Cultural Diversity of Congo

Cultural Diversity of Congo

As many as 250 ethnic groups have been distinguished and named. The most numerous people are the Luba, Mongo, and Bakongo.

Although 700 local languages and dialects are spoken, the linguistic variety is bridged both by the use of French and the intermediary languages Kongo, Luba-Kasai, Swahili, and Lingala. 

More than 250 ethnic groups have been identified and named of which the majority are Bantu. The four largest groups - Mongo, Luba, Kongo (all Bantu), and the Mangbetu-Azande make up about 45% of the population. The country has also 60,000 White Congolese most of Belgian ancestry who remained after independence.

A family from the Mongo ethnic group.
Bantu peoples (80%):

Luba (18%), Mongo (17%), Kongo (12%)

Others

Ambala, Ambuun, Angba, Babindi, Baboma, Baholo, Bangala, Bango, Batsamba, Bazombe, Bemba, Bembe, Bira, Bowa, Dikidiki, Dzing, Fuliru, Havu, Hema, Hima, Hunde, Hutu, Iboko, Kanioka, Kaonde, Kuba, Kumu, Kwango, Lengola, Lokele, Lundas, Lupu, Lwalwa, Mbala, Mbole, Mbuza (Budja), Nande, Ngoli, Bangoli, Ngombe, Nkumu, Nyanga, Pende, Popoi, Poto, Sango, Shi, Songo, Sukus, Tabwa, Tchokwé, Téké, Tembo, Tetela, Topoke, Tutsi, Ungana, Vira, Wakuti, Yaka, Yakoma, Yanzi, Yeke, Yela etc.

Central Sudanic/Ubangian

Ngbandi, Ngbaka, Manvu, Mbunja, Moru-Mangbetu, Zande, Logo, Lugbara
Nilotic peoples :

Alur, Kakwa, Bari
Pygmy peoples :

Mbuti, Twa, Baka, Babinga
More than 600,000 pygmies (around 1% of the total population) are believed to live in the DR Congo's huge forests, where they survive by hunting wild animals and gathering fruits.

Religion

Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%, Kimbanguist 10%, Muslim 10%, other (includes syncretic sects and indigenous beliefs) 10% official report according to the CIA The World Factbook

Roman Catholic 43.9%, Protestant 24.8%, Other Christian 23.7%, Muslim 1.6%, Non-religious 0.6%, Hindu 0.1% other syncretic sects and indigenous beliefs 5.3% according to Joshua project

 

 

Cuisine

Less than two percent of the land is cultivated, and most of this is used for subsistence farming. Congo's farmland is the source of a wide variety of crops. These include maize, rice, cassava (manioc), sweet potatoes, yam, taro, plantain, tomatoes, pumpkin and varieties of peas and nuts. These foods are eaten throughout the country, but there are also regional dishes. The most important crops for export are coffee and palm oil.

Wild plants, fruits, mushrooms, honey and other foods such as bushmeat and fish are also gathered, hunted, and used in dishes. People often sell these crops at markets, or by the roadside. Cattle breeding and the development of large-scale agricultural businesses has been hindered by the recent war and the poor quality of the road system.


Congolese meals often consist of a starchy ingredient, along with vegetables and meat in the form of a stew. The starch can come in the form of a paste or mash made of cassava or corn flour, called fufu or ugali. When eaten, the fufu is rolled into golf ball-sized balls and dipped into the spicy stew—often an indentation is made with the thumb in order to bring up a thimbleful of sauce.

Poulet à la Moambé (chicken with a Moambe sauce) is considered the national dish of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
A type of fermented bread, kwanga, made from cassava, is commercially produced throughout the country. Lituma is a popular plantain dish made from mashed plantains which are formed into balls and baked. Sweet potatoes are prepared in a similar way, and mixed with roasted peanuts in some parts of the country. Rice is often mixed with beans.

To accompany these starchy ingredients, green vegetables such as cassava leaves, tshitekutaku (a spinach-like plant) and okra are often added. Mushrooms, especially prized amongst the Luba people, are often seen as a substitute for meat in times of shortage. Though actual vegetarianism is unknown, most meals are eaten without meat due to its high price.

Fish are plentiful along the River Congo, its tributaries, and various lakes; and are baked, boiled or fried for immediate consumption; or smoked or salted when preserved. Markets often sell ready-to-eat peppered fish baked in banana leaves. Goat is the most widely consumed meat. Mwambe is a common way of cooking chicken with peanut sauce. Edible insects such as grasshoppers and caterpillars are eaten; they tend to have a nutty flavour.

Sauces to mix with the ingredients above can be made with tomatoes, onions, and the local aromatic herbs. Vegetable oil, together with salt, hot red chile pepper and sweet green pepper are used to impart extra flavour. These spices are less frequently used in the far south.

Language

The four major languages in the DRC are French (official), Lingala (a lingua franca trade language), Kingwana (a dialect of Swahili), Kikongo, and Tshiluba. There are over 200 ethnic languages.

French is generally the medium of instruction in schools. English is taught as a compulsory foreign language in Secondary and High School around the country. It is a required subject in the Faculty of Economics at major universities around the country and there are numerous language schools in the country that teach it. In the town of Beni, for instance, there is a Bilingual University that offer courses in both French and English. 

 

Clothing

Unlike Western trends, Congolese styles are created to stand out from the crowd, making use of both vibrant hues and striking prints, reflecting African culture.

Traditionally Congolese clothing is centred on the wearing of colourful materials referred to as ‘Liputa’. These types of fabrics are worn by both men and women, and can more often than not be found at the local market.  They are usually cut into strips from two to six yards in length, and to complete the look are typically worn with a complementing headscarf.

‘Liputa’ are sometimes also designed for different purposes, and aimed at certain audiences, for example paying tribute to a leader, marking a special occasion or at a sporting event.

Traditionally men and women in Congo wore clothes made of raffia. This is only used today though, in special ceremonies. It is much more common to see women wearing long skirts and tops with bold patterns and colors. Headwraps and hats are also popular as fashion and sun protection. Men wear a dashiki-style long shirt, or a button down shirt and long pants. During the Mobutu dictatorship suit jackets and ties were banned, but now Western clothing is common, especially among the upper class men.  

Travelers to the Democratic Republic of Congo should make sure their clothing choices offer them coverage against insect bites. For this reason, it is recommended that travelers bring light long sleeved shirts and pants, closed toed shoes and a good sun hat. If you are traveling to the Democratic Republic of Congo during the rainy season be sure to bring a good rain jacket and rain gear as well.


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