Arts and Literature in Democratic Republic of the Congo

By | April 19, 2021

Art and music

Congolese art includes two basic directions: works of art of the spiritual and religious everyday life and works of art for the representation of one’s own culture, whereby the latter were created only after the contact with the European culture.

A mosaic of traditional and contemporary art developed through many ethnic groups and the geographically very different regions. In some rural regions, traditional raffia weaving and ceremonial clothing still determine the art scene, in others the clay work, sculptures, carvings and the closely related masks, which are still of great importance in the widespread initiation rites.

Modern art, coupled with electronic art, is entering the market, especially in cities. Today, Congolese artists offer a wide range of sculptures and paintings, which help the interested Congolese citizen and the visitor to understand the traditional and modern life concept and philosophy.

Many of them address everyday life in the country and in the city in their works and create a picture of the present or future of their country. They take up and comment on political events at an enormous speed. Their realistic style, which often deals with mythology, exploitation, promiscuity, AIDS, traumatic experiences such as rape by rebel groups or the former dictator Mobutu, is common to almost all images. Most of the works depict a social criticism with wit and self-irony, which is packed in colorful pictures. Here the works are often reminiscent of comics, because many artists, some of whom come from the advertising industry, use digitization and the opportunities it has created to

In the DR Congo, the importance of the artist, especially that of the painter, has always been considerable. Like well-known musicians and athletes, they are among the country’s celebrities.

The arts center of Africa is a lively art scene. A separate art academy was set up in Kinshasa, which is now at an international level. Recognized and famous artists from all over the country teach art and painting to students there.

There are also numerous galleries in the Congo. Private studios present various exhibitions. Names like Claudy Khan, Henri Klama Akulez and Lema Kusa are known to art connoisseurs in Europe too. These artists have already made a name for themselves internationally.

In 2019 a new national museum – the ” Musée National de la République Démocratique du Congo (MNRDC)” – was opened in Kinshasa, which the Republic of Korea financed with US $ 21 million. It presents art and cultural assets from different parts of the DR Congo.

Small note: In 2018, the Royal Museum for Central Africa, AFRIKAmuseum for short, was reopened in Tervuren / Belgium after a renovation, which is intended to offer the visitor a decolonized, contemporary image of Africa. However, the conflict between the former colonial power Belgium and the DR Congo regarding the cultural assets acquired during the colonial period continues after the extensive redesign of the museum and is a thorn in their relationship.

Arts and Literature in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Congolese music

As a major country in African continent according to thedressexplorer, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is inconceivable without Congolese music. It is the elixir of life for people. The modern Congolese dance music, regardless of all times of war and crisis, has enjoyed considerable success in Africa and worldwide.

Kinshasa is also considered to be the creative center of modern African music. After the end of the Makossa era around twenty years ago, the Soukous style became firmly established. Under terms such as Kwassa Kwassa, N’dombolo etc. this dance music achieved a high level of popularity and conquered with artists such as Tabu Ley Rocherau, Zaiko Langa-Langa, Tschala Muana, Koffi Olomide or Wenge BCBG / JP M’Piana discos of Central and East Africa.

Also noteworthy is the Congolese jazz and the Congolese rap and hip-hop, which are influenced by American styles. There is also great success in the African diaspora. So the artists mentioned above carried their music all over the world with full confidence. They can be admired in concerts in major European cities, especially in Paris and Brussels and occasionally in Germany.

Not to be overlooked is Kinshasa Symphony, a wonderful film in which Beethoven meets Kinshasa.


The Congolese literature is determined by the processing of the colonial times and the recent and current socio-political situation. Tradition and modernity collide in short stories and novels. In recent years there have been works by writers such as Justine M’POYO KASSA-VUBU, Clémentine FAIK-NZUJI or Maguy KABAMBA as well as by M’Poyo KASSA KUBU, Kama KAMMANDA, Ikole BATUBI-BALUMBA, Timoté BASEM MELEMBE and Paul Désiré Joseph BASEMBE known.

French is the dominant literary language in the DR Congo. There are only a few translations by Congolese authors into German.

Here are some examples:

Fiston Mwanza Mujila – The river in

your stomach Alain Mabanckau – Porcupine memoirs

Emmanuel Dongala – Group photo on the edge of the river

Valentin Mudimbe – We are dirty rivers too

The Goethe Institute regularly publishes a compilation of German, Congolese and other African literature.