The Democratic Republic of the Congo (French: République démocratique du Congo), sometimes referred to as DR Congo, Congo-Kinshasa or the DRC, is a country located in Central Africa. It is the largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world. With a population of over 75 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the nineteenth most populous nation in the world, the fourth most populous nation in Africa, as well as the most populous officially Francophone country.
It borders the Central African Republic and South Sudan to the north; Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi in the east; Zambia and Angola to the south; the Republic of the Congo, the Angolan exclave of Cabinda, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west; and is separated from Tanzania by Lake Tanganyika in the east. The country has access to the ocean through a 40-kilometre (25 mi) stretch of Atlantic coastline at Muanda and the roughly 9 km wide mouth of the Congo River which opens into the Gulf of Guinea. It has the second-highest total Christian population in Africa.
The Second Congo War, beginning in 1998, devastated the country and is sometimes referred to as the “African world war” because it involved nine African nations and twenty armed groups. Despite the signing of peace accords in 2003, fighting continued in the east of the country in 2007. There, the prevalence of rape and other sexual violence has been described as the worst in the world. The war is the world’s deadliest conflict since the Chinese Civil War, killing 5.4 million people since 1998. More than 90% were not killed in combat, dying instead from malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition, aggravated by displaced populations living in unsanitary and over-crowded conditions that lacked access to shelter, water, food and medicine. Forty seven percent of those deaths were children under five. Until today the ongoing conflicts exacerbate the exhaustion of the country’s great agricultural potential. Conflict for control of the mineral wealth is behind some of the most violent atrocities.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo was formerly known as, in chronological order, Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Republic of the Congo, and Zaïre. Although located in the Central African UN subregion, the nation is also economically and regionally affiliated with Southern Africa as a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The culture of the Democratic Republic of Congo is extremely diverse, reflecting the great diversity and different customs which exist in the country. Congolese culture has combines the influence of traditional to the region, but also has combined influences from abroad which arrived during the era of colonization and have continued to have a strong influence, without destroying the individuality of many tribes’ customs.
The Congolese are known for their art. Traditional art includes masks, wooden statues, art of the Kuba Kingdom, textiles and woven arts. Notable contemporary artists are Chéri Samba or Bodys Isek Kingelez. The best known artists successful inside and outside the country are Lema Kusa (painting), Alfred Liyolo (sculpture), Roger Botembe (painting), Nshole (painting), Henri Kalama Akulez (painting), Mavinga (painting), Freddy Tsimba (sculpture), Claudy Khan (painting). Some are teaching at the Académie de Beaux-Arts de Kinshasa, which is the only arts academy of a university level in Central Africa.
The variety of art styles and the abundance of its production make Congo a center of exceptional artistic riches and one of the most remarkable in Black Africa in terms of traditional arts. The influence of Congolese sculpture on modern art and the cubism movement has been well documented. Pottery, basketry, textiles like raffia and wood carving are also part of main handicrafts of Congo. There are at least fifty different styles of sculpture, related to the tribes. They bear the name of the tribe where they were developed and where they were kept. The main ones are Kongo, Teke, Holo, Suku, Pende, Mbala, Ngbandi, Ngbaka, Azande, Mangbetu, Mongo, Mbole, Lengola, Kuba, Luba, Songye, Lega, Bembe, Hemba, Tshokwe. There are many other tribes that produce unique works of equal value. Wood is the most used material, then come ivory, bone, plant fiber, metal: stone. The cowry shells, beads, feathers, animal skins, kaolin and vegetable colors complement and decorate numerous works. It is important to note that traditional art is essentially functional. Many objects that reflect aesthetic is purely utilitarian. Modern art is also finding its mark in Congo, with self-taught and graduates of Fine Art Schools. Painting is another area where Congolese artists excel in, with renowned painters like Chéri Samba, Maludi Solo, Mongita Lokele and many others.
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