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First memoir ever published by an Indigenous Mbuti (Pygmy) author

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The unique memoir of one man’s fight to save his identity from extinction

Still a Pygmy is a story of love, pride and prejudice that traces the journey of BaTembo Pygmy Isaac Bacirongo from the forests of Central Africa, through the brutality of dictator­ship and war, to arrival and settlement in Australia’s melting pot. Isaac’s inimi­table style and voice draw readers into the heart of this memoir, his relation­ship with his wife, who survived his mother’s attempts to kill her to help Isaac through experiences of appall­ing violence. It is full of warmth, wit and wise insights about life.

Isaac Bacirongo grew up as a Pygmy hunter-gatherer in the Congo. However, when his Papa left the forest to find work, Isaac went to missionary school, where he fell in love with scientific reason and rejected his mis­sion teachings. He courted and wed Josephine, a ‘town girl’, whom his mother hated. Complaining that her new daughter-in-law would not be able to catch crabs or collect firewood, she engaged a witchdoctor in an at­tempt to kill her. Isaac and Josephine moved to the city, and he became a prosperous businessman.

Isaac became a community leader involved in the fight for Pygmy rights, but he was imprisoned for his activ­ism by the brutal regime that controlled Eastern Congo. He bribed his way out of jail and fled to Kenya with his wife and 10 children in 2000. There he becomes an interpreter on a corruption investigation into the UN­HCR. Granted a humanitarian visa, the family resettled as refugees in Sydney, but life started to unravel under the pressure of domestic violence, his children’s assimi­lation and an Australian workplace that tested Isaac’s African values.

Although this memoir is Isaac’s personal story, unique in its perspective on life as a Pygmy, it is also a uni­versal story about the tragedies and challenges faced by many African refugees and migrants, and their indomitable spirit they display in rising above challenges and con­fronting change to touch and transform the new com­munities they join.

Isaac talks about his memoir on Youtube in English (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFvXbma0TZI), French (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0rX7CmoYuA), and Swahili (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBE56mKjcSc).  


Isaac Bacirongo is a BaTembo Pygmy. He helped estab­lish Congo’s first Pygmy Rights organi¬zation before migrating to Australia in 2003. In 2014, Isaac was one of nine members of The Living Library program (Man­ning Valley Neighbourhood Services/Greater Taree City Libraries) in which members could 'borrow' real people to tell their stories instead of books for a half-hour conversation. Isaac delayed writing Still a Pygmy for years because of his concern about the possible con­sequences for his family if it was published, but decided it was a story that had to be told, not for the sake of his own family but for the sake of his people. He lives in Sydney, with his wife, surrounded by their children and grandchildren.

Michael Nest is a freelance researcher with a PhD in Af­rican politics. He is the author of Coltan (Polity Press, 2011) about activist initiatives against conflict minerals from Congo, and The Dem. Rep. of Congo: Economic Dimensions of War and Peace (Lynne Rienner, 2006), which won a ‘Best Academic Title, 2006’ award from the American Library Association. Michael also lives in Sydney.

Still a Pygmy by Isaac Bacirongo and Michael Nest (Finch Publishing) is available on www.amazon.com in paperback ($17.34) and as an ebook ($7.07) and distributed in the United States and Canada by Trafalgar Square Publishing.


To set up an interview with Isaac Bacirongo, or to obtain a review copy, please contact: Laura Boon, Finch Publishing: Ph: +61-2 9418 6247/+61-431 205 177; E: laura@finch.com.au


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