|Book Reveiw 7-11
Sunday, June 22, 2008
By Denise Turney
History and cultural buffs will love this book. It’s replete with maps, pictures and the retelling of actual events rooted in the central-western part of sub-Saharan Africa that are as rich as the land itself. Congo gives honor to the fact that Africa is reported to be home to all of humanity, the cradle of nations.
The area’s tribal influence is explained with clarity and understanding, absent opinion or judgment.
The peoples written about in the book are creative and ingenious. They discover healing plants, mixtures, ways to extend their lives and deepen their culture that years of study and technology do not. Community is strong, like a bulwark, in the tribe the book focuses on. Much of Congo is told through the eyes and experiences of Kianza Luwano, chief of the Sonde tribe. The author meets the tribal chief while working in the Congo from 1953 to 1961 as part of the Belgian government. One of the book’s strengths is that it is written in first-person.
During the retelling of some scenes, readers may feel as if they are actually at the locations. Connections between human, plant and animal life are remarkable. Near all of the Sonde tribe’s traditions are a blend of the three.
Traditional ways of resolving disputes and selecting new tribal chiefs may surprise some while at the same time they educate. For years the traditions have been in place and have been used to maintain the community. Congo takes readers on a trek through various events that happen upon the Sonde tribe from rites of passage, male and female customs, to the building of a roadway to the magnificence of wild lions that venture down to the river at night for a drink, feet away from the local huts.
Filled with Kianza Luwano’s autobiographical accounts of his father being caught and taken into slavery by another tribe to gaining his freedom, Congo is enlightening. The writing flows from the first page. Readers with entrenched yet unproven opinions about Africa will gain one treasured lesson after another while they read this book. Only modern-life (men and women from the tribe going off to the city to go to school then return home) and colonialism threaten the long lasting tribal traditions and begin to tear at the fabric of the community itself.
From tom-tom drums which help the tribe to celebrate community events, tradition and ancestors, to diet to male and female relationship practices, Congo reveals gold factual nuggets from start to finish.
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