Travel Diary: A Morning in Kinshasa

Posted by Nora Toiv
August 18, 2009
Art Gallery in Kinshasa

Interactive Travel Map | Text the Secretary | Behind the Scenes PhotosAbout the Author: Nora Toiv serves in the Office of the Secretary of State.

Last week, I accompanied Secretary Clinton on her visit to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was my second time traveling with the Secretary – and my first time in Africa – and I was lucky enough to explore Kinshasa for a few hours.

Steve Kenoyer, a political officer at the U.S. Embassy, drove me through parts of the city I never would have seen on my own. Driving down dirt roads brought me face to face with the realities of life in Kinshasa. The crowded, narrow roads had open sewers and trash strewn everywhere -- I could only imagine what washed into people homes when it rained. The neighborhood was alive and bustling with people selling food and other goods.

Steve brought me to a beautiful art gallery coupled with a souvenir shop. Owned by a German couple, the outdoor gallery displayed paintings by local Congolese artists. Beyond the locked gate, the gallery was housed in a beautiful garden. Watching peacocks strut by, I almost forgot I was in a city still recovering from a brutal dictatorship. Many people struggle with basic needs in the Congo, but art and culture still flourish.

After looking around the gallery, we headed to the residence of the former Congolese president, Mobutu Sese Seko. His shadow can still be seen throughout the city, from his childhood home to the gigantic tower he built to show off Kinshasa to visiting dignitaries. We passed a statue Mobuto had built in honor of former Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. It was just another reminder of what the Congolese people have survived.

I never thought I would visit the Congo. Throughout Secretary Clinton’s trip, she said: “We believe in Africa’s promise. We are committed to Africa’s future. And we will be partners with Africa’s people.” I am proud to be part of her effort to forge new partnerships and create new opportunities. I hope one day I have the chance to see Kinshasa again.



Texas, USA
August 18, 2009

David in Texas writes:

Secretary Clinton is doing a marvelous job of representing all of the American people and in trying to provide support and encouragement in the poverty/war torn parts of Africa. We certainly support and ADMIRE her efforts.

United States
August 19, 2009

Miki in U.S.A. writes:

Thanks for sharing this...

Aime A.
United Kingdom
September 7, 2009

Aime A. in the United Kingdom writes:

I am a Congolese but holding a British nationality at the moment. I have leaved in England since 1990 and I studied commercial music at the University of Westminster for a B.A degree. I was always been involved in music and culture since I was in Kinshasa. Through those pictures above I would like to say that I am so pleased to see that Congolese arts and culture has survived the terrible dark moment in Congo. I have established an arts agency in the the U.K since 2001 and I always look to work on arts and cultural projects in Congo with international partners.


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