Photo expedition with ethnographer to Kuba kingdom, Mukanda rite of passage in Pende tribe and Voodoo wrestlers


May 31 – June 14, 2023
Tour to Democratic Republic of the Congo

expedition to DRC Congo touir to Kuba kingrom Mukanda ceremony Pende tribe Yaka tribe expedition to Congo Central Central Africa Voodoo wrestlers Kinshasa Sapeurs Congo

tour to Congo, tours to Africa, trekking gorillas
Congo — the land embraced with myths and legends, seducing with its remoteness and wilderness, the home for the most exotic African cultures lost in the boundless jungles of Great river.
Our ethnographic and photo expedition heads to the central most part of Democratic Republic of Congo, in order to explore Kuba Kingdom and witness their impressive ritual dances, attend Mukanda initiation ceremony among Pende boys, watch the rites of Yaka tribe, get into close acquaintance with the cult of "tropical franciscaners", fetish of witch doctors, and communicate with Voodoo wrestlers and smashing Congolese Sapeurs.

The mysterious Timbuktu and the famous clay mosque in Djenne, the majestic Niger River and the Dogon Country that has preserved its culture through the centuries, the sands of the mighty Sahara Desert, animistic rituals and ceremonies.
On this expedition we will meet representatives of the Bambara, Bobo, Bozo, Fulani, Tuareg, Songhai tribes and witness the famous Dogon dances.


Dates: May 31 — June 14, 2023

Duration: 15 days / 14 nights

Number of participants: 7 – 9



Day 1. May 31, 2023. ARRIVAL IN KINSHASA

Arrival and Pick up at Kinshasa (N'djili) International Airport. Transfer to Beatitudes Hotel or similar.

Accommodation included: Beatitudes Hotel or similar
Meals included: no

* Recommended flight:
— any flight with arrival in Kinshasa any time on May 31 or in the night from May 31 to June 1.

Day 2. June 1, 2023. Kinshasa Fetish cult, Voodoo wrestlers and Congolese Sapeurs

The fetish wrestlers get their power from Witch doctors that live secretly in popular quarter of Kinshasa in their houses called temples.
Between 6.00 and 11.00 am (before traffic jams start), we're visiting two witch doctors' temples:
Lisaponge Temple (located in Delvaux, Ngaliema, the closed from our hotel. 20 minutes driving),
Salomon Temple (Selembao, 20 to 30 minutes driving from Lisaponge), Malema Temple (in Matete).
We'll meet some wrestlers at temples before the fights. Attending the fight offer opportunity of wide range of photographs. From the temple to the fight field there are a lot of photo opportunities.
With the jam in Kinshasa, this may take time to drive from a place to another.
At 1.00 pm we meet with Sapeurs and set up photo session with them.

SAPE (Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes) means "society of advanced and elegant people" and "sapeurs" do their best in order to prove that it's true. These representatives of unique subculture appear in the slams of Kinshasa and in fact they are not rich. They basically spend all their money for the cloths in order to look as Dandies.

4.00 pm go for the Fetish Wrestlers fights.
You may have heard of "voodoo wrestling" or catch fetish as it's known in The Congo. This interesting mixture of traditional voodoo and pro wrestling that's popular in The Congo has received some media coverage in the last few years. The activity starts late in the evening, but we need to be with them before that to photograph their colorful parades.

The minimum number of fights is 6 (12 wrestlers involved). So we'll go and witness how some prepare for the event and also follow the caravan.
Overnight at Beatitudes Hotel or Similar.

Accommodation included: Beatitudes Hotel or similar
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3. June 2, 2023. Kinshasa — Kisantu: Tata Gonga sect

Early in the morning (06.00am before the Kinshasa terrific Jam) we will travel to Kisantu, nearly two hours out of Kinshasa, to visit the sect of the prophet Tata Gonda. New cults and sects, mixture of African religion and Christianity: Tata Gonda In the depths of the Central Congo province, the followers of the now dead prophet Tata Gonda live in total autarchy. Today, several hundred voluntary followers from Congo and Angola continue to follow the spiritual path of their "guru". Their purpose is to combat an unjust and sinful world through continuous prayer and an austere, monastic life. We will visit their headquarters, far away from prying eyes, if we are allowed to do so. In total privacy, this community lives self-sufficiently according to their beliefs. They do community work, have vegetable gardens, a river with drinking water, a fish farm, prayer facilities, dormitories and everything else these "tropical Franciscans" could need.

Around 3.00 pm drive back to Kinshasa
Overnight at Beatitudes Hotel or similar.

Accommodation included: Beatitudes Hotel or similar
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4. June 3, 2023. Kinshasa — Kenge: Yaka tribe

We drive from Kinshasa to Kenge. We drop-off our luggage and walk for a in n hour to the sacred village where the Yaka settled after breaking away from the Luba empire 200 years ago. The Royal Family will welcome us with a big traditional masked dance, blood sacrifice ritual, and learn about the local monarchies in today's republic. We will taste some local specialties, and in the night we will come back to Kenge to stay overnight in Wata Fils Hotel.

Accommodation included: Wata Fils Hotel or similar
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 5 — 8. June 4 — 7, 2023. Kenge — Gungu: Pende tribe

During all day 5 we are moving from Kenge to Gungu, the capital of Pende Kingdom, one of the most interesting and visually impressive tribes of all Africa.

Here during 3 days we will be witnessing the number of mask dances, rituals and ceremonies, including annual rite of passage for Pende young boys, called Mukanda — the most important event among Pende, which will take place during our visit.

We will also try to do some radial drives to the neighbouring villages in order to explore other less explored tribes, such as Kwese, Mbala, Mbundu and Wongo.

Kwese people produce few statues, with the exception of a few maternities and fetish statues. They are best known for anthropomorphic masks with heart-shaped faces, as well as prestigious objects: seats, slit drums, cups for palm wine. The helmet-masks, worn during ceremonies linked to circumcision, are sometimes equipped with a raffia collar intended to conceal the lower face and the shoulders of the dancer.

Mbala figures have three different types of faces: elongated, wide, and lozenge-shaped. Mbala mother-and-child figures are much more powerfully rigid in style than others in the Congo region.

The 10 000 Wongo people live in the Kasai district of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These people migrated from the north and are scattered among villages led by chiefs and structured by secret societies. The Wongo are not formally part of the Kuba cluster, though they share features of the cultural and artistic life of their neighbors. They have a fine tradition of craftwork in woodcarving, as well as in raffia weaving and embroidery.

Overnight at Kuzunda hotel.

Accommodation included: Kuzunda Hotel or similar
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 9 — 10. June 8 — 9, 2023. Gungu — Idiofa — Ilebo — Mushenge: travel to Kuba Kingdom

During these 2 days we will be driving from Pende Kingdom to Gungu Kingdom, en route visiting tribes Leele (near Idiofa town) and Lunda (in the area of Kobo and Kandale). These tribes still keep their traditional lifestyle, and they are almost not visited by any travelers.

Leele tribal men work in the forest, where they hunt in groups, locate medicinal plants, cut wood, sculpt, and communicate with the spirits. The women oversee the food crops and of fishing in the marshes. Heading the Lele is the nymi, a king with limited powers. The village is organized according to age groups, with the oldest man as chief. The most important forms of Lele art are carved drums, divination instruments, boxes, pipes, and palm wine cups. Also, Lele carvers produce statuettes and face masks.

Lunda people had lived in the area from early times, but their empire was founded by invaders coming west from Luba.

The distance of 500 km on between Gungu and Kuba capital, Mushenge, is not easy and will take long, die to very bumpy roads.

On the way we will be making stops in small towns. We will stay overnights in Catholic missionaries in Idiofa and Ilebo towns.

Accommodation included: Catholic missionaries, very basic conditions
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 11 — 12. June 10 — 11, 2023. Kuba Kingdom

During 2 days in Kuba Kingdom, reigned by the king, we will get into acquaintance with beliefs of these people. Their religion is linked to the nature spirits and spirit of passed away rulers. We will witness their rituals, explore their buildings and special places elaborately decorated, will see initiation rites' masks and carved wooden figurines, initiation masks, cups, and beautifully embroidered handwoven raffia cloth (we experience how thew sew them), and attend a ritual and/or initiation demonstration using their famous mask and clothes.
In Kuba Kingdom we will be accommodated in tents, on the single basis.

Accommodation included: tents, very basic conditions
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 13 — 14. June 12 — 13, 2023. Travel back from Kuba Kingdom to Kananga and flight to Kinshasa

During these 2 days we are on the way from Kuba Kingdom to Kananga.
On day 14 we take domestic flight from Kananga to Kinshasa.
In Kananga we will probably stay overnight at WoodLand Guest house or similar.
In Kinshasa we again stay in our Beatitudes Hotel.

Accommodation included: WoodLand Guest house in Kananga, Beatitudes hotel in Kinshasa
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 15. June 14, 2023. Return flight from Kinshasa

After breakfast, transfer to the airport. Return flight from Kinshasa back home or another destination.

Accommodation included: no
Meals included: breakfast

*Recommended flight:
— any flight with departure from Kinshasa any time on June 14.

Cost includes:

• domestic flights Kananga — Kinshasa
• accommodation in hotels and guest houses based on single rooms (DBL for family couples)
• accommodation in camping based on single
• accommodation in Catholic missionaries
• camping equipment: tents, mattresses, dishware, cutlery
• full board meals (3 times a day) along the route
• drinking mineral water along the route
• transport: 4x4 jeep vehicles (3 participants in each car maximum, incl. 2 pax on back seat and 1 pax in front), all with AC and experienced drivers,
• all airport transfers
• all permits
• DRC visa facilitation (invitation letter and immigration paper that accompanies invitation letter)
• all activities (dances, rituals, ceremonies), visits and entrance fees along the route
• financial support of local communities/tribes
• photo- and video shooting allowance
• experienced English speaking professional guide along the whole route and local guides
• Russian-speaking and English-speaking team leader ethnographer

Cost excludes (to be additionally paid):

• international flight to Kinshasa roundtrip
• international medical insurance
• visa of DR Congo (to be obtained in advance in the DRC embassy in your country, on your own, at some 150 USD, cost may change. We provide for Invitation letter and immigration paper that accompanies invitation letter)
• tips
• alcohol, soft drinks and personal expenses

To take with:

- sets of clothes suitable for the weather conditions, including lightweight clothes (shorts, T-shorts), and one set of warm clothes (hoody or light jacket), long sleeve clothes
- sun hat/panama
- swimwear
- raincoat
- comfortable trekking footwear, light footwear (sneakers)
- sleeping bag for warm weather
- mosquito net for sleeping place (is a must!)
- personal hygiene items (towel, wet tissues, soap)
- individual medical kit (analgesics, antiseptic, antibiotic, antiviral, intestinal, multivitamins, rehydration, court plaster, your personal medications)
- anti malaria prevention pills (up to you to decide but recommended)
- yellow fever certificate (is a must!)
- COVID vaccination certificate on full vaccination or certificate with negative result of PCR coronavirus test (to be verified before the trip)
- sunblock set (cream, spray)
- various repellents (is a must!)
- sunglasses
- big backpack or travel bag for stuff (up to 70 l)
- small backpack for radial walks (25 – 30 l)
- head torch
- favorite meals (chocolate, nuts)
- photo and video camera, tripod
- power bank, batteries

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Photos used on this page: © Athanasios Maloukos, © Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher

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