AskDefine | Define bills

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Pronunciation

Noun

bills
  1. Plural of bill

Verb

bills
  1. third-person singular of bill

Extensive Definition

The Bills were a youth subculture that thrived in Léopoldville (modern-day Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in the late 1950s, basing much of their image and outlook on the cowboys of American Western movies.

Background

From 1957 to 1959, half a dozen movie theatres opened in the "African" neighbourhoods in Léopoldville (the city was segregated into African and European areas). The majority of Léopoldville's population was under 20, and most of these youths were educated to only Primary level, since the colonial government reserved most of the Secondary school places for Europeans. Poor education resulted in large scale unemployment, and, with little else to do, the youths began to make the theatres their meeting points. They were particularly drawn to Western movies, and "Billism" began to incorporate many of the motifs into their lives. The portrayal of Buffalo Bill in the movies was especially appealing partly because of the similarity to hunter heroes of Congolese culture. The character of Buffalo Bill had already appeared in over 20 films by that time, but the most influential movie is thought to be 'Pony Express', where Charlton Heston played Bill.

Way of life

The Bills dressed in cowboy outfits (kerchiefs, jeans and shirts) sold in Kinshasa. The names of the 'territories' for each gang echoed those of the Western United States (Texas, Sante Fe), and the gangs themselves were usually named after their territories (such as the "Texas Bills"), but occasionally strayed outside the Western United States pantheon (such as "Godzilla"). Some commentators have suggested they provided a street-level counterpart to the more refined and overtly political anti-colonial struggle that was then being fought by some of the évolués (the middle class educated elite).

Hindoubill

The Bills developed their own argot called Hindoubill (or Hindubill). The origins of this name are obscure, but may relate to either the Hindi films occasionally shown in Kinshasa, or to the Bills conflating the Native American "Indians" of "Cowboys and Indians" with the Indians of India (a la Columbus' mistake).

References

  • De Boeck, Filip & Plissart, Marie-Françoise. (2004) Kinshasa: Tales of the Invisible City Ludion. ISBN 90-5544-528-2. Photography and analysis of everyday life in Kinshasa, together with extensive quotations from contemporary Congolese. The last chapter is available as a PDF here
  • Stewart, Gary. (2000) Rumba on the River: A history of the popular music of the two Congos Verso. ISBN 1-85984-744-7. Tells the story of Congolese music, history, and popular culture.
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