I was conceived in the Belgian Congo. It was my home for the first nine years of my life. From a child’s viewpoint it was full of butterfly clouds, electric storms, skies full of starlight, strangled rain forest jungles and a great brown-river full of crocodiles. But my reality was never actuality.
The size of Europe, the Congo was well-coined ‘The Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad. Its vast mineral and agricultural wealth it has been plundered and exploited by many, from King Leopold II of Belgium personally, as well as slave-traders, multi-national corporations, missionaries and powerful internal and foreign governments. Since 1880 it is estimated that in excess of 20 million people have lost their lives simply because they were Congolese. So many violent deaths have occurred due to corruption, prejudice, repression, looting and rape, all of which have become endemic in its political maelstrom.
The Society of Ambience-Makers and Elegant People
Yet a spark of hope now shines once a week on the streets of Kinshasa. Groups of Congolese, calling themselves Les Sapeurs, don designer clothes to parade and strut the poverty stricken streets in all their fancy finery, ignoring their harrowing past and legacy. Perhaps their reality is an actuality and, even if it only lasts for a day, just maybe butterflies can triumph over crocodiles.