In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about Gabon, officially the Gabonese Republic, an equatorial country on the west coast of Africa. Originally inhabited by Bantu tribes, the area we now know as Gabon was first explored by Europeans in the 15th Century. Local inhabitants began to sell slaves to Europeans in the 18th and 19th centuries, which established the region as a hub for the slave trade. In 1910, Gabon became one of the four territories of French Equatorial Africa, and fifty years later became fully independent. Since then, the politics of the country has been dominated by Omar Bongo, Gabon’s second president, and his son Ali Bongo, who succeeded him in 2009.
Gabon has a total land area of around 257,000 square km or just under 100,000 square miles, making it around the same size as the UK, New Zealand or the US state of Oregon. Gabon is bordered by Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, the Republic of the Congo on the east and south. Gabon is home to just over 2.1 million people, with the vast majority of those being in Libreville, the largest city and capital, lying on the Komo River, near the Gulf of Guinea. The official language is French, although many Gabonese people speak various mother tongues according to their ethnic group, of which there are over 40.
Gabon is one of the most prosperous countries on the continent, with the fifth highest GDP per capita in all of Africa, while almost 85% of Gabon is covered by rainforests, 11% of which has been dedicated for national parks.
Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Dublin, Ireland, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Galway, Ireland. Our theme music and other stings come from Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella.
- Some great examples of ancient ancestral Gabonese art can be found here.
- For more on early history and archaeology, see iExplore.
- You can watch a short documentary on the Punu-Lumbo mask at smarthistory.
- For more on the life of the Dread Pirate Roberts, see here.
- Liz Alden Wily has written an entire book on land rights in Gabon, which you can read in full online.
- Christopher Chamberlain’s paper ‘The Migration of the Fang into Central Gabon during the Nineteenth Century: A New Interpretation’ can be found at JSTOR.
- Gabon : beyond the colonial legacy by James Franklin Barnes can be read for free on archive.org.
- For some more modern history (1960s onwards), see this page at the University of Central Arkansas.
Some music related to Gabon:
- Tsira Etougou Ndong performing an example of mvet music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuUOLEUT7nE
- “On vous connait” performed by Patience Dabeny, the mother of the current president: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XsKk9Aj4MU
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