Democratic Republic of Congo

A Call to Respect Congolese Culture, as Some in DRC Turn Toward Outside Fads

A monthly column featuring stories on the nuances and realities of life in Kirumba, Democratic Republic of Congo.

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KIRUMBA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO — My grandmother used to say that all Congolese women should know how to cook delicious food.

I was fortunate enough to grow up with my grandparents, and I have vivid memories of beans, sweet potatoes, taro, squash and cassava that she would cook using just one pan.

The best thing about my grandmother’s cooking – and the way she taught me to cook – was its simplicity and the way that it maintained the vitamins and nutrients in our local bounty. She never added artificial flavors, and I followed that tradition.

Today, Congolese people in my community seem to take great pride in copying Western cultures, forgetting the delicacies of their own culture.

It’s not uncommon these days for vegetables to be doused in oil and covered with manufactured ingredients. When I see my compatriots jettison our ways of life to emulate foreign habits and tastes, it hurts my heart.

We see it in other ways, too. Women and girls here have a new and unquenchable desire to bleach their skin. I find it odd to see women want to cleanse away their dark skin by using imported bleaching creams known to eat away at their skin.

Why, I wonder, do people think foreign cultures are better than their own?

As a journalist, I’ve come to the conclusion that the media are to blame for this. Mainstream news coverage of DRC rarely gives value to our culture, honors the brilliant minds of our ancestors or talks of a positive future. We have to look to Western culture to find those stories in the media.

I am one of the few female journalists in this region who work for international news publications, so I will recommit to using my work to remind my neighbors and the rest of the world that our culture is a good one and that our future is a bright one.

Ndahayo Sylvestre, GPJ, translated the column from French.