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CONGO : Kuba, Lega and Pende


My Congolese story starts in 2015, when I led a project in the context of literacy in the province of Maniema (Eastern Congo) and lived for a while in the provincial capital Kindu. Together with the regional agency Social Integration, we developed a syllabus with basic vocabulary, organized workshops and guided teachers in various villages. The vocabulary in the different syllabi focuses on the needs of the local population. The village councils set up a financial structure so that the villagers themselves paid the teaching staff, both in kind / manioc and with monetary contribution. This self-sustaining system is effective, but not easy to implement. I crossed the bush by mountain bike and thus had many contacts with the locals. I was introduced to bushmeat at the market in Kindu.

Kuba - Lega

This brings me to Lomami National Park, a 4-hour drive from Kindu. This park was awarded the national park label quite recently. Several ethnic groups including the Lega, Mbembe and Mbolo were involved in the founding process of the national park. The communal land and the villages adjacent to the park serve as an important buffer for the protected area. For this it is also necessary to develop alternative and sustainable income options together with the village communities.

A literacy project was also set up here, and as artist Gosie Vervloessem describes it in one of her collages: “Literacy for environmental justice”.

Collage Vervloessem

Hats from this region are in the collection, especially from the Lega. The region is also known for the weaving mats made by the Mbolo.

Kuba - Lega

The Kuba is a confederation of at least 12 ethnic groups living in central Congo-Kinshasa and speaking a Bantu language. The ethnicity numbers about 130,000 people. The Kingdom of Kuba (1650 - 1900) was known for its artifacts.

Kuba - Lega

In the masked theater at the dedication of the Kuba boys, Moshambwooy, as the first king, is set against Bwoom, the "common man". Both the king's strengths and weaknesses are shown in a dramatization of the Kuba's ambiguity towards royal authority. Moshambwooy masks have a typical long protruding part of the elephant's trunk: the king is enormously impressive and his responsibilities are weighty. The rest of the mask and costume are covered with the mighty symbols of the Kuba culture.


In this mask, the shells refer to economic connections and power. The shell and bead decoration of this mask forms patterns typical of the material culture of the Kuba. Various objects and cultural contexts are interwoven with each other.


Most of the DRC headdresses that you can see during the tour of the Kalpak were bought in Kindu, through the many contacts with the locals. There are also some pagnes, colorful wrap skirts in which women wrap themselves and which also serve as a means of communication, because the motifs convey a message.


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