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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
DRC Congolese literature at a glance
A few reference books
To find out more on the Congo DRC
Ever since the end of the 19th century when it was savagely exploited by Europe and annexed in 1908 by Belgium, Congo (formerly the Belgian Congo, later Zaire and since 1977 the Democratic Republic of the Congo) has undergone almost a century of violence characterised by "the annihilation of all that is human for the goal of economic development". This comment by the Congolese writer and critic Mukala Kadima-Nzuji helps to understand why successive governments have severely restricted people rights and opportunities. Nevertheless, mention should be made of La Psychologie des Bantu [The Psychology of the Bantus] (1910), an essay by Stefano Kaoze, who was one of the first Congolese to have been ordained as a priest and to have written in French. However, it is primarily the atmosphere of freedom at the end of World War II and the creation of the monthly La Voix du Congolais [The Congolese Voice] in 1945, which marked the beginning of a truly Congolese literature. After half a century of missionary publications about rural life, often in Congolese languages (Kikongo, Linga, Otetela, Swahili, Tshiluba etc.) La Voix du Congolais demonstrated a political and cultural awareness on the part of the Congolese. Two figures left their mark on this period: Antoine-Roger Bolamba (later known as Bolamba Lokolé in 1972, after the dictator Mobutu's insistence that all his citizens take African names) and Paull Lomami-Tshibamba. Other writers also worthy of mention are: Désiré-Joseph Basembe and Albert Mongita, whose first work was a play in 1956 and Patrice Lumumba, who wrote a few political works before being assassinated shortly after Independence. In 1962 a literary centre, Romans d'Inspiration Africaine [African Inspired Novels], was set up at the University of Lovanium, creating a favourable environment for the emergence of a new generation of writers. The best known authors are Lisembé (Philippe) Elebe, Timothée Malembe, V. Y. Mudimbe , (Edmond) Withankenge Walukumbu-Bene, wa Kayembe Mubadiate Buabua and Zamenga Batukezanga . During the 1980s several new authors emerged on the Congolese literary scene, probably the best known being Pius Ngandu Nkashama, Kama Kamanda and the playwright Kashi M'Bika Katende. At the beginning of the 1990s an overview of Congolese literature in Notre Librairie by the author and literary critic Georges Ngal, revealed the vitality of these authors. However, at the turn of the millenium, the authors who have remained in Congo are struggling, whereas many of those who fled for political or economic reasons are moving from strength to strength. This has lead to critic Alphonse Mbuyamba Nkakolongo's commenting on a "two-tier Congolese literature" developing in latter years.
With regard to female writing, a complete survey of the texts published still remains to be completed, but it must be noted that the first Congolese women writers were publishing as early as the end of the 1960s, especially in poetry. The first poems of Madiya (Clémentine) Nzuji, came out in 1967, those of Ikole (Ivonne Marie-Claire) Botuli-Bolumbu in 1972 and those of Lima-Baleka Bosek'Ilolo in 1973. The same year Christine Kalondji published a particularly well crafted short story. In 1977, it was the turn of Tol'ande (Elisabeth) Mweya to publish two short stories. In 1986 Ntumb Diur started writing for the theatre (Zaïna qui hurle dans la nuit [Zaïna who screams in the night]) and Kabika Tshilolo wrote a novel. In 1991 Léonie Abo published her autobiography, a story about the peasant uprising of 1963-1968 and the massacres commited by Mobutu's army, as seen through the eyes of a woman resistance fighter. More recently Maguy Rashidi-Kabamba published a novel on immigration, Amba Bongo a novel on refugees, and Justine M'poyo Kasa-Vubu her memoirs in 1997.
Please note: Authors' cultural heritage and identity extend beyond their association to a specific location [see Angèle Bassolé Ouédraogo's réflexions autobiographiques and Achille Mbembe "Afropolitanisme" Africultures 66 (2006), pp.9-15.].
Justine M'POYO KASA-VUBU
Kavidi Wivine N'LANDU
A few reference books
- Mbuyamba-Kankolongo. Guide de la littérature zaïroise de langue française (1974-1992) Kinshasa: Editions Universitaires Africaines, 1993.
- Halen, Pierre et János Riesz (Eds.). "Littératures du Congo-Zaïre" Actes du Colloque international de Bayreuth 1993 Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1995.
- "Littérature du Zaïre" Notre Librairie 125 (1996), pp.8-44.
- Ngandu Nkashama, Pius. Le Livre littéraire: Bibliographie de la littérature du Congo Kinshasa Paris: L'Harmattan, 1995.
- Rouch, Alain et Gérard Clavreuil. "Zaïre" in Littératures nationales d'écriture française: Histoire et anthologie. Paris: Bordas, 1986, pp. 471-498
- Brezault, Alain et Gérard Clavreuil. Conversations Congolaises (avec Tsibinda, Bemba, Dongala, Lopes, Menga, N'Debeka, Sony Labou Tansi, Tati-Loutard, Tchicaya U Tam'si, Tchichelle Tchivela). Paris: L'Harmattan, 1989.
- Mukala Kadima-Nzuji. La Littérature zaïroise de langue française (1945-1965) Paris: Karthala, 1984.
[Version française de cette page]
The University of Western Australia/French
Created: 05 Jun 1996
Modified: 10 Nov 2006
Archived: 25 Oct 2008