Congoriver. 4700 Kilometres Bursting with Nature and Culture

In connection with the International Year of Biodiversity, the Museum organized in 2010 an interactive exhibition featuring the great Congo River (27 April 2010 - 9 January 2011).
Congo River is now part of the permanent exhibition.

The Congo River appeals to the imagination. It is a river of superlatives, 4,700 km long and in some places more than 30 km wide. The Congo River is the real artery of Central Africa and is home to remarkable cultural, biological and geographical diversity.

This exhibition is a captivating journey along the river, from its source to its mouth, passing through the equatorial forest. You come across not just fishing hooks and nets, paddles and pirigues, bonobos and crocodiles, but also old maps, archeological discoveries and paintings of the mysterious Mami Wata, the seductive water nymph. Along the way you will see short films, hear stories and be confronted with audiovisual installations: including the sounds of a busy port, a babbling river and the impressive Inga Falls!

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© Charlotte Benedetti and RMCA


Themes of the exhibition
The exhibition is laid out as a journey down the river, from its source to its mouth. We make around ten different stops along the way.

The large pirogue, 22 metres long and weighing in at no less than 3,500 kg is one of the most entrancing exhibits in the museum. It is currently located close to the entrance.

The sources of the river
The first part of the exhibition is built around a large interactive model which provides visitors with an impressive overview of the river whilst allowing them to discover the present day drainage basin and its geological history.

The people and the river, a history that goes way back
Exhibits in this part of the exhibition illustrate the strong links between the people and the river, first forged many centuries ago. Ceremonial relics highlight the spiritual relationship between the people and the river: a mask, statues and quivers from the Luba, and most impressive of all a succession of lavishly decorated ceremonial paddles.

The humid tropical rain forest, world heritage
In the equatorial zone the river and forest make up a series of ecosystems bearing witness to enormous riches. Spiders, bonobos, Congolese peacocks, butterflies, snails, crocodiles and catfish, ... there’s certainly no shortage of biodiversity.

The river as a motorway
The river is a vitally important transport hub, not just for the DR Congo, but for the whole of Central Africa, a thoroughfare which has been transporting people, goods and ideas from place to place for centuries. The pirogue is at the centre of all this: various kinds of timber, production methods, designations, navigation techniques, songs and stories – this indispensible exhibit is scrutinized in every which way imaginable.

Fish and fishing
There are hundreds of different varieties of fish in the river and they in turn provide nourishment to millions of people. There are all kinds of strange fish to be discovered such as the ones that build their nests in the mud or the terrifying tiger fish with its razor-sharp teeth.

Kinshasa-Brazzaville, twin towns
Brazzaville and Kinshasa are situated on opposite banks of the Congo River. Nowhere else in the world can two capital cities be found so close together. The portraits, of Stanley and Brazza, the founders of the colonial cities, and of Sony Labou Tansi and Lomami Tshibamba, two writers who tell tales of river life each from opposing sides of the Congo River, are painted here.

The Inga Falls
Visitors pass through a deafening torrent of noise: the Inga Falls. Downstream from Kinshasa, these rapids form an impressive natural barrier, where the river suddenly plunges several hundred metres down.

The estuary
The river’s estuary is an extraordinary location, where the water from the river hurls itself into the ocean with its roaring force and can still be spotted up to approximately 800 kilometres from the coast. It also comprises an astonishing ecosystem, the mangrove and countless remarkable species of animal.

Saying goodbye to the river
It is time for Mami Wata the alluring nymph with her ambivalent features, found in numerous cultures, to bid the visitors goodbye. They are invited to leave a farewell message for the river. 

For all the family

The exhibition Congo River has been put together with young visitors in mind: the whole family is given the chance to take part in the fun interactive activities which form the basis of the children’s trail and ensure that the content of the exhibition is within everyone’s grasp. An interactive model, stories, drawings, games requiring agility or building skills… there is something for everyone! For example in the game ‘River Race’ the children move forward space by space on a gigantic board. Who can avoid the dangers and pitfalls of the river, taking advantage of the favourable currents to be first past the finishing post? In the game ‘How to catch a fish’, players roll a ball representing a fish around a labyrinth. Will they be lucky enough to pick the right side of the river and the appropriate fishing technique and end up with a pot full of fish?

River map. Navigational map for the Congo River exhibition tour

For children aged 7-12.
A map guides children through the exhibition on their own special tour. It helps them imagine their journey along the Congo and have fun learning about the river.
The map was available as a souvenir.


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