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The Macroscopic World

Jungle

Shirt Zoomify

A jungle, or dense tropical forest, creates unique conditions for its inhabitants. For humans, life in a jungle can be extremely difficult. We even use the word “jungle” as a metaphor to describe a harsh environment such as a big city, because crime and brutality often make it a dangerous place to live.

About the Object

Object name: Shirt
Place made: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africa
Date made: c.1980
Dimensions: 76 x 89 cm
Materials & Techniques: Cotton, printed
Credit line: Gift of Joan Dekaj
ID: T95.0031

This men’s shirt, factory printed and made of cotton, celebrates the 50th birthday of the despot Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled the Democratic Republic of the Congo for 32 years. Although it may have been made in England, it features imagery that was tailor-made for the African market.

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Second Look

Macro

Macro

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Touchpoint View

Animation

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Image

The Jungle Region

Rainforests are sometimes referred to as “the lungs of the world” because of the abundance of plants, which convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. The trees in a rainforest form a dense canopy above the forest floor, making the environment below rather dark. Jungle is the name given to the forest just outside the canopy, where the growth is not as tall and consists of denser tangles of vines, shrubs and small trees. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has the second largest rainforest in the world after the Amazon.

Jungle Region in the Republic of Congo

The Jungle Region

Image title: Jungle Region in the Republic of Congo
Credit: Image Courtesy of Thomas Furst

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Artifact Narrative

African Wax Prints

Although much of European mass-produced cloth for African markets is called “wax print” (inspired by Javanese wax-batik cloth), the European cloth looks, and is made, quite differently. Javanese batik is made by hand, with hot wax applied to cotton to form a resist, whereas “wax print” involves printing liquid wax onto cotton with a roller and then dipping it into dye, or printing it with dye. In every case, the imagery is distinctively African, featuring portraits of leaders and slogans, or, as on this cloth from Nigeria, the commemoration of a significant event (Mobuto’s birthday). The shirt also has a small-patterned background reminiscent of the cracked-wax pattern of Javanese batik.

Commemorative cloth

Commemorative cloth

Place made: Nigeria, Africa
Date made: 1960
Dimensions: 145 x 112 cm
Materials & Techniques: Cotton, woven and printed
Credits: Gift of Barbara Barde
ID: T01X0025

Audio Clip

Mobutu Sese Seko

Listen to TMC curator Max Allen talk about Mobutu Sese Seko

Credit: Audio Produced by TMC

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Related Image

Mobutu Sese Seko

Mobutu Sese Seko


Description: Mobutu Sese Seko and Richard Nixon in Washington D.C., 1973

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Transcript

Here’s a shirt celebrating the fiftieth birthday of Mobutu Sese Seko. That’s his short name. His long name, which he gave himself in 1972, was Joseph-Désiré Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu wa za Banga, which translates, ‘the all powerful warrior who because of his endurance and inflexible will to win goes from conquest to conquest leaving fire in his wake’. Mobutu left a lot of other things in his wake too, including a very large number of dead people and a huge fortune which he extracted from the people of Zaire; it was called Congo when Mobutu was in charge of it. Mobutu was well known world-wide, not only for his extraordinary wealth, he was one of the wealthiest men in the world at the time he was alive. He was also known in the West because he sponsored probably the most famous boxing match of all time. In 1974 the so called ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ was a fight between black American boxers, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. It took place in Zaire at 5 o’clock in the morning so that it could be broadcast in American prime time television. Um, Mobutu financed the match himself, he said, with 10 million dollars. It was, of course, not his money, it was the people of Zaire’s money. But never mind, he took credit for it and he became extraordinarily popular. And so, in this shirt, nobody would have needed to have his name written on the shirt. It’s not there any place, you know, it just says “fiftieth birthday” because everybody around the world who mattered knew him by his portrait.

Collection Connections

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Commemorative cloth

Commemorative cloth

ID*: T01X0010

Jacket

Jacket

ID*: T94.0176

Commemorative cloth

Commemorative cloth

ID*: 2007.33.1