The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Thursday, August 22, 2019

Hidden Democratic Republic of Congo museum safeguards endangered tradition
Museum guide Barthelemy Kayumba stands next to a portable "surgical unit" of the Lega tribe, one of the four main ethnic groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's South-Kivu province, at the Kivu Museum in Bukavu on March 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MARC JOURDIER.

By: Marc Jourdier

BUKAVU (AFP).- Perched on a shelf, the "Little Kabila" with the mysterious eyes greets visitors to the Kivu Museum, housed in a Catholic mission but aimed at safeguarding endangered Congolese traditional artefacts some might consider "satanic".

The statuette showing a woman sitting on her heels and holding a jar in her hands used to feature on all Congolese 10-franc notes, but is no longer in circulation.

Laurent-Desire Kabila himself, the father of Congolese President Joseph Kabila, had insisted she be represented in this way, according to guide Barthelemy Kayumba.

The museum lies hidden behind the walls of the mission of the Xaverian Fathers (Catholic missionaries of Jesuit influence) in Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

In Luba language, "kabila means to share or distribute", said Kayumba.

For the Luba, an ethnic group from the country's southeast where the head of state was born, the statuette fulfils "a function of mutual aid and solidarity", he added.

It also held a "symbolic value" for Kabila senior, the rebel chief who in 1997 put an end to Mobutu Sese Seko's 32-year dictatorship: "The chief, or the mother, has to take care of the weakest and watch over the youngest," said Kayumba.

Like many items in the museum, the "Little Kabila" is a copy. But the Xaverian Fathers, who first arrived in the country in 1954, have also amassed a lot of authentic pieces, often created for the initiation or nomination ceremony of a "mwami" (chief), explains Father Italo.

Having lived in the Congo for nearly 40 years, the Italian priest closely knew Father Andre, the museum's founder who is currently undergoing treatment in Europe.

The museum opened its doors to the public in 2013 but the hunt for artefacts began 10 years earlier, at the end of the Second Congo War (1998-2003).

Satanic objects 
For South Kivu, the end of this African regional war, which took place solely on DRCongo soil, did not bring peace. Like its Northern Kivu neighbour and other parts in the country's east, the province remains torn by violence and armed conflicts fuelled by Congolese or foreign militias.

The museum has managed all the same to gather an impressive collection of several hundred statuettes, masks and idols thanks to the cooperation of the village chiefs of South Kivu's main tribes (Lega, Bembe, Shi and Buyu), who provided the majority of the authentic pieces.

Because of their symbolic value, these artefacts have been handed down from chief to chief, some of whom now have real treasures in their possession. 

One object is thought to be at least 100 years old, said Kayumba.

The items had to be hidden from armed groups trying to steal them, he added.

Under Belgian colonisation (1908-1960) and with the arrival of Catholic missionaries, the tradition was quickly denounced as "witchcraft" and the Congolese were told to "leave it behind even though this was their way of life and there was a real school of wisdom behind it", says Father Italo.

In the Lega tribe, for instance, a chief's son does not automatically follow in his father's footsteps; instead, the council of elders choses the contender with the "highest moral values", Kayumba said.

The museum's role is to "preserve the endangered collective memory of a people", adds Father Italo.

Outside the Xaverian covent, nothing hints at the existence of the little-known museum. Today, it attracts several thousand visitors per year, most whom come as a part of tours organised by schools or parishes.

"Many people are surprised that the Fathers who came to evangelise have ended up sheltering satanic objects," notes Father Italo.

In the face of this deep-seated spirit, the museum's mission is to get visitors to "become aware" of their roots and "understand the sense and values of their culture".

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

Today's News

March 23, 2015

Curator at Croatia's Natural History Museum finds Neanderthals were world's first jewellers

Crowds salute coffin of England's Richard III in procession to his final burial

Painting by world's highest ranking Buddhist leader sells for $16,500,000 today at Gianguan Auctions New York

Fondation Custodia opens exhibition of drawings by Italian Renaissance masters

Asian Art Week at Christie's including the Collection of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth achieves highest total ever

More than a century of French masterpieces in new exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Marty de Cambiaire to exhibit for the first time at the prestigious Salon du Dessin

Sotheby's Important Watches Spring Sale led by highly complicated minute repeaters by Patek Philippe

Erwin Wurm turns the great exhibition hall of the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg into a German forest

Hidden Democratic Republic of Congo museum safeguards endangered tradition

Miami Beach celebrates 100 years on Thursday, but climate cloud casts shadow

Exhibition of works from the George Stephanopoulos Collection opens at the Hyde

The Speed Art Museum in Louisville announces its public re-opening date: March 12, 2016

'Art for All: Multiples, Graphics, Actions from the Staeck Collection' opens at Akademie der Künste

The Greek Pavilion at la Biennale di Venezia will feature a shop that sells animal hides and leather

Artist and mathematician use 21st century mathematics to create works of art

Samantha Roddick's first artistic project on view at the Michael Hoppen Gallery

'Broomberg & Chanarin: To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light' opens at Foam

Newly commissioned project by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker on view at Wiels

Sterling Associates' Spring Auction presents art and antiques from the NY metro and MidAtlantic regions

1980s motoring legends lead the way at Bonhams Goodwood Members' Meeting Sale

'World's most beautiful boulevard' turns 150

How to Remove Dark Spots: Amanda Ross-Ho opens first exhibition with Praz-Delavallade

Musée de design et d'arts appliqués contemporains opens contemporary glass art exhibition

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- Conservation reveals Wellington Collection work was painted by Titian's Workshop

2.- New dinosaur discovered after lying misidentified in university's vaults for over 30 years

3.- Unseen Texas Chainsaw Massacre outtakes and stills sold for a combined $26,880

4.- National gallery reveals conserved Italian altarpiece by Giovanni Martini da Udine

5.- London's Tate Modern evacuated after child falls, teen arrested

6.- Bavarian State Minister of the Arts restitutes nine works of art

7.- Boy thrown from London's Tate Modern is French tourist visiting UK

8.- Child thrown from London gallery has broken spine, legs and arm

9.- £10 million Turner masterpiece may leave British shores

10.- Tourists banned from sitting on Rome's Spanish Steps

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful