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#1 Oct 21, 2019 4:21 pm

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The Heart of Darkness: "Democratic" Republic of Congo

Being driven through Kinshasa is an awe-inspiring experience, swerving between ancient cars, minibuses with people hanging out of every glassless window, trucks belching thick diesel smoke, overloaded carts pushed by glistening musclebound black men, vendors of every conceivable thing, shoe shine boys and women in their colourful wraps - all shoving their way along what passes for the road.

When the Belgian colonialists built this city they called it Leopoldville, after one of the worst rapists of Africa: King Leopold. Back then it must have been a pleasant city with wide boulevards and cafes, transplanted from Belgium to the Belgian Congo. But those balmy colonial days are long gone, and I doubt the colonialists ever dreamt that this piece of Belgium abroad would become home to 8 million African souls.

My driver, seeing me staring at a pock-marked building that had clearly been shelled with some heavy artillery, casually mentioned that there had been “a little trouble” with the some ex-insurgents, but that things had cooled down now. As I later found out, the “little trouble” turned out to be four days of intense street-to-street fighting in Kinshasa, in which over 800 people were killed! And when was this little trouble? Just the other day. Oh great.

Francophone Africans of both sexes are far more fashion conscious than their Anglophone neighbours, and Congolese men are the most fashion-crazy of all. I wanted to see the famous “SAPEURS” (Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes) – Congolese men for whom clothes are king. Followed closely by music and dancing to "kwasa-kwasa", Congo’s jangly infectious music. War, strife, poverty, hunger – nothing will get in the way of their pursuit of sartorial elegance. You see them everywhere in Kinshasa, strutting like peacocks in their Dior shirts (real, never fake) and crocodile shoes. They may earn only ten dollars by day, but half of that will gladly be spent on a shoeshine and laundry service to keep those creases razor sharp. Truly a sight to behold.

Another sight to behold is the mighty Congo River, flowing fast as it wraps its way around Kinshasa; Brazzaville on the far side. Two Congos, two cities, one River. The River here is wide and navigable; further downstream it tumbles through a series of cataracts until it reaches the Atlantic, spewing forth millions of tons of water and topsoil.

Old planes don’t die, they go to the Congo. Aviation buffs would cream their pants at the incredible collection of ancient hardware that somehow stays airborne, with liberal doses of jungle maintenance, duct tape and hope. The airline sector in Congo is totally unregulated: all you need to start an airline is a plane, a pilot and a wad of cash. Some money on the table, most under it, and off you fly into the wild blue yonder.

Ten of us went to dinner at Chez Maman Colonel, deep in the heart of Kinshasa. Getting there is a trek through what long ago passed for roads, not helped by the mini-hurricane that had just passed through. Chez Maman is a must-see on the Kinshasa circuit; it’s always packed with UN Prados and NGO vehicles full of les blancs experiencing a piece of le Vrai Afrique. There is no menu, they just ask if you want chicken or fish. And man, talk about tasty! This was the most delicious tilapia I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve eaten a lot of tilapia. Arlette and I were fighting over the heads, the original finger-lickin’ good.

Afterwards David and I gate crashed a function in the Sheraton ballroom, where a live band of about twenty musicians, singers and dancers had the place jumping. Stars of the night were two sapeurs resplendent in Versace and Hugo Boss, who held a mock battle to decide who was the king of kwasa-kwasa. Hugo won.

PS: Seen all over town, posters advertising in bad English: “SPECIAL APEARENCE, GRANDE SHOW, STARING BILL CLINTON!!” Turns out he’s a big kwasa-kwasa star!



Kins.jpg

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#2 Oct 21, 2019 4:35 pm

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Re: The Heart of Darkness: "Democratic" Republic of Congo

Chez Maman Colonel gets 4.5 stars!

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_ … shasa.html

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#3 Oct 22, 2019 11:18 am

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Re: The Heart of Darkness: "Democratic" Republic of Congo

Triggered early memories of growing up  with the prevailing impression  of Africa . Deep , and  dark ,  might be eaten .
The CONGO !
Remember Sparrow's  Congo man . lol.
Ignorance is a ....  not helpful. lo
  But that thinking has not been totally been eradicated  , as far as I can see.  ... just saying.



..............  the mighty  Congo river.

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#4 Oct 22, 2019 11:28 am

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Re: The Heart of Darkness: "Democratic" Republic of Congo

Great tune, politically incorrect! I had a T-shirt of this Sparrow tune and would wear it all over Africa - they loved it lol!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPVT4nOF75I

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#5 Oct 22, 2019 11:49 am

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Re: The Heart of Darkness: "Democratic" Republic of Congo

LO.  I had to return .
I was  not sure if I was laughing at myself or what .  Not a heavy,  heavy , calypso man , I  "missed- remembered  "a big part of the  song. Or I was totally  in the dark  at that time . lmao.

Great  ,   have not heard song for maybe 40 years. 
Who day  , who day , who day oh ...
HaHaHA.

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#6 Oct 22, 2019 12:04 pm

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Re: The Heart of Darkness: "Democratic" Republic of Congo

Glad I made you chuckle!

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#7 Oct 23, 2019 3:06 pm

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Re: The Heart of Darkness: "Democratic" Republic of Congo

"""" Who dey  ,  who dey Oh.      HA hahaha 

Work up this morning with Congo Man on my mind.  Lol. No JA to get a critique of Sparrows calypso .  Sad !

But I decided on another plan of action.
One the island from 6am  to  9am   is   this Radio Morning Show.  Obituaries  , news , chit , chat .  May may   calling in to wish her church sisters  , happy whatever ,  Fred sending greetings to Maureen 20yrs ,        ......... people call in , play  this song for me
Usually some oldie , Brook Benton  , Bob  Marley ,  Showers of Blessings , etc
lo, you get the message.

I just wonder if I call in to his radio morning show  one  morning and requested  Sparrow's  Congo Man .  If he would oblige .
Just wondering . Lol.

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