While doing research for this, I’ve discovered that many of the embassy websites have a lot of valuable information. And I also discovered the Travel.State.Gov website, which is an extension of the US Bureau of Consular Affairs. It has a plethora of important information on country info as well as international travel advisories from war/fighting to weather related. Another cool website I discovered was IfItWereMyHome.com. It’s interesting to compare two countries together to put it in the perspective if you lived somewhere else. Ok, that concludes my public announcement. Let’s move on to more aesthetic topics, like art and literature.
Congo-Brazzaville is known for two types of art: sculpture and painting. Different tribes of people had their own distinct styles of sculptures. Many of these sculptures of made of different types of wood: the Teke people carved their ancestral spirits out of wood using geometric shapes. They were also famous for making masks as well. The Kongo tribes were famous (or infamous) for creating their statues with nails and knifes sticking out of the sculpture. I guess that’ll teach people to keep their hands off.
Congolese painters have always shown a great interest and propensity for the arts and especially using a wide array of influences. Congo has many female artists who have rose above in the art world to be nationally and internationally well-known in their field. One well-known painter, Rhode Bathe-Scheba Makoumbou, is the daughter of another famous painter, David Makoumbou. Her oil paintings portray women and their social life and daily activities. But not only does she paint, she also extends herself as a sculpurist. Her main mediums are sawdust and woodglue fixed on a metal frame. She tries to capture the traditional village life at risk of disappearance due to the quick urbanization that’s taking place. Some of the other woman artists making a difference are Yolande Motse Akanati (who does jewelry making, fashion designing, perfuming, as well as painting) and Tatiana Tsolo (who also portrays women, but from the point of view of their feelings and surroundings: love, nature, etc.)
One of the most famous painting schools dedicated to African painting is Brazzaville’s own Poto-Poto School of Painting. Overall, one of the most common focuses are depicting the rural as well as the urban life of the people of Congo.
Most literature from Congo-Brazzaville is written in French and started to emerge on the scene during the 1950s. Jean Malonga is often considered one the fathers of Congolese literature and has influenced many others. His most famous work that brought him to the forefront as well as the genre of modern Congolese literature is Coeur d’Aryenne, published in 1954. The focal point of his work, as well as the works of many of his contemporaries, was the black identity that was taking place during the colonial period. Keep in mind, these works were emerging at the same time talk was going on of the independence that would take place about six years later.
After gaining independence, the country faced new problems, and of course there was a new identity, which had its affect on Congolese literature. Congolese started making their way onto the scene, coming as novelists, journalists, playwrights, and poets. Guy Menga was one of the first playwrights, first publishing his works in the 1970s. Henri Lopès is another writer who made distinct points on the comparisons and contrasts between life before and after independence, especially regarding its contribution to the literary arts. He’s had several works published over the past 40 years and is currently serving as ambassador of the Republic of Congo to France.
One author and professor, Alain Mabanckou, is a perfect example – and probably the most famous – of Congolese diaspora writers. Because of political instabilities and poor conditions past and present, many writers and artists were forced to flee the country in order to continue their art. And many just stayed where they ended up finding refuge even when things started to get better in Congo. Mabanckou used to teach at the University of Michigan but is now currently at UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles).
And while there are far more male writers than female ones, there have been many female writers to make their names known and hold their own ground in the literary world. Katia Mounthault is one of the more famous women writers from Republic of the Congo. Paule Etoumba (poet) and Adèle Caby-Livannah (short story writer) are two other women writers who have graced us with their take on insight of Congolese life from the female perspective.
Up next: music and dance