Monday, July 29, 2013


via Wikipedia

So, having had a lovely week away visiting family, I end up spending another week getting over a trip-acquired cold. Which leads to a little more TV than usual and ends up with re-watching a classic overlooked film; The Creature From The Black Lagoon. Made in 1954, about 17 years after the discovery of the coelacanth (the "living fossil" fish thought to have gone extinct in the Late Cretaceous but discovered still very much alive in 1938), the film posits the existence of a Gill Man  living somewhere in the Amazon Basin.

Now, the film is not actually about a Gill Man and the attempts to capture it. It is actually a meditation on sexual repression and tension in the 1950s. It was beautifully filmed and can hold up against any A-list film of the time.
But in it, Julia Adams character references the Kamongo when talking about evolutionary throwbacks. (And honestly, isn't the word Kamongo worthy of its own creature feature?)  I was moved to see if the kamongo was something that really existed or was invented for the film. At first it looked to be invention, but then I found a great blog called Monsterminions and the post Kamongo is Swahili for Lungfish. Turns out, the Kamongo really does exist and is threatened or endangered.
But kamongo is also a food fish--although a polarizing one; those that like it really like it, and those that don't run screaming. Someone who does like it is Lawi Joel, who writes a charming piece in the Tanzania Daily News about searching for kamongo, a childhood food, in order that he can introduce his kids to it.
My father had been a fishmonger and butcher interchangeably. He raised me mostly on the dish of fish the biggest part of which was kamongo. It would therefore be an irony if I returned home in Dar es Salaam without some of this delicacy when indeed I was just coming from a city of people whose staple dish it was. I was determined to scour Kisumu until I got it.

1 comment:

  1. Something I like about the characters in the film is that the female scientist isn't a background character. Dr Kay Lawrence (played by Julia Adams) is an active part of the research team, and holds her own in discussions. Regrettably, she does spend part of the film screaming... but several of the male characters also scream on seeing the Creature! I'll note as well about the costuming that her bathing suit is as modest as the men's bathing suits -- and she often puts a loose shirt on over it. This film is not a gratuitous exploitation, even when Dr Kay gets grabbed by the Creature, as seen on the movie poster.