One day, as I was in the street outside a military hospital with a Congolese coworker, we saw many bikers drive by with music and yelling. I got scared and asked him what was going on:
– They are celebrating someone’s death.
– Wow! It’s so festive! I reacted.
– Yes, we have to lionize the dead all night long and most of all respect their last requests! Upon dying, a person will provide his or her instructions for his death party. For example, my mother has already chosen her casket, the music and the guests! It’s going to cost me so much!
– It’s like a wedding!
– Sometimes we even fear someone’s death because we know it’ll be expensive!
– It’s funny because in France, for us, we can long for someone’s death because we can potentially inherit from them.
I checked up on this with another Congolese colleague. He confirmed that when his mother died they had cherished the dead all night, with friends and family, with music, beer or a soda and food to share.
In the end, whether Congolese or French, death is sad because we lose someone. But in Congo it’s also a source of financial stress, as opposed to France, where the dead have often already planned and paid for their funeral when they were still alive. The Congolese have to pay, sometimes run into debts. Despite this financial strain added to the stress of losing a loved one, they bury them in a festive way. Where I come from, it’s frowned upon if you smile or laugh at a funeral.
Place Goma, Congo
Date Juillet 2017
On her second humanitarian mission, Valérie (French, 30+ years old) discovers Congo-Kinshasa. She first loves the weather there. Then she’s touched by the locals’ ingenuity in hauling kilos worth of merchandise on scooters (called the chukudu) while wearing flip flops. During her stay there, she gets a glimpse of the many differences that undermine the people: social pressure, difficult access to hygiene, educational needs, and the taboos on sexuality and fidelity.