Republic of the Congo Arts and Culture

Republic of the Congo Arts


Until the nineties of the twentieth century, when the civil war broke out, the country presented a complex folkloric framework, with numerous mixes, especially in urban settlements. The use of fetishes and animistic beliefs were widespread. Among the most authentic representatives of the traditional African world we must remember the bateke, known for their dances. The customs of the northern populations, mainly devoted to fishing, were also very persistent. According to allunitconverters, their traditions were richer than those of the people of the highlands, while the tribal customs condition all the manifestations of the life cycle. In an urban environment there was a recovery of traditional values ​​which was expressed in artistic manifestations; typical is the case of certain painters of the Poto-Poto district (one of the non-European settlements that arose around Brazzaville), who gave life to a school of popular painting, based on a stylized representation. The production of wooden statuettes was also interesting.


There has been a traditional oral literature in Lingala, comprising various types of songs, tales, fables, myths. The literature in French bore its first fruits in the 1950s, when France promoted a policy of cultural assimilation of the elites, who found a forum in the magazine Liaison (1950-59). It is these years the debut of J. Malonga, one of the first Congolese writers, author of Coeur d’Aryenne (1954). Subsequently, nationalism, however, has turned writers towards the research and fixation of the indigenous cultural heritage. The narrative, lucid and harsh, denounces the abuses of postcolonial society. In full bloom in quantity and quality, literary production revealed a strong creative impetus and some characteristic trends. The first is the preference given to the novel; the second is the militancy, more moral and intellectual than ideological, which expands the struggle against expressive power, personalized in a dictator, in a revolt against stupidity and for the freedom of the spirit, using the weapons of sarcasm, irony, of the grotesque farce, of the absurd. Another feature was the deep roots in the country and in the oral tradition. Among the most significant writers we remember GF Tchikaya U’Tamsi (1931-1988), playwright, poet and novelist, one of the highest voices in black Africa (Mauvais Sang, 1954; Le Zulu, 1977; Ces fruits si doux de l’Abre à pain, 1987), S. Bemba (1934-1995; Le soleil est parti à Mpemba, 1982; Léopolis, 1985). During the 1970s, authors destined to conquer international fame appeared on the Congolese literary scene: E. Dongala (b.1941; Un fusil dans la main, un poème dans la poche, 1973; Jazz et le vin del palmes, 1982), JB Tati-Loutard (Les normes du temps, 1974), S. Labou Tansi (1947-1995), prolific author of theater as well as novelist (La vie et demie, 1979; L’anté-peuple, 1983; Le commencement des douleurs, 1995). In the 1980s, numerous female writers also established themselves, mainly addressing poetry and short stories, including F. Hazoume (b.1959), A. Néné, C.-I. Diamoneka and the restless M.-L. Tsibinda, exile since 1999 (Poèmes de la terre, 1980; L’oiseau sans arme, 1999; Moi, Congo ou les rêveurs de la souveraineté (2000), while T. Obenga dominates in the non-fiction field. The theater, in French and Lingala, gained importance after independence, with the creation of the Congolese Theater Association (1963), revealing authors such as G. Menga, who is also a novelist, whose Oracle was performed in Paris in the 1969, and the aforementioned S. Bemba (L’enfer c’est Orféo, 1969; Tarentelle noire et diable blanc, 1975; Qu’est devenu Ignouba le chasseur?, 1990) and GF Tchikaya U’Tamsi, who gave in his plays a highly poetic and nationalistic vision of African history. Other significant authors were F. Mouangassa, PJ Lhono, F. Loubaki, E. Boundzeki Dongela, A. Letembat-Ambili, M. Malinda and M. N’Debeka. Following the bloody events of the 1990s, many writers, such as E. Dongala, were forced to leave the country. Dongala continued to write about the African reality even abroad; his latest novel (Johnny chien méchant, 2002), translated in Italy in 2006 with the title Johnny Mad Dog, which tells the story of a child soldier, was transposed into a film in 2008.


The Republic of Congo was clearly dominated by the sculptural production of the fang group, also widespread in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The formal solutions of the wooden figurines of ancestors, which dominate the baskets where the bones of the deceased are collected, have largely influenced European artists. Also worth mentioning are the abstractions of the art of the kota and related groups, of which the flat-shaped masks, entirely covered with brass plates, are to be mentioned. Finally, the mysterious white masks, with an orientalizing air, of the Mpongwe of the Ogoué river are interesting, in which, on the human face painted in white, black hair and eyes and red lips stand out.

Republic of the Congo Arts