An Ultimate Armchair Travel Guide to the Democratic Republic of Congo

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure that’s filled with raw natural beauty, incredible wildlife, and a rich cultural heritage, then you’ve come to the right place. As a well-traveled and highly-cultured individual, I can confidently say that the DRC is a destination like no other.

The DRC is a vast country located in the heart of Africa, and it’s often overshadowed by its more popular neighbors. But what many people don’t know is that this country is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and warm-hearted people in the world. From the dense rainforests of the Congo Basin to the awe-inspiring Mount Nyiragongo, the DRC is a destination that will leave you in awe.

In this armchair travel guide, we’ll take you on a virtual journey through the DRC, exploring its vibrant culture, delicious cuisine, and unique experiences that are sure to leave you with unforgettable memories. So sit back, relax, and let’s discover the hidden treasures of the Democratic Republic of Congo together.

Movies About Congo

Downstream to Kinshasa (2020) directed by Dieudo Hamadi

As someone who has traveled extensively and has a deep appreciation for world cinema, I recently had the pleasure of watching “Downstream to Kinshasa,” a powerful film directed by Dieudo Hamadi that takes viewers on a virtual journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The film is a poignant and emotional exploration of the lives of Congolese victims of a brutal war that took place over 20 years ago. It follows a group of men who were injured during the war and are seeking compensation from the government. The journey to Kinshasa, the capital city where the hearings take place, is treacherous and fraught with danger, but the men are determined to make the trip in the hopes of receiving the justice they deserve.

What struck me about this film is its ability to transport viewers to a place and time that is far removed from our own experiences. Through Hamadi’s masterful direction, we are able to witness the harsh realities of life in Congo, from the poverty and violence to the resilience and determination of its people.

In many ways, the film is a tribute to the human spirit and the power of hope in the face of overwhelming adversity. It’s a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always a glimmer of light to be found, and that justice and redemption are worth fighting for.

Identity Pieces (1998) directed by Mweze Ngangura

Identity Pieces is a powerful film directed by Mweze Ngangura that tells the story of a man named Kabwita who leaves his village in search of a better life in the city. The film explores themes of identity, culture, and the tension between modernity and tradition.

What I find particularly intriguing about this film is how it transports its viewers to the vibrant and complex world of Congo. The film is shot on location, and the director skillfully uses the stunning landscapes and bustling cities to create a sense of place that is both familiar and foreign. Through the characters’ struggles and triumphs, we are able to gain insight into the cultural traditions, social dynamics, and political realities of this fascinating country.

As someone who has had the opportunity to travel extensively and explore different cultures, I am always drawn to films that offer a glimpse into worlds that are unfamiliar to me. Identity Pieces does this beautifully, inviting us to immerse ourselves in the sights, sounds, and stories of Congo. The film challenges us to confront our assumptions and preconceptions about this complex country and its people, and to engage with the issues that it raises in a thoughtful and nuanced way. I would highly recommend this film to anyone who is interested in exploring the richness and diversity of human experience.

This is Congo (2017) directed by Daniel McCabe

As someone who has traveled extensively and studied various cultures, I can confidently say that the movie This is Congo (2017) is a powerful and immersive journey into the heart of one of Africa’s most complex and misunderstood nations.

Directed by the talented filmmaker Daniel McCabe, This is Congo takes viewers on a gripping and emotional rollercoaster ride through the tumultuous history and current state of the Democratic Republic of Congo. With stunning cinematography and a deeply personal approach, the movie offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of the Congolese people, from the brave soldiers fighting for their country’s future to the everyday citizens struggling to survive in a world of chaos and violence.

One of the most remarkable things about This is Congo is the way it transports the viewer into the heart of the action. Through powerful visuals and vivid storytelling, McCabe effectively captures the sights, sounds, and emotions of the Congolese people, allowing the audience to feel like they are right there in the midst of the action.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or someone who has never left your own country, This is Congo is a must-see film that offers a unique and deeply moving perspective on the complex realities of life in one of Africa’s most fascinating nations. So sit back, relax, and let yourself be swept away on a journey you will never forget.

Felicite (2017) directed by Alain Gomis

Felicite is a stunning masterpiece that will transport you to the vibrant streets of Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo. As someone who has traveled extensively and experienced the beauty of diverse cultures, I can confidently say that this movie captures the essence of Congo’s people, music, and atmosphere like no other.

At its core, Felicite is a powerful drama that tells the story of a resilient and talented singer named Félicité, played brilliantly by Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu. She struggles to make ends meet while caring for her teenage son Samo, but her life takes a dramatic turn when Samo is involved in a terrible accident that requires expensive medical treatment.

What I find most remarkable about this film is the way it immerses you in the sights and sounds of Kinshasa. The director, Alain Gomis, uses the camera to capture the raw energy of the city’s bustling markets, crowded streets, and lively music scenes. The soundtrack is also a standout feature of the movie, featuring a fusion of traditional Congolese rhythms and modern jazz.

Furthermore, Felicite offers a glimpse into the daily struggles faced by the people of Congo. It sheds light on the harsh realities of poverty, corruption, and inequality, yet manages to convey a sense of hope and resilience that characterizes the Congolese spirit.

Viva Riva! (2010) directed by Djo Tunda Wa Munga

Ah, Viva Riva! What a magnificent cinematic gem. Directed by the talented Djo Tunda Wa Munga, this movie is a thrilling ride through the vibrant and colorful streets of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As a well-traveled individual with a deep appreciation for culture and diversity, I must say that this movie provides a unique opportunity to virtually immerse oneself in the rich and vibrant culture of Congo. Through its stunning visuals, vibrant music, and gripping storyline, Viva Riva! takes you on a journey through the heart of Congo, allowing you to experience its people, its culture, and its way of life.

At its core, the movie is a crime thriller that follows the exploits of a small-time hustler named Riva, who becomes embroiled in a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a ruthless gangster named Cesar. Set against the backdrop of Kinshasa’s bustling nightlife and seedy underworld, the movie explores themes of greed, corruption, and the desperate lengths people will go to in order to survive in a city where the line between right and wrong is often blurred.

But what truly sets this movie apart is its ability to capture the essence of Congo’s vibrant and colorful culture. From the lively music and dance scenes to the bustling markets and crowded streets, Viva Riva! brings to life the sights and sounds of Congo in a way that is truly captivating. It is a movie that will leave you breathless, and one that I highly recommend to anyone looking to experience the beauty and complexity of Congo’s rich cultural tapestry.

Books About Congo

Tram 83 (2014) by Fiston Mwanza Mujila

Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila is a fascinating novel that immerses the reader into the bustling and chaotic city of Lubumbashi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As a well-traveled and cultured individual, I found the book to be a unique and insightful experience, which allowed me to virtually travel to a country and a culture that I had not previously encountered.

The novel is centered around the character of Lucien, a young writer who arrives in Lubumbashi with hopes of making it big in the city’s literary scene. However, he quickly becomes entangled in the city’s nightlife, particularly the infamous Tram 83, a seedy nightclub that serves as a hub for all sorts of illicit activities, including prostitution, drug dealing, and black market trading.

What struck me most about the book was its vivid depiction of Lubumbashi’s people and culture. The author’s prose is rich and evocative, painting a picture of a city that is simultaneously vibrant and bleak. From the frenetic energy of Tram 83 to the poverty and desperation of the city’s slums, Mujila captures the essence of Lubumbashi in a way that is both gritty and poetic.

One of the things that allowed me to truly feel like I was traveling to Congo was the book’s use of local dialects and idioms. The characters’ speech patterns and slang were unfamiliar to me, but the author’s skillful use of language made me feel like I was really hearing the people of Lubumbashi speak. This gave me a deeper understanding of the city’s culture and allowed me to connect with the characters on a more personal level.

Before the Birth of the Moon (1976) by VY Mudimbe

Mama Koko and the Hundred Gunmen (2014) by Lisa J Shannon

Mama Koko and the Hundred Gunmen is a powerful and moving memoir that chronicles Lisa J Shannon’s journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, a country ravaged by violence, poverty, and corruption. The book is a deeply personal account of Shannon’s encounter with Mama Koko, a remarkable Congolese woman who took in and cared for 92 orphaned children, despite the constant threat of violence from armed militias in the area.

Through Shannon’s vivid and descriptive prose, the reader is transported to the heart of Congo, where they will witness the devastating impact of war on the local population, but also the resilience and strength of its people. The book allows readers to virtually travel to Congo by painting a vivid picture of the country’s rich culture and history, as well as the challenges faced by its people.

From the bustling markets of Kinshasa to the remote villages of the eastern provinces, Mama Koko and the Hundred Gunmen takes readers on a journey through the diverse landscapes and communities of Congo. Through Shannon’s eyes, readers will meet the courageous women and men who are fighting to build a better future for themselves and their children, despite the overwhelming obstacles they face.

The Poisonwood Bible (1998) by Barbara Kingsolver

“The Poisonwood Bible” is a literary masterpiece that takes readers on an emotional and thought-provoking journey through the heart of the Congo. The book tells the story of a family of American missionaries who travel to the Belgian Congo in the late 1950s, hoping to spread the word of God to the local people. However, their arrival coincides with a time of great political upheaval in the country, and the family’s dreams of bringing salvation to the Congolese are soon shattered by the brutal realities of colonialism and revolution.

What makes “The Poisonwood Bible” such a powerful and evocative read is Kingsolver’s ability to transport readers to the heart of the Congo. Through vivid descriptions of the country’s landscapes, people, and customs, she creates a rich and immersive world that allows readers to experience the beauty and complexity of this fascinating place. Whether describing the vibrant colors of the Congolese markets, the lush greenery of the rainforest, or the rhythmic beat of the local music, Kingsolver’s prose brings the Congo to life in a way that few other books can.

Moreover, the story is narrated from the perspectives of five different women in the Price family, each with her unique voice and worldview. This approach allows Kingsolver to explore a wide range of themes and issues, from colonialism and racism to family dynamics and personal identity. By seeing the Congo through the eyes of each of these characters, readers gain a multifaceted understanding of the country and its people, as well as a deeper appreciation for the complexities of human experience.

Johnny Mad Dog (2002) by Emmanuel Dongala

Set in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, the book follows a group of child soldiers as they navigate the brutal realities of life in a conflict zone. Dongala’s vivid descriptions of the landscapes, people, and cultural practices of the region truly transport the reader to this tumultuous part of the world. From the bustling markets of Kinshasa to the dense jungles where the children hide from enemy forces, the book allows one to virtually travel to Congo and witness the country’s complex beauty and tragedy.

But what makes “Johnny Mad Dog” particularly impactful is its unflinching portrayal of the horrors of war and the devastating impact it has on individuals and communities. Through the eyes of the young protagonists, the reader sees the physical and emotional toll of violence, displacement, and loss. Yet amidst the darkness, there are also moments of resilience, compassion, and hope that highlight the strength and spirit of the Congolese people.

A Music Playlist to Virtually Travel to Congo

This playlist consists of songs that are deeply rooted in the music culture of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Listening to them allows you to take on a virtual travel to Congo by immersing you in the sounds, rhythms, and melodies that are characteristic of the country’s musical landscape.

Starting with “Masanga” by Jean Boso Mwenda, the song features the thumb-piano instrument known as the mbira, which is a traditional instrument of the Congo region. The mbira’s distinctive sound is heard throughout the song, accompanied by percussion and vocal harmonies. The overall effect is a hypnotic and trance-like quality that transports the listener to a different time and place.

“Mabeley a mama” by Wendo Kolosoy is a classic Congolese rumba song that dates back to the 1940s. The song’s upbeat rhythm and lively instrumentation, which includes a brass section and percussion, evoke images of bustling streets and lively social gatherings. It is a song that celebrates life and love, and listening to it makes one feel like they are part of the festive atmosphere.

Zaiko Langa Langa’s “Linya” is a song that showcases the innovative and experimental spirit of the Congolese music scene. The song’s unconventional structure and use of electronic instruments such as the synthesizer and drum machine create a futuristic sound that is both familiar and fresh. Listening to “Linya” is like taking a journey to a Congo that is constantly evolving and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in music.

“Independance Cha-Cha” by Grand Kalle Et L’African Jazz is a song that commemorates Congo’s independence from Belgium in 1960. The song’s celebratory lyrics and upbeat rhythm capture the sense of hope and optimism that characterized the time. Listening to “Independance Cha-Cha” is like being transported back in time to witness a historic moment in Congo’s history.

“Werrason’s “Block Cadenas” is a modern Congolese song that showcases the country’s vibrant contemporary music scene. The song’s fusion of traditional and modern elements, including Congolese rumba and hip-hop, creates a dynamic and energetic sound that reflects the diversity and creativity of modern-day Congo.

“Mobali Na Ngai Wana” by L’Afrisa International, Mbilia Bel is a love song that features the powerful vocals of Congolese singer Mbilia Bel. The song’s romantic lyrics and lush instrumentation, which includes horns and strings, create a mood of intimacy and passion. Listening to “Mobali Na Ngai Wana” is like experiencing the depth and beauty of Congolese romanticism.

“Monie” by Kanda Bongo Man is a classic Soukous song that features the upbeat rhythms and infectious melodies that are characteristic of the genre. The song’s catchy chorus and driving percussion create a sense of joy and optimism that is hard to resist. Listening to “Monie” is like being transported to a Congo that is full of life and energy.

“Paradiso” by Konono No. 1 is a song that showcases the unique sound of Congolese trance music. The song’s use of distorted amplifiers and homemade instruments creates a hypnotic and otherworldly sound that is both ancient and modern. Listening to “Paradiso” is like experiencing the mystical side of Congo’s music culture.

Lastly, “Hallo” by DRC Music is a song that is part of a collaborative project between British and Congolese musicians. The song’s fusion of electronic and traditional Congolese sounds creates a hybrid sound that reflects the cross-cultural exchange between the two countries. Listening to “Hallo” is like experiencing the cultural exchange and hybridization that characterizes Congo’s music scene today.

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