Academic journal article African Studies Review

Culture and Customs of the Congo

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Culture and Customs of the Congo

Article excerpt

Tshilemalema Mukenge. Culture and Customs of the Congo. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002. xx + 204 pp. Photographs. Glossary. Bibliography. Index. $45.00. Cloth.

The third installment in the Greenwood Culture and Customs of Africa series, Tshilemalema Mukenge's book may seem at first glance a fact-oriented survey of one of Africa's richest and most complex countries. But as one sifts through the chapters, the book indeed delivers on its promise to "capture the elements of continuity and change in culture and customs" (viii). It is divided into eight chapters, including an introduction that provides some solid background information. From religion to architecture, music and marriage, Mukenge never loses sight of Congo's diversity through examples drawn from various regional groups.

Chapter 3, for example, devoted to literature and media, emphasizes the cultural activities that foster community values and skills in the youth. The author also reviews modern literary currents and critics without, however, devoting serious attention to issues of readership and audience. Although crucial in their own merit, traditional forms of orature and modern literature may not be as accessible to the Congolese masses as, for example, popular forms of communication (radio-trottoir, i.e., rumors; written press; the Internet), to which the author devotes little space.

Some of the book's strongest chapters deal with art and architecture (chapter 4) and gender roles (chapter 6). In chapter 4, Mukenge is at his best exploring the development of housing design and patterns from precolonial times to colonization and postcolonial Congo. Chapter 6 presents the Congolese woman in her many roles: as mother, caretaker, and breadwinner. …

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