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  • Animated corpses appear in stories all over the world

  • throughout recorded history.

  • But zombies have a distinct lineage

  • one that traces back to Equatorial and Central Africa.

  • The first clue is in the wordzombieitself.

  • Its exact etymological origins are unknown,

  • but there are several candidates.

  • The Mitsogho people of Gabon, for example, use the wordndzumbifor corpse.

  • The Kikongo wordnzambirefers variously to the supreme being,

  • an ancestor with superhuman abilities, or another deity.

  • And, in certain languages spoken in Angola and the Congo,

  • zumbirefers to an object inhabited by a spirit,

  • or someone returned from the dead.

  • There are also similarities in certain cultural beliefs.

  • For example, in Kongo tradition, it's thought that once someone dies,

  • their spirit can be housed in a physical object

  • which might bring protection and good luck.

  • Similar beliefs about what might happen to someone's soul

  • after death are held in various parts of Africa.

  • Between 1517 and 1804,

  • France and Spain enslaved hundreds of thousands of African people,

  • taking them to the Caribbean island

  • that now contains Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

  • There, the religious beliefs of enslaved African people

  • mixed with the Catholic traditions of colonial authorities

  • and a religion known asvodoudeveloped.

  • According to some vodou beliefs, a person's soul can be captured and stored,

  • becoming a body-lesszombi.”

  • Alternatively, if a body isn't properly attended to soon after death,

  • a sorcerer called a “bokorcan capture a corpse

  • and turn it into a soulless zombi that will perform their bidding.

  • Historically, these zombis were said to be put to work as laborers

  • who needed neither food nor rest and would enrich their captor's fortune.

  • In other words, zombification seemed to represent the horrors of enslavement

  • that many Haitian people experienced.

  • It was the worst possible fate:

  • a form of enslavement that not even death could free you from.

  • The zombi was deprived of an afterlife and trapped in eternal subjugation.

  • Because of this, in Haitian culture,

  • zombis are commonly seen as victims deserving of sympathy and care.

  • The zombie underwent a transformation after the US occupation

  • of Haiti began in 1915—

  • this time, through the lens of Western pop culture.

  • During the occupation, US citizens propagated many racist beliefs

  • about Black Haitian people.

  • Among false accounts of devil worship and human sacrifice,

  • zombie stories captured the American imagination.

  • And in 1932, zombies debuted on the big screen

  • in a film calledWhite Zombie.”

  • Set in Haiti, the film's protagonist must rescue his fiancée

  • from an evil vodou master who runs a sugar mill using zombi labor.

  • Notably, the film's main object of sympathy isn't the enslaved workforce,

  • but the victimized white woman.

  • Over the following decades, zombies appeared in many American films,

  • usually with loose references to Haitian culture,

  • though some veered off to involve aliens and Nazis.

  • Then came the wildly influential 1968 filmNight of the Living Dead,”

  • in which a group of strangers tries to survive an onslaught

  • of slow-moving, flesh-eating monsters.

  • The film's director remarked that he never envisioned his living dead as zombies.

  • Instead, it was the audience who recognized them as such.

  • But from then on, zombies became linked to an insatiable craving for flesh

  • with a particular taste for brains added in 1985′s “The Return of the Living Dead.”

  • In these and many subsequent films, no sorcerer controls the zombies;

  • they're the monsters.

  • And in many iterations, later fueled by 2002′s “28 Days Later,”

  • zombification became a contagious phenomenon.

  • For decades now, artists around the world have used zombies

  • to shine a light on the social ills and anxieties of their moment

  • from consumer culture to the global lack of disaster preparedness.

  • But, in effect, American pop culture also initially erased the zombies origins

  • cannibalizing its original significance

  • and transforming the victim into the monster.

Animated corpses appear in stories all over the world

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B2 US TED-Ed haitian zombie haiti film enslaved

The dark history of zombies - Christopher M. Moreman

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    shuting1215 posted on 2022/04/24
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