It had been a dismal reign for the Mwene, Nkanga a Mvika, ruler of the Great Kingdom of The Kongo. He lived day-in and day-out with the shame his father had brought on his people by making peace with the Portuguese. His father had even been forced to accept a European name, Pedro.
The unimaginable wealth flaunted by his subjects who now wore European clothing and enjoyed great new herds of cattle because of Portuguese guns had forgotten that the slaves they always enjoyed were no longer treated well when slammed into the bosom of the Portuguese naus at the burgeoning port of Moçâmedes. Their great families of elephant were many fewer than before. Yes, they were rich, but few knew as The Mwene did of the debauchery behind this mischief.
After Spain subdued Portugal The Mwene traveled to Europe with his father to conclude the great treaty. His father was nearly blind, crippled and old. He did not notice the wanton erotica of the white man in the blasphemous courts of Europe as The Mwene did. His father smiled and laughed when the two were paraded like clowns into the courts of Europe. All his old father saw were flashing lights. All he heard was loud music and fireworks and each night he challenged The Mwene to lift the chest of coins and sovereigns that became heavier with every pledge made to the European.
The Mwene never smiled. The Europeans thought him dour and dim-witted and asked Pedro if his son were capable of fulfilling the agreements for slaves and ivory. Pedro would summon his only dissimulation to appear somber enough to reply that African culture demanded a son’s abject subservience.
Often The Mwene traveled the streets of Europe in a carriages provided by his hosts and would gaze on the filth and overcrowding. His eyes watered with the stench of uncleaned cities. He took quick glances out of his carriage window, for whenever he was noticed he saw the fire of revenge in the eyes of dirty, disheveled peasants that his couriers so mistakenly laughed aloud was fear of the barbaric.
The Mwene could not understand how these so developed people reconciled their religions with their lives. The great rulers like Louis XIII to the newly powerful merchants of Bavaria and even the so-called Popes that reigned over the religion were all public adulterers and blasphemous! It made no sense. Their wanton greed and narcissism at the expense of the millions of peasants would doom any African ruler.
When he asked to read the treatise, The City of the Sun, by a righteous Italian philosopher who he heard imagined European society as African society always was, he was slapped by his dresser who said the man was seditious. Later that day a priest visited him to give him a lengthy, lugubrious poem by a different Italian, Giambattista Marino, who praised the uncontrolled sex and excessive gambling and drinking and drug-taking of the French prince, Louis XIII.
When he dared to ask one his dressers why women were treated like cattle he was slapped, again, and again the priest returned to instruct him of a newly discovered European disease, Erotomania, that afflicts woman who oversteps her place.
The Mwene was never so happy to return home. It was several more years before his father died and he became ruler of an increasingly wealthy Kasai. He was not gentle to the Portuguese emissaries who came often to police their agreements. He made them wait long before audiences and supplied food and lodging less pleasant than they had enjoyed under his father.
The European demands grew excessive. His warriors were growing increasingly brutal having to collect so many slaves and so much ivory, but this was exactly what The Mwene needed.
He convened his most trusted advisors and argued that they must break from their Portuguese paymasters and recover the decency of their former ways.
There was great resistance to the idea of making enemies of those who had made them so rich. The Mwene used every argument in his command, from the inhumane treatment of slaves to the decreasing prices the Portuguese would pay for ivory. But when a mysterious and terrible disease was brought from a caravan returning from Moçâmedes his counselors began to relent.
They called it A Praga. The caravan master developed welts and died quickly smelling like a hog. He explained that many in Moçâmedes were inflicted, and that the traders said that it was spreading into many distant lands like “Malta” and “Indonesia”.
The Kasai of the Kongo were much closer to Europe than Malta . His most trusted spiritual counselor then ordered all to reconvene early that evening. Shortly after the sun set over the distant lands of the Bushongo the priest turned their eyes to the great shining star in the sky that none had ever seen before.
Later that night The Mwene assumed the role of a peasant warrior. He dragged a heavy gong and two hammers that had been won by his father from the Batetela to a field yet in the sparkling memory of the great star. He began the messages, which like the European’s primitive electric code, sent word across his realm that war had come.
The battles were fierce in 1623 in the jungles of The Congo. But each night when the Europeans were accustomed to retire, what remained of the great star and the deep gongs of the Batetela roused the warriors of the Kasai and The Mwene slaughtered hundreds of Europeans in the dead of night.
Mwene, Nkanga a Mvika, defeated the Portuguese and their Spanish patrons. Debauchery ended among his noblemen, the plague rescinded with few more dying, the star broke in two and dissolved into the firmament and for many, many years peace drew The Congo far, far away from the European. The Mwene could only smile when he heard the foolish white man called it the heart of darkness.