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Published on : Tuesday, July 4, 2017
The Congolese village of Makwatsha doesn’t have electricity and only 500 residents live in the village, but a longstanding tradition by its womenfolk has turned it into a star attraction for Chinese tourists.
The outside walls of the village huts are decorated with paintings of local life, flowers and butterflies, making “the village of the women painters” a special attraction for tourists from France and Belgium.
The murals of daily village life, painted by the women during the dry season and using only natural pigments, captured the eyes of the director of the local French cultural institute, and he decided to let the world know. Not only did he contact a local travel agency for putting the village on the tourism map but also organized for some of the women to be invited to Paris in 2014 to exhibit their paintings. For the Paris trip, the villagers painted their works onto canvas and sold eight of them for a total of $60,000 (52,600 Euros).
Now on tourist itineraries, the village’s painting tradition could become an important source of income in the future. When tourists come to the village for a day trip, they walk around, see the huts, discover how the villagers collect clay nearby to make the colors and even talk to them.
The Chinese have been coming to DR Congo in increasing numbers for business, especially to Katanga province where Lubumbashi is located, because of its mining activities. China, together with Belgium and France, are the main sources of tourists – about 100 each year, who venture to this remote corner of DR Congo. To attract more travellers, a festival of painting has also been launched at Makwatsha, teaming up with tourism and hotel schools and local media to showcase the women’s work once a year.
Green stone statues of rhinos, lions or even larger animals are also coveted by the Chinese tourists. “They come with their orders for big pieces like crocodiles several meters long that they take back to China,” proudly says Stanis Chansa, who has been a sculptor for 45 years.