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In RDCongo, traditional village seeks tourists

Ⓒ AFP – Agnes Bun – | A woman from the Congolese village of Makwacha painted
with clay, May 13, 2017

With their hands soiled with clay that gives their soil its
characteristic ocher, the women of the Congolese village of
Makwacha paint their boxes of flowers and butterflies with
childish traces. A local tradition that has led to a small
tourist industry almost by accident.

“For color, we use only the earth. We dig for pink,” says
Prospérine Mwelma, 60, with a brush in her hand, draped with a
bright blue and yellow loincloth.

The tourist adventure began by chance in this remote
village, some 40 kilometers south of Lubumbashi, capital of
Upper Katanga, in the south-east of the Democratic Republic of

The director of the local French institute spends a day
there during his holidays: he falls in love with these houses
that the inhabitants cover with each day of their everyday life
scenes, using natural pigments, and decides to make them To
know the world.

Ⓒ AFP – Agnes Bun – | A house decorated with clay paintings in the village of
Makwacha, in the DRCongo, May 13, 2017

Thanks to her support, some of the villagers are invited to
Paris in April 2014 to paint and exhibit paintings. They sell
eight for $ 60,000.

“We could not have done it ourselves,” said village chief
Jean-Pierre Kabaso, 52, sitting in front of his ornate hut. “In
the future, it can pay off. There are other projects that will
happen, including an exhibition in Washington,” he said.

“It is sometimes the international tourists who make the
Congolese discover the beauty that exists in them … which is
paradoxical,” said Eric Monga, a local official of the
Federation of Enterprises of the Congo (FEC, employers).

– Chinese tourists –

In his office in Lubumbashi, Isaac Sumba Maly is plunged in
darkness due to a power cut. The director of the only tour
operator in the region prepares the arrival of Chinese tourists
on his laptop.

Ⓒ AFP – Agnes Bun – | Congolese children in front of house in Makwacha, DR
Congo, May 13, 2017

It was the director of the French institute who suggested
that he take an interest in the village of Makwacha and his

But visitors are still rare to make the trip. Only a hundred
per year, coming mainly from Belgium, France and China, come to
admire the paintings. Because to get to the DRC, it takes
determination: getting a visa can be part of the combatant’s

To attract them, the tour operator created a festival of
painting in Makwacha. He also intends to visit China soon to
negotiate a contract with a private company that wishes to send
its employees on vacation to Lubumbashi.

For now, Isaac Sumba Maly is barely recovering his expenses.
“The government does not help me much … too little,” he
regrets, resigned.

The political crisis in the DRC over the last few years,
exacerbated by President Joseph Kabila’s retention in office,
whose mandate has expired since December, the very low level of
development of the country and the persistence of numerous
militias on the national soil deter Of foreigners to take the

Ⓒ AFP – Agnes Bun – | The director of the local French institute spends a day
there during his holidays: he falls in love with these houses
that the inhabitants cover in every dry season scenes of their
daily life, and decides to make them known to the

“Congo has a bad image outside with insecurity, war,”
laments Isaac Sumba Maly, dressed in an impeccable costume
despite the heat.

Yet, “the Congo is vast and, if there is war in the north,
thousands of kilometers from here!” In Israel, there are
attacks and bombs. Thousands of tourists, “he insists.

– Malachite –

A few miles away, in the old quarter of Lubumbashi, the
deafening squealing of electric saws escapes from a confined
workshop. Workers there sculpture statues of rhinoceros and
lions in the malachite.

Ⓒ AFP – Agnes Bun – | Malachite is another bet of tour operators to make
fruit the artistic heritage of the region

Mineral green streak very widespread in the surroundings,
malachite is another bet of the agency of Isaac Sumba Maly to
make fruit the artistic heritage of the region.

Once again, it is the Chinese tourists who are starting to
run the machine.

“They come ordering, large pieces like crocodiles of several
meters that they bring back to China,” proudly explains Stanis
Chansa, sculptor for 45 years, wiping his hands on his

But the time is not yet for large crowds.

On the largest art market in the
province, only the flies turn over the stalls loaded with
ashtrays, jewelry and chessboard in malachite.

“Currently you can stay here for a whole day without
customers,” sighs vendor Isaac Kabumbu, 30.

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