Culture and Customs of the Congo

By Tshilemalema Mukenge | Go to book overview

9
Conclusion

IT IS A COMMON PRACTICE in Congolese humanity and social science literature, both scholarly and popular, to identify some customs and artifacts as traditional, others as modern. The practice has merit in that it forces the writer and his or her audience to keep in mind the fact that some customs and other cultural elements found in a particular region are traceable to that region's distant past whereas others are imports from other geographical spaces. The writings on ancestral traditions stress the contributions of various Congolese ethnic groups to the humanity's cultural heritage in various domains: political organization, religion, literature, art, family values and music and dance.

In the political field, the organizational structuring and operational principles of the bands, lineages and clans, chiefdoms, kingdoms and empires once found in various parts of the Congo provide abundant original models of participatory democracy. In religion, the belief in one creator who is the ultimate source of life and cause of death is universal. Other spirits (nature spirits, spirits of past heroes and ancestral spirits), the humans, the animal kingdom, the flora and the entire universe are his creations and derive their powers directly or indirectly from his. In literature, Congolese writers have revalorized ancestral traditions by recording, interpreting and translating literary materials pertaining to popular songs, riddles and enigmas, proverbs, animal stories and legends. In art, human motifs (statues, heads, faces, masks) dominate in sculpture, weaving, pottery and mural painting. The search for esthetics, including body adornment, is omnipresent as well.

In reference to family life, all Congolese societies hold marriage and pro-

-179-

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Culture and Customs of the Congo
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Foreword vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Chronology xi
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: Religion and Worldview 35
  • 3: Literature and Media 53
  • 4: Art and Architecture 75
  • 5: Cuisine and Dress 97
  • 6: Marriage, Family, and Gender Roles 117
  • 7: Social Customs and Lifestyles 143
  • 8: Music and Dance 161
  • 9: Conclusion 179
  • Glossary 185
  • Selected Bibliography 191
  • Index 195
  • About the Author 205
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