Thursday, December 4, 2014

Leopoldville 1930 – Belgian Centenary Observed

I came across this photo today and was intrigued to learn more about the Grémio Portugalia so soon after my recent post on the subject (See Nov. 1, 2014).  The setting is similar to an image I found a few months ago that appears to be a fair celebrating the Centennial of Belgium’s Independence in July 1930.
The Grémio Portugalia booth at the fair
Local authorities organized a “Kermesse”, or festival, on the sports grounds in front of Ste. Anne church where the U.S. and Portuguese Embassies face Ave. des Aviateurs today (See Feb. 6, 2011). In addition to the Grémio, “Chez Thomas Cocktail Bar” catered the beer garden while SEDEC Motors (See Jan. 9, 2011) displayed the latest Chevrolet cars.  A tree was planted at Place Braconnier (originally Place de la Gare) to commemorate the event (See Jan. 23, 2011).
The "Chez Thomas" booth.  Note Ste. Anne steeple in background (photo attributed to Zagourski)
The official transfer of the colonial capital from Boma to Kinshasa had been completed in April with the arrival of Governor Tilkens’ Secretariat staff.  1930 was also the 45th anniversary of the founding of the Congo Free State in 1885, and a commemorative “Te Deum” service was held at Ste. Anne’s in June.  At the local government level, District Commissioner De Bock was preparing plans to relocate and segregate the African townships (See July 31, 2011) some 3 kilometers south of the burgeoning commercial center that Kinshasa (Gombe) had become (See Mar. 13, 2011).
Place Braconnier in the mid-1950s looking towards the Cité in the distance
Congolese were not invited to join the festivities in Kinshasa, but were expected to be patriotic about being Belgian subjects.  Separate sports events to this effect were organized in the African quarter.  The following year, Father de la Kethulle (Tata Raphael) and students from St. Joseph school began to drain the marsh in the new African township to create a football pitch for African players. This site, adjacent St. Pierre Parish (built in 1932), was later to become Kinshasa’s first stadium, Stade Reine Astrid (now Stade Cardinal Malula) in 1937 (See. Feb. 12, 2012).
Sports events for Congolese at the Belgian Centennial in Leopoldville - July 21, 1930