In June 2016 I packed my bags and flew out to Kinshasa with my brother and father. The feeling of knowing that you were on your way to your birth country is a feeling I will never be able to truly explain. It was my first time visiting the motherland in 25 years. Despite being born in the Congolese capital, I had no memories of the country that I was born in and now here I was, on the plane ready to experience Kinshasa for two weeks.
After a short layover in Belgium, we headed out to the motherland and landed in Kinshasa around 10 PM. Now, for those of you who’s have been to tropical countries, you know how it feels when the airplane door opens and the heat takes over. For those of you haven’t, let me tell you; it’s like a slap in the face..that you’ll get over very quick.
I spent two weeks in Kinshasa and thanks to my cousins my brother and I got to see a lot. We visited Bandal, Kintambo, N’djili, Gombe and many other neighborhoods. Of all the areas, Gombe is the area that looks the most like the West. In fact, it resembled many European cities such as Paris and Brussels.
I know that the media like to portray Africa as one big nation that’s suffering and is filled with nothing but poverty and misery, but I advise everyone to go and experience Africa on its own. Yes, there’s poverty, just like there’s poverty in the United States. Yes, there are homeless people in Congo, just like there are tons of homeless people in European countries. Just like any other continent, Africa has the good and the bad, not just the bad.
The problem with Congo isn’t that it’s a poor country, the problem with Congo and many African nations is the greedy leaders who would rather sell out their people and wipe out their countries for a little bit of money from the West. Despite many people suffering in the Congo because of existing conflicts, Congo is one of the richest countries in the world thanks to the many minerals that come from there. Colton, one of the most important minerals in the world is a crucial mineral that is used in cellphones. Without it, no cellphones would actually work. Let that sink in!
Congo is filled with so much culture, colorful people and a sense of content despite different living conditions. But boy was I happy to be there. Just living in the moment with relatives enjoying the strong heat and smoking shisha (hooka) on a rooftop. All while trying to grasp the fact that I was actually where I wanted to be the most. It was pure magic.
One thing I love about Kinshasa is the fact that people dress up just to for the sake of it. We, Congolese people, take a lot of pride in how we dress and present ourselves. As a result, we dress up even if we’re just going to visit a friend 20 minutes away. The women wear African prints called “liputa” that they turned into everything from dresses to shorts, and of courses head wraps ( kitambala ). Before heading out they put on their makeup, their gold jewelry, and pretty shoes and start their day, which included many visits to friends and family.
As we walked through the streets, everyone kept staring at my brother and I. No matter where we were, at any time by everyone. I felt it almost instantly and asked my cousin who told me it was simply because the people could tell we didn’t live in Congo. Despite not wearing African prints while yet having Congolese features, it was super obvious that we were just visitors. However, despite the stares, we quickly forgot about it and stayed in a happy state of mind.