HomeCategoryCannibalism stalks the ruins of capitalism

Cannibalism stalks the ruins of capitalism

Cannibalism is macabre but it is everywhere. In colonial Congo, the Belgian empire ate the work, the wood, the hands and the cocoa of the Congolese. Writing more than 60 years ago, Aime Césaire recorded the bloody massacres of European foot soldiers on the African continent. He reminds us that in the European quest to civilize the “barbarism” of Africa, colonial adventurers diced African bodies.

He quotes one of the conquerors of Algeria: “It is true that we are bringing a whole barrel of ears collected, pair by pair, from prisoners, friends or enemies.” Césaire describes the villages as gruesome butcher shops and the colonists as head and ear collectors who took sadistic pleasure in warm blood.

Now, we see increasing Instagrammed reports of mass cannibalism in Haiti, the discovery of mass graves in Kenya where a pastor had starved his parishioners, an uncle who ate his nephew’s entrails in Port St Johns, and a Soweto grandmother. who has been arrested for allegedly mutilating the bodies of two young children, including her granddaughter.

In the plantation areas of Malawi, the rich were accused of being vampires and sucking the blood of the impoverished. The cult murders in Krugersdorp were immortalized in the television series. devilsdorp.

Meanwhile, the Mediterranean Sea and European foreign policy swallow up whole boats of Africans. In the first three months of this year, 661 Africans have perished in the waters that separate Africa from Europe.

There is a lineage here. These forms of consumption are neither random nor spectacular. We can thread the genealogy through our long history that is embedded in the ongoing racial capitalism that literally eats our bodies to feed wealth and deepen inequality.

My recently published book, Rampant Deadly Landscapes, explores this phenomenon pointing out its omnipresence. But he insists that cannibalism and related occult practices are not an index of African barbarism and backwardness. Instead, he suggests that as participants in global racial capitalism, we are all guilty of different iterations of cannibalism.

Here is an edited excerpt from my book reflecting on cannibalism in the deadly landscapes of South Africa.

A 2017 news report that had people horrified told the story of a young man who had eaten his nephew in a seaside village outside the seaside town of Port St Johns in Empondweni. He had reportedly cooked and consumed it. The boy’s grandmother discovered his arm near the house. After the investigation, the uncle confessed to having dismembered and eaten it. Community members reported that he consumed the liver and heart, as these are softer parts of the body that cook more easily.

This story has been linked to the Vondo gang. The Vampires of Mpondo.

Months before the boy was killed and eaten, Vondo had reportedly gone on a rampage in Lusikisiki. His modus operandi were violent masculinist rituals. His victims were mostly women who were raped, massacred and whose blood was consumed. The blood sucking marked them as vampires.

These are young men whose thirst for survival compels them to slaughter living people. Since black meat belongs to the leftover bodies of the barely human, vampires are part of the landscape of death.

A woman who had been a teacher at my elementary school was allegedly killed by the Vondo. I well remember her slim body and her hoarse voice. In my memory, I see the smoke from her cigarette forming rings around her head. One of her shoes was found at the outer perimeter gate of her home. Her frail, brutalized body was not far away from her.

The Vondo seem to have been most active near the technical school. Students at the university and the surrounding community lived in fear. Tired of the terror and the havoc caused by the Vondo, the young people decided to look for members of this gang. By means that are still unclear, they found two young men who were reportedly vampires. They proceeded to set them on fire in a public display of revenge.

Vondo’s vicious murder was recorded on cell phones. The images circulated on social networks and were shown by an investigative journalism program on television. I watched the murder from my home in Johannesburg. He Vanguard: Vampires—Vondos The program can be seen on YouTube. As of mid-2022, it had been viewed 144,100 times. Murder on demand.

A few months after the cannibalism cases and Vondo activities, the news broke with reports of rampant cannibalism in rural inland Escorts in KwaZulu-Natal. The story came to light because a self-confessed cannibal turned himself in at the local police station claiming that he was exhausted from living the life of a cannibal. He presented a human hand and limb to assure police that the story was credible. At his residence, they discovered eight ears of corn in a pot.

Cannibal confessions are not new and are particularly common in times of turbulence. Following the cannibalistic confessions, investigations revealed more human remains in the village of Rensburgdrift. Accusations of heart-eating, raping, murdering, cutting women open, and eating their flesh circulated. So did claims that human remains may have been dug up from graves.

He Ladysmith’s Gazette reported that at least 300 people confessed to knowingly eating human remains served to them by a traditional healer in the Amangwe area.

The large number of people who knowingly participate in cannibalism further links the inequalities brought about by consumer capitalism with aspirations for the good life and invention through the occult. The logic of cannibalism is at the same time perfect with that of the inequalities of capital accumulation and parodies the failures of capitalism. It is the logic of the post-colony and a mockery of the corrupt state.

Everyone is trying to eat themselves out of their abject position. The rural poor eat to counteract the violence of abstraction and impoverishment.

Like David McNally, the author of market freaks, he points out, the fetishes that plague sub-Saharan Africa are a consequence of the continued looting of natural products, including diamonds, gold, cotton, cocoa, ivory and rubber. He argues that “with every maniacal effort to seize the wealth of their continent, Africans have been captured, flogged, beaten, worked to death, structurally adjusted, all so that… people can be oppressed and capital can accrue”. By causing massive weakening, driving people off their land, seizing their resources, and stifling self-sufficiency, primitive accumulation occurs.

People become dependent on paid work, but with rising unemployment, despair grips the countryside.

Global, national and local capital circulates and accumulates illicitly. Wealth is a magical force characterized by unfair competition, historical inequalities that privilege some and marginalize others at the national level and in the local community. But capital accumulation is always elusive for local communities. Those who want good fortune and wealth should consider occult means.

But cannibalism has material effects. Those of us who live with this practice must confront its truths. What is the smell of burned human flesh? What is the dead Vondo residue left on the street after the public burning? What do the public burnings in South Africa represent? How do children remember the spectacle of death?

What do the flames evoke for those who have witnessed the furnace of death? And when the dead were in the woods, what about the smell of decay? How does the smell persist in sensory memory? What appearances and traces do the dead leave for those who touch and smell them?

What does facing the open coffin reveal on the trail of failure and neoliberal devastation? What mourning effects emerge from the grave, and how do these live on as an energy that future generations draw on? What energy do debris emit in landscapes of death?

Parts of this article are an edited excerpt from Rampant Deadly Landscapes Published by Duke University Press and co-published by Wits University Press. Hugo ka Canham is a writer and professor at the Institute of Health and Social Sciences at the University of South Africa.

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