Monsters are near universal cultural phenomena – dormant, enigmatic, or accidentally spawned supernatural spirits, deities, beasts, and creatures whose mystic forces could maim or destroy even the most powerful civilisations. In “Monster Theory” (1996) J.J Cohen writes that the cultural proliferation of monsters across popular media embodies a commentary of our “ambient fears” as a society, which has manifested itself as a cultural fascination with monsters – “a fixation that is born of the twin desire to name that which is difficult to apprehend and to domesticate (and therefore disempower) that which threatens” (vii).

Monsters are near universal cultural phenomena

As a discourse, the construction of the monstrous challenges our geographic, temporal, and technological boundaries of culture – “an extreme version of marginalization. An abjecting epistemological device basic to the mechanics of deviance construction and identity formation” (Cohen 1996: ix). In this way, the conjuring of monsters are often metaphors for our own monstrousness, they force us to confront what we perceive as being natural; as being human.

Since the onset of Western colonialism, writers, artists, and explorers reported on encounters with “monsters”, whether sea creatures, mermaids, cannibals, troglodytes, fanged demons, or simply foreign races. These lurid tales confounded any efforts of acknowledging humanity in the Other and was often used as a vehicle for ethnocracy (Johnson, 2015: 173). In no place was this truer than in the project of colonising Africa. Yet even before colonisers arrived, rumours of mythical monsters and entities were abundant…