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Monday, November 26, 2012

Leopoldville 1902 – First Hospital for Congolese

The first hospital for African - Hopital de la Rive
The first hospital for Congolese opened in Leopoldville in 1902, built by Cdt. Mahieu along a strip of land downstream from the port between Mount Leopold and the rapids (See Mar. 5,2011). Considering the fact that the colonial settlement on Ngaliema Bay had been already been established for 20 years and the first hospital for Europeans was only created a decade earlier, it is important to understand that concern for the health of Congolese was closely linked to awareness that sick Africans could transmit their illnesses to the vulnerable European population.  This perceived (though erroneous) threat represented the justification for the creation of “neutral zones” between the two communities (See July 31, 2011). 
The two medical services continued to be closely linked, notwithstanding the segregation inherent in their respective operations, and played exemplary roles in delivering health care to the growing city.  Dr. Gustave Dryepondt established the hospital for Europeans in 1891, in a paillote near the river.  Six years later, the Association Congolaise et Africaine de la Croix Rouge (a charity founded by Leopold II in 1887), opened a hospital at the top of Mount Leopold on the Caravan Road. 
The Red Cross Hospital
This was followed in 1899 by a Laboratoire Médicale established by Dr. Van Campenhout. (replaced the following year by Alphonse Broden). This complex became the foundation for medical services in Leopoldville and the wider urban area until the 1930s.  The original laboratory was built on swampy ground near the Baptist Mission (SeeApr. 30, 2011) but was temporarily relocated to Boma while a new facility was being built adjacent to the hospital on the hill.
The Bacteriological Laboratory - now Commune de Ngaliema
Malaria among Europeans was an initial preoccupation, but sleeping sickness affecting Congolese necessitated particular attention as the spread of the disease affected the workforce.  When the Dutton-Todd expedition arrived in Leopoldville in November 1903 to study Trypanosomiasis (the scientific name for sleeping sickness) the doctors worked with Dr. Broden for seven months at the Hôpital des Noirs, as it was called, even sending several patients to Liverpool for treatment.  A contemporary observer noted that Leopoldville’s population had declined to only 100 African residents due to the disease.  Thousands of local Teke people were reported to have succumbed to the sickness.
Serious progress was made in expanding the hospital during 1906.  US Consul Smith visited Leopoldville from Boma in August 1907, reporting, “decently constructed buildings” on the river below town.  The patients were well-treated by a “skillful” physician interested in the work. In the same year, Dr. Jerome Rhodain joined Broden and took over the hospital and Lazaret.  A new Lazaret was built on the Kilimani plateau above the river and connected to the town’s water supply.
The Sleeping Sickness Lazaret
Interior of a lazaret
In 1907 as well, the Catholic order of the Soeurs Franciscains de Marie came to Leopoldville to work in the Red Cross hospital and Lazaret, and establish an orphanage. During 1911-13, a new Provincial doctor, René Mouchet, continued research into trypanosomiasis.  Queen Elisabeth provided funds to build a model Lazaret and establish a training school for African Medical Assistants.
Tuberculosis camp
As Kinshasa began to grow in importance and rival the original settlement at Leopoldville (Mar. 13, 2011), a Dispensary for Africans was established in Kinshasa in 1912 on the site of the current Hôpital Général de Réference (formerly Mama Yemo).  Three years later, the Soeurs Franciscaines were assigned to work at this hospital, as well.
Entrance to the Hopital des Noirs in Kinshasa
In 1920, Louise Pearce, an American researcher assigned by the Rockefeller Foundation arrived in Leopoldville to test tryparsamide as a treatment for sleeping sickness.  She observed that the 3-room ground floor of the Laboratory was nearly finished; the equipment was fairly good, though there was no electricity.  By 1922, the Laboratory was completed, although space was limited and plans were underway to move the facility to Kinshasa.  A new doctor at the hospital in Kinshasa allowed Dr. Van Hoof to devote full time to the Laboratory.  The following year, three new medical pavilions were opened next to the dispensary in Kinshasa.
New wings in the Hopital de Noirs -- 1920s
Another view of the Hopital des Noirs -- 1920s
The Kinshasa hospital was expanded in 1925 and modern radiology equipment was ordered.  By 1926, the hospital had 192 beds for men and 48 for women and children.  The following year, when a yellow fever epidemic threatened the city, the first cases of typhoid were also reported, suspected to have been transmitted by the opening of SABENA’s new air link to Elisabethville in Katanga. 
The dining hall
During King Albert and Queen Elisabeth’s visit to the city in July 1928, the Queen urged that a more commodious medical facility be constructed for the European population.  This led to a decision to construct a modern hospital in Kalina District, which became the Clinique Reine Elisabeth (August 5, 2011).  At this point as well, plans were finalized to move the Laboratory to Kinshasa while the original Congolese hospital by the river became a facility treating lepers.  The hospital in Kinshasa became the primary facility providing treatment to Congolese until the Kintambo hospital opened in 1958 (April 30, 2011). 
Queen Elisabeth visits the hospital -- 1928
Hopital de la Rive -- 2010
Commune de Ngaliema, formerly the Red Cross Hospital -- 2009
Commune de Ngaliema, former Bacteriological Laboratory -- 2006
Hopital General de Kinshasa, formerly Hopital des Noirs -- 2010
 
Sources:

·         Foreign Relations of the United States, 1907, Vol.II.

·         Janssens, Edouard, 1912. Les Belges au Congo, Vol III.

·         Moulaert, Georges, 1948.  Souvenirs d’Afrique.

·         www.wikinshasa.com

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Kinshasa 2012 – Plus ça change…


I had an opportunity to return to Kinshasa last week and see how things have evolved since I attended the TASOK Reunion in June 2011 (July 3, 2011).  There is a bit of “plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose” about Kinshasa, but there is definitely change.  I stayed at the Memling Hotel (Mar. 29, 2011).  The constant passage of shoe shiners clicking their boxes on the street below sounded like horse-drawn carts on cobbled streets, of which the latter can still be found in this part of Kinshasa (June 18, 2012).
Ave. Plateau, looking towards the Boulevard
First, an update on Boulevard du 30e Juin (Jan.23, 2011).  The eight-lane highway handles a huge volume of traffic as the primary east-west artery serving the downtown.  It can be congested at peak times in the day, but traffic moves smoothly for the most part.  The placement of brick-colored sidewalk tiles being laid last year is largely completed from Socimat intersection to the Gare Centrale, providing a boon to Kinshasa’s majority pedestrian population.  The square emplacements for trees placed at regular intervals along the sidewalk, however, remain empty and have become targets for tossing trash.  I hope the municipal authorities will take advantage of the upcoming rainy season to plant trees along the Boulevard to restore the stately lines of the Limba trees planted in the mid-1950s when the Boulevard was first constructed.
Boulevard du 30e Juin -- sidewalks


There are stop lights on the Boulevard.  High tech affairs which show direction permitted and time remaining before the light changes, as well as time for pedestrian crossing.  There appear to be two schools of thought on this development among Kinois.  One group, by no means minority, behaves as if these directions should be complied with.  A second faction, holdouts from a different era, still run lights or dash across the road against the light.  I heard numerous critical observations of such behavior by pedestrians as we stood waiting patiently for our light.  Even where there are no stoplights, drivers will stop for pedestrians as they venture across the zebra crossings.



Blvd. 30e Juin & Ave. Port

Does this blog have any influence in Kinshasa’s development or is it just a nostalgia buff’s preoccupation with Lipopo and Kin-la-belle?  In the series on hotels in March last year (Mar. 27, 2011), I looked at the second Hotel Stanley, which served as the French Embassy for 50 years until it relocated to UtexAfrica last year (July 3, 2011).  Since its construction in the late 1950s, the hotel presented an unadorned back-side to the Boulevard.  Now, an investor is completing an engaging 4-story “flat-iron” office building in the triangle converging on 30e Juin.
New construction on Blvd. 30e Juin & Ave. Plateau - former French Embassy in background
In March this year, I featured the dilapidated and featureless former office of the L.C. Gillespie company on Ave. Ebeya (Mar.14, 2012).  In the 1920s, Gillespie was the local representative of the Ford Motor Company.  Recently, AMC opened a Ford showroom there. Plus ca change…
The Ford dealership on Ave. Ebeya
Returning to the Boulevard, the building on the site of the former Albertum Cinema (and later Cinemax), which I found suspended last year, is now rising above the Boulevard in an engaging, semi-circular structure, said to be a hotel built by former President of the Federation des Entreprises Congolaises (the Chamber of Commerce), Kinduelo.  The structure presents a new face on the Boulevard while at the same time maintaining scale with its neighbors and the Hotel de Postes across the street.
Cinema Cinemax, ex-Albertum on the Boulevard
New building on Blvd. 30e Juin
Down the street from the Kinduelo project, in front of the Police office occupying the old Cercle de Kinshasa (Mar. 19, 2011), a sign promotes the “Hub d’Affaires du Leopoard Volant”.  Given the location, I declined to pull out my camera, but it appears to be the resurrection of the Claude Laurens’ Hotel Aviamar complex (Aug. 15, 2011).  The “Leopard Volant” refers to Lignes Aeriennes Congolaises (Air Congo) and the proposed project promises a 7-star hotel, 300 offices, 1500 parking spaces, an Olympic swimming pool, as well as residential and commercial space.  I was not able to find anything about the project on an initial search of the web, however.


Congolese music, Congo Jazz, is experiencing a return to its roots.  Contempoary musician Koffi Olomide recently organized a concert to recognize veteran musician Tabu Ley.  He now has a concert planned to interpret and commemorate the late Franco Luambo Makiadi’s music.




On this trip, I made a point of visiting the Botanical Garden a few blocks from downtown (Feb. 6, 2011).  Created in 1933, the park experienced a decline as a haven for street children and prostitutes until its rehabilitation in June 2010 as part of the 50th Independence Anniversary celebration.  I paid my Fr.2000 ex-pat entrance fee and entered an urban oasis of greenery and calm on the edges of Kinshasa’s frenetic urban scene.  The garden continues to be well-maintained and workers were watering and tending to the plants.  It also attracts impassioned believers who audibly and earnestly profess their faith among the shrubbery. I found the same phenomenon at the National Arboretum in Nairobi where I lived before moving back to Congo this year.
Botanical Garden -- rear entrance




Monday, June 18, 2012

Leopoldville 1913 - SYNKIN Begins Operations

As Kinshasa began to supplant Leopoldville as the economic center of the future capital, local authorities developed plans to relocate the port upstream to Kinshasa (See Mar. 13, 2011).  A new company, the Syndicat d’Etudes et d’Entreprises au Congo, known as Synkin, was established in February 1913 in hopes of securing the contract to construct the port.  The Ministry of Colonies decided not to go forward with the port project at that time, so Synkin opted to extend its reach into the construction industry; selling construction materials, equipment and tools of all kinds, establishing a sawmill and carpentry shop, operating a shipyard, and securing a forest concession at Lukolela some 200 kilometers up the Congo River to supply its operations in the city.
The SYNKIN store viewd from Ave. Cerckel (Ave. de la Paix)

Synkin established its offices at the corner of Ave. Beernaert (Equateur) and Cerckel (Paix) in a Romanesque arcaded building that wrapped around the street corner with a curious tower structure in the center. An early director was Joseph Rhodius, a former rail superintendent on the Matadi-Leopolville line, who joined the firm after building the Hotel A.B.C. in 1914 (See Mar. 27, 2011).  Under his direction Synkin built many houses in the town as well as the offices of the Intertropical-Comfina trading firm.  After World War I, Rhodius left Synkin to found the Texaf textile factory and build the Sanga hydro-power station that would later become part of today’s SNEL (Jan. 9, 2011). He was succeeded at Synkin by Leon Biron who played an important role in municipal affairs and directed the company’s activities for 25 years, before retiring as Director General in 1946. 
The SYNKIN store from Ave. Cerckel (R) and Beernaert (L)

In 1920 Synkin carried out a feasibility study to provide potable water to the town.  At this point, the ABC Hotel was sending a truck to Leopoldville every day to bring water in dame-jeanne jugs.  By 1923, the water plant was providing 800 cubic meters of treated water daily, drawn from the Congo River.

The water tower on Ave. VanGele (Lukusa) - House in foreground approximate location of Citibank today

In October 1923, a journalist for the Nation Belge, Roger de Chatelux – known by his nom de plume Chalux -- visited Kinshasa.  Taking into account the decision the previous year to name Kinshasa as the future capital (See Sep. 12, 2011), Chalux was impressed by the significant construction activity under way in Kinshasa and adjacent Kalina.  He found Synkin to be in the middle of it all.  When he got off the train from Matadi, he had to detour around an “army” of Congolese placing the mauve cobble stones which can still be found in parts of downtown.  Chalux noted that Synkin was involved in water supply, ship building, sale of construction materials, construction of most housing in Leopoldville and Kinshasa, and a range of public works projects.
SYNKIN store looking down Ave. Cerckel -- Note Texaco gas pump on corner
When Oscar Chinn first arrived in Kinshasa in 1930, he initially began his ship-building operation at the Synkin yard in Ndolo (See.Oct. 31, 2011).  Synkin was also the representative of Texaco, with a gas pump on the corner of Aves. Beernaert and Cerckel.
SYNKIN -- 1930s
After WWII, Otraco acquired the Synkin shipyard at Ndolo in order to expand its shipyard from 2.6 hectares to 10 ha and gain 350 meters of river frontage.  In the 1950s, Synkin rebuilt its store on Ave. Cerckel with a modern brick façade not often seen in commercial structures in Leopoldville.
The SYNKIN store prior to reconstruction
The SYNKIN store undergoing reconstruction
The completed SYNKIN store
The new store viewed from Ave. Cerckel
The old store from Ave. de la Paix
When foreign businesses were nationalized under Mobutu’s Zairianization program in 1973, Synkin became Zamat.  Its first Congolese Director General was Jean Bolikango (See Sep. 30, 2011), a contender for Prime Minister in 1960 and later Minister of Information.  Like many Zairianized businesses, when Mobutu offered the firms back to the original owners in 1976, there were no takers.  Most recently, the building housed a furniture store which did a slow business selling imported Italian furniture.
The SYNKIN store in 2004
Sources:
·         Chalux, 1925. Un an au Congo Belge. Librairie Albert Dewitt.
·         Lederer, 1965. Histoire de la Navigation au Congo, Musée Royale de l’Afrique Centrale.
·         Moulaert, Georges. 1948. Souvenirs d’Afrique 1902-1912. Eds. C. Dessart.
 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Leopoldville 1934 – The Salvation Army Marches In

In September 1934, Adjutant Henri Becquet of the Belgian Salvation Army and his wife Paula arrived in Leopoldville to establish the missionary work of this Protestant church in the capital.  The Salvation Army traditionally had a vocation to work in urban areas, but the arrival of a Belgian Protestant mission would have heartened the other Protestants in Leopoldville, the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS) and the British Baptist Mission Society (BMS), which had been working here since the founding of Leopoldville at the beginning of the 1880s (See Jan. 6, 2011).


Becquet had earlier visited Leopoldville in March and negotiated with Texaf for a building on Ave. Telegraphie (now Commercants) near the current Marché in the Cité in Kinshasa to use for church services.  The Becquets moved into the former L.C. Gillespie headquarters on Ave. Cambier, which had gone out of business at the start of the Depression (See Mar. 13, 2012).  While Becquet was thorough in his preparations, there was no shortage of buildings available in Kinshasa at the time; there were 333 vacant structures in Leopoldville-Est alone.  The Salvation Army’s arrival in the Cité coincided with both Catholic Scheut and BMS missions establishing churches in the Cité to serve the growing African urban population (See Aug. 5, 2011).
The L.C. Gillespie store on Ave. Cambier - "Mogul" was the firm's telegraphic address

The first open air service was held at the Zando ya Imbwa market near Ndolo on October 14.  The impact of these missionaries in their white uniforms was electrifying.  The response from the Congolese was so enthusiastic and overwhelming that by Christmas Becquet had to suspend further proselytizing in the African neighborhoods out of concern that the burgeoning church would upset the colonial status quo.  There was another factor to explain the growing number of adherents and worry the colonial authorities.  The Salvationist “S” on the collar of their uniforms was interpreted to herald the return of Simon Kimbangu, a former BMS catechist who established an indigenous Congolese church in 1921 and was subsequently arrested and transferred to life imprisonment in Elisabethville in Katanga Province.

On the anniversary of the first service in October 1935, 2000 Congolese attended.  The Colonial authorities urged the Becquets to move their work outside the city. Instead, the Salvationists opened a second church in Binza, built entirely by the Congolese themselves, on the heights above old Leopoldville.  By 1936, there were 9 European missionaries in Leopoldville and the church began to expand into the eastern villages of the city along the rail line to Matadi: Kimbanseke, Kimwenza, Maluku, Yolo and Kasangulu.  A military school to train cadets was established in Barumbu in September 1938. 
The original church on Ave. Telegraphie -- 2010
The rear of the church -- 2010


In May 1937, Becquet was assisted at a “matondo” thanksgiving service in Yolo by Simon Mpadi, a former ABFMS catechist sacked by that mission at Sona Bata for adultery. But in September 1939, Mpadi broke with Becquet and set out to establish his own church.  Subsequently, Governor General Ryckmans received a petition signed by Chiefs in 151 villages in Madimba and Inkisi Territories outside of Leopoldville to establish a “Mission des Noirs” along the lines of the Salvation Army.  As precedent, the letter cited the “Mission Musulmane” serving the Senegalese community in Leopoldville.  Mpadi was arrested in December and exiled to a Belgian concentration camp at Befale in Equator Province.  But the Salvation Army had suffered a setback.  When the mission applied to join the Congo Protestant Council in October 1939, its acceptance was predicated on adherence to CPC principles, to only work in urban areas and break with Kimbangu, Ngounzists and kindokism (the latter two were other Congolese millenarian sects).  The mission focused its work on education, including vocational training, with over 1000 students enrolled in its schools in Leopoldville on the eve of World War II.
Salvation Army students parade around Monument Albert 1er -- 1944
A church was built on Ave. Telegraphie and the headquarters of the Church moved from the Gillespie property down Ave. Cambier to the corner of Ave. Plateau, a block from the Hotel Memling (See Mar. 29, 2011).  During the riots in January 1959, the church’s facilities in the Cité were damaged but rebuilt in the following year with grants from the Salvation Army’s International Headquarters and the Belgian authorities. New schools were built at Ndjili Brasserie, Kimbanseke & Kinzambi.

The Salvation Army Headquarters on Ave. Ebeya -- 2006
In May 2002, President Kabila named David Nku Imbie as Governor of Kinshasa.  A Teke Humbu born in Makala Commune in 1952, Nku Imbie was a medical doctor heading up the Salvation Army’s medical services in DRC and the first Governor of Kinshasa chosen from among the original settlers of the town.  In September 2003, plans were announced to build a new $40,000 health center in Barumbu Commune, to be managed by the Salvation Army.

Sources:
·         Etambala, Mathieu Zana, 2005. “L’Armee du Salut et la Naissance de la ‘Mission des Noirs” au Congo Belge, 1934-1940” Anales Aequatoria 26.
·         www.wikinshasa.com

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Leopoldville 1920s – Yankee Traders on the Congo

When I lived in Kinshasa in the mid-2000s, this building at the corner of Ave. Ebeya (Cambier) and Equateur (Beernaert) was intriguing.  It was clearly a colonial structure of some significance, but now without signage, its street level fenestration and main entrance plastered over, and with agents and vehicles from the security company DSA parked outside, there was no clue what it might once have been.
The building is across Ave. Equateur from the former covered market (now African Lux).  It predated the market, built in 1925, as described in the post on architects (See Aug. 5, 2011).  A view looking east on Ave. Cambier from the early 20’s provides a view of the building beyond the Office du Travail, which later became City Hall.
L.C. Gillespie & Sons beyond the Office du Travail 
A recent photo cleared up the mystery.  It was the original headquarters of L.C. Gillespie & Sons, a New Jersey based dealer in tropical resins used in the manufacture of varnish and shellac.  Gillespie was already established in Asia -- China, India, Java and New Zealand in particular -- since the 19th Century, but after World War One the company took an interest in the Congo.   It was good timing.  The War in Europe had created new opportunities for American exports to Africa, displacing Germany and other colonial powers to take second place position after Great Britain.   
L.C. Gillespie & Sons, Ave. Cambier (R) and Beernaert (L)

US consular officials saw an opportunity for the establishment of American companies in each port along the coast to carry out bilateral trade; selling American made goods and shipping colonial produce back to the States.  However, there was no direct shipping line from the US to West African ports.  In February 1918, the Gillespie firm chartered the 4-masted schooner “Purnell T. White” on its maiden voyage to Boma, assigning its agent to purchase 5000 pounds of ivory.  The “Purnell T. White” returned in July with a cargo of copal, a gum found in the rainforests of Equateur region and used to produce varnish.  Gillespie subsequently established a trading center for copal at Inganda near Coquilhatville (Mbandaka) while opening shop in Kinshasa as the representative of the Ford Motor Company in Congo.  Later, L.C. Gillespie became the agents in Kinshasa for the Bull Line, a US shipping company that began service from New York to West Africa via the UK in 1920 and carried regular cargos of Gillespie copal back to the US.

As one of the few “Yankee” firms operating in Congo in the 1920s prior to the establishment of the U.S. Consulate in 1929 (See Feb. 3, 2012), Gillespie & Sons were often called upon to serve as defacto commercial representative of U.S. interests.  For example, the Harvard African Expedition to Congo in 1926 acknowledged the “many courtesies and great assistance in Kinshasa” provided by Gillespie’s Director Robert N. Kennedy.  Similarly, the firm could be expected to support the American community in Congo.  When the Congo Protestant Council, whose membership included many American missions, held its Jubilee in Leopoldville in 1928, Gillespie provided vehicles to assist with logistics.  Another early employee was Paul Kirst, who joined the company in Kinshasa in 1922 and remained in the automotive business in Leopoldville after the parent company went bankrupt on the eve of the Depression (See Mar. 5, 2011).  The Congo operation continued for a few years as Ets. Congolais Gillespie.  Kirst left the firm in 1930 to become the local representative of Texaco.


L.C. Gillespie & Sons at the parade during King Albert's visit in1928 (Model T Ford and 2 Fordson tractors)
Sources:
·      Anet, Henri. 1929. Message of the Congo Jubilee and West Africa Conference, Conseil Protestant du Congo.
·      Boyce, William Dickson. 1925. Illustrated Africa, Rand McNally & Co.
·      Burgess, Robert H. 1970. Sea, sails, and shipwreck: career of the four-masted schooner Purnell T. White, Cambridge, MD: Tidewater Publishers.
·      “The Commercial Outlook in West Africa”, 1921, The American Review of Reviews, pp.102-103.
·      Harvard African Expedition, 1969. The African Republic of Liberia and the Belgian Congo: based on the observations made and material collected during the Harvard African Expedition, 1926-1927, Greenwood Press.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Léopoldville 1924 – Monument des Aviateurs


On July 1st, 1924, the entire European community of Kinshasa and Léopoldville turned out at the end of Ave. Militaire (See Mar. 12, 2011) near the port to inaugurate a monument commemorating three aviators killed three years’ previously when their flying boat crashed.  Beginning in April 1920, Belgian pilots and support crews had been trying to establish the Ligne Aérienne Roi Albert (LARA) to link Kinshasa and Stanleyville and provide a fortnightly service to connect with regular arrivals of ships from Belgium at the port of Boma. 
A Levy-Lepen flying boat on the river side
Monument des Aviateurs
 The Levy-Lepen flying boats used were of marginal quality; turned out in great numbers during WWI for use by inexperienced pilots. The challenges of operating an airline in tropical Africa, including re-attaching the fabric of the fuselage after each flight, were daunting.  The line folded in June 1922 for lack of funds to purchase equipment that would be adequate to the conditions, but this experience would eventually lead in 1923 to the creation of Sabena, the Belgian Airline.  Part of Sabena’s capital was provided by the colony and the first flight connecting Léopoldville to Belgium took place in 1925.  It appears likely that Ave. Militaire became known as Ave. des Aviateurs after the inauguration of the aviators’ monument.














Monument des Aviateurs viewed from Ave. Astrid (Lumpungu)
The monument, a stone obelisk topped with a bronze statue of a stylized flyer, was the work of Belgian sculptor, Arsène Matton.  Matton had significant experience in Congo, having made a trip to the colony in 1911 at the behest of the Colonial Ministy to collect samples of “representative” ethnic types for a set of 4 allegorical statues commissioned for the main rotunda of the new Colonial museum in Tervuren.  He set up an atelier in Kinshasa and in September was taking photos and making plaster castings of the family of one of the Congolese port supervisors.  Afterwards, the man’s wife refused to return, as (she said) she did not want to be placed on a pedestal like the Stanley Monument in old Léopoldville (See Feb. 20, 2011).   At that time, the main port was still where the Chanic shipyards are located today and the structure in question was the first monument erected in Léopoldville, created in 1898 in cement by a Swedish Captain in the Force Publique, von Ingesberg, to commemorate the arrival of the railway from Matadi.
Monument de Liberte with Leopold II bust at the base
Two other monuments, both bronze busts, were placed in prominent locations in Kinshasa at the beginning of the 1920s.  These were the work of royal favorite Thomas de Vincotte.  A bust of Léopold II by Vincotte was placed on Place Léopold II (See Feb. 3, 2012).  Another to King Albert 1er was inaugurated at the beginning of the 1920s on the Place de la Poste.  It appears to predate the Monument des Aviateurs as period photographs do not show the latter in the background of the Albert statue.  Vincotte’s bust presents Albert in his role as defender of Belgium against the German invasion in 1914, wearing his helmet and an expression of determined calm before the onslaught.  This same bust appeared on pedestals in Matadi and Jadotville (Likasi) in Katanga.  It appears that the Albert bust was relocated after the main monument was erected in front of the Gare Centrale in 1939 (See Aug. 28, 2011) but the Léopold II bust remained on Place Léopold until the colonial statues were taken down in 1971.  The Léopold II bronze is in storage at the National Museum in Kinshasa.


Leopold II statue on Place Leopold
Bust of Leopold II at the National Museum in Kinshasa
Inauguration of the Albert 1er statue on Ave. Militaire (Aviateurs)
Albert 1er statue -- Monument des Aviateurs was later erected at the end of the street
Vincotte also obtained a commission for the Monument to the Pioneers of the Belgian Congo in Brussels in 1921 and later an equestrian statue of Léopold II; inaugurated in Brussels in 1926 and in Léopoldville by King Albert in 1928 (See Sep. 12, 2011).  After Léopold’s statue was removed in 1971 and consigned to the public works garage in Kingabwa, the site in front of the first Parliament remained vacant until 2001 when the late President Kabila’s mausoleum was placed there and a statue erected on the first anniversary of his assassination in January 2002.
Leopold II statue at inauguration
L.D. Kabila monument and mausoleum in front of the President's Offices
Paul Panda Farnana

Another monument, “Monument du Souvenir”, was inaugurated in July 1927 at the intersection of Avenues Lippens and Valcke in Kalina.  This war memorial was the result of the effort by Mfumu Paul Panda Farnana, considered to be the first Congolese nationalist.  Panda Farnana was born the son of a chief near Moanda on the coast in 1888.  At 12, he was taken to Belgium by Lieutenant Derscheid, one of the first Belgian explorers of Katanga.  He enrolled in the Athenée de Bruxelles, excelled and eventually received a post-secondary degree in agronomy.  He returned to Congo in 1909 and was assigned to the Botanical Gardens at Eala at Coquilhatville (Mbandaka).  Later, he was named Chef de District ad interim of his home region of Bas-Fleuve.  On leave in Belgium in August 1914, Panda volunteered in the Belgian Army for the defense of Namur. Captured by the Germans, he spent the remaining four years of the war as a prisoner.


After the war, Panda became involved in the Panafrican movement in Europe, a collaborator of W.E.B. Dubois and others.  In January 1923, he wrote to Maj. Vervloet, an influential ex-colonial, advocating for a monument to the unknown Congolese soldier, to be dedicated either on Armistice Day or September 19, the date in 1916 of the Belgian Congo victory over the Germans at Tabora in contemporary Tanzania.  Panda’s efforts paid off and sculptor Jacques Marin was commissioned for the memorial (See July 5, 2011). General Charles Tombeur, ennobled the previous December and allowed to add “de Tabora” to his name, inaugurated the monument.  One of Marin’s last commissions was a bust of General Tombeur, erected in Brussels in 1951 after his death in 1950 (Tombeur died in 1947).

Monument du Souvenir
Monument du Souvenir -- note steam roller on Ave. Lippens (R)
Monument du Souvenir at the National Museum
La Pleureuse

The statue became the site of regular visits by senior Belgian and other officials, including King Baudouin in 1955, who came to pay homage to the heroes of Belgian colonial military effort in two world wars.  In 1971, the statue was removed and later replaced with a moving bronze statue of a weeping Congolese woman, “La Pleureuse”, by Wuma Mbambila Ndombasi. Wuma studied at the Academie des Beaux Arts.
























"La Pleureuse" in front of the Supreme Court
Sources:
  •       Dillien, André. 2010. “LARA:ligne aérienne Roi Albert”, VTB-Magazine, Juillet-Septembre 2010.
  •       Mudimbe, V.Y. 1980. La Dépendance de l'Afrique et les moyens d'y remédier: Africa's dependence and the remedies, Agence de coopération culturelle et technique.
  •       Musée de Louvain-la-Neuve, 2008. Miettes d’archives, Octobre 2008. (muse.ucl.ac.be/medias/docs)