Still a Pygmy
Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 9:00AM
Dads on the Air in 2015, Boys / Rites of Passage, CALD (Ethnic) Men, Discrimination, Indigenous Men & Fathers, International Perspectives, Political Activism, Raising Kids, Unemployment

With special guest:

When you are born and raised in Australia you know little about life as a refugee despite it being a frequent topic for conversation and opinion. Most of us have never spoken to a refugee.

Our guest today is Isaac Bacirongo who arrived in Sydney in 2003 with his wife and ten children as refugees after surviving the effects of Rwanda’s civil war in his own country, Congo.

In his new book Still a Pygmy Isaac tells us about his struggles to save his identity as a Pygmy from extinction. In Africa Pygmies are regarded by some other groups as less than human. Against that background Isaac fought to go to school and get an education. He went on to establish successful businesses, owned several properties and a fleet of cars but all that was lost when the invading army arrived.

Isaac is a man of incredible endurance and energy. In our interview today he tells us about the three stages of his life. Firstly, Isaac gives us his fascinating description of growing up as a hunter-gatherer in the forests of the Congo. Next we hear about life in town under the constant threats against his property and even his life. Finally Isaac tells us of the very different obstacles he has faced as a refugee in Australia where there are all the conveniences and pressures of a Western lifestyle.

Our listeners can find out today what it means to be a Pygmy in the 21st century. Despite all his hardships, Isaac’s observant intelligence, humour and compassion shine through in his story of war, witchcraft, prejudice, love and courage. It is the first time a Pygmy has told his story and it is truly inspiring.  

Isaac Bacirongo

Isaac Bacirongo was one of twelve children born in Congo, formerly Zaire, in Central Africa. He is a Ba Tembo Pygmy and like other Pygmies, Ba Tembo are people of the forest. Isaac knows his birthdate because at the time his parents had come out of the forest and his father was working for a Belgian farmer who kept a workbook listing these details. Isaac was the only person in his village who had a school education. He went on to be a successful businessman before losing his possessions in the uprising and fleeing to another country. Subsequently he and his family were accepted as refugees to Australia. Isaac’s memoir is the first ever published by a Pygmy author.

Song selection by our guest: Pygmy music Lurelure by Fraternel Mushao and Shirika Hongore from the band Nyamunene Musica

Article originally appeared on Dads on the Air (
See website for complete article licensing information.