Director of College Relations