VSEach city is marked by a sound wave that qualifies it, a unique rumor that distinguishes it from all the others. Close your eyes and try to imagine the sound signature of Brazzaville, this capital of the Congo which owes its name to the explorer Savorgnan de Brazza and which was the capital of French Equatorial Africa and, for a time, of Free France. . What strikes you in the first place is its imprint. It is neither like that of New York, dense, very dense, nor like that of Dakar, thick with heat, of Abidjan with a humid and vibrating atmosphere, of very invigorating Casablanca, of Paris with restraint, of London with grainy metallic or Johannesburg accents. The question of how to define Brazza’s sound footprint therefore immediately arises as soon as you leave the Maya-Maya international airport. It’s a sweet pepper-brown sugar blend, and the best time to taste it is definitely early in the morning. It is more easily tamed with the gentle breeze that accompanies the first light of the day and slightly attenuates the tropical heat.
The early mornings mix with the horns of taxis, the songs of the weavers, these little rainbow-colored birds and you can hear a street crier in the early morning barking: “Avocado! lemongrass! It is not uncommon to hear someone speak loudly, but never without aggression.
Brazzaville in the morning
Before or after breakfast it is pleasant to walk in Brazzaville which has the enormous advantage of having wide sidewalks, which is rather rare in African cities completely parasitized by a certain car culture. Brazzaville has made enormous progress in terms of cleanliness. Sandy and littered streets are rare in the center. All this in an environment marked by a certain architectural harmony, even if many Art Deco buildings, faded, would benefit from being better preserved as their contribution to the charm of the city could be even more appreciable.
Discovering the capital of the Congo is an adventure. It is neither recognized as a tourist destination nor does it appear in the rankings of must-see cities. Few tourist guides are devoted to it and it only attracts white collar workers who only see the airport and hotels. As for the Congolese diasporas, they favor family cocooning. Yet this city, at the heart of African and French history, truly deserves more than a weekend or a few days to be explored. Whatever the reason for your trip to Brazzaville, take the time. Take one or two days to conquer it.
Steps in Brazzaville awakened
Once the freshness of the morning has passed, take a “Sarkozy” or a “Benoit XVI”. To differentiate them, these are the nicknames given to the green Toyota Corolla taxis. Substantially identical, names of personalities in the firmament of their popularity were assigned to them when the car models were released. Do not ask why the curvy taxi is nicknamed “Chicken Leg”. You risk sounding like an alien. We will look at you with great astonishment and we will answer you as obvious: “Ben! Let’s see ! Because they are short on legs! “
A trip to Brazzaville must begin with a visit to His Majesty the Congo River, but also to the bridge of August 15, 1960. This architectural wonder to be discovered first and foremost is an integral part of the landscape. As you walk through it during the day, you realize there is something hypnotic about it. At night, with its shrouds and its apron with lights in the colors of the national flag (green, yellow, red, in three inclined bands), there reigns a mysterious atmosphere which cannot leave you indifferent.
Cross the bridge and slide towards the side roads. You can stop by the restaurant Les Rapides. It is a famous address which allows you to have a good time and relax with a beer or a good meal. That said, go there especially for the breathtaking view of the Congo River in its most tumultuous part. Leaning on the balustrade, you will discover new sensations.
The force of the river will give you the impression of being at the bow of a ship, hair in the wind, so powerful is the Congo with the crash of swirling water on the rocks. The contrast is striking with the softness of the staggered terraces facing the river.
Sitting in a gentle heat, you will also experience the sensation of being able to touch Kinshasa with your hand, here, in the narrowest part of the river. The “sister” city is there, placed two or three cables away, desirable and, in another contrast, so peaceful seen from Brazzaville.
Brazzaville is not renowned for being the most culturally lively city in the Congo Basin. She is completely masked by Kinshasa, her big sister on the other side of the river. However, it has gone up a notch with a gallery that everyone is talking about in contemporary African art circles. At 213 rue de la Musique-tambourinée, between the Michael’s hotel and the French embassy, nestles Art-Brazza, highly coveted by artists.
Art-Brazza, a cultural hotspot like no other
As proof, this conversation overheard in a party in Kigali and where it was about his reputation. “I would like to exhibit at Art-Brazza, because it respects artists well and pays them well”, said one artist enthusiastically.
At the origin of this craze, there is the businessman Patrick Itouad. This inveterate and passionate collector maintains a unique patronage of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. He does not wait for the sale of the canvas to remunerate the artists. He offers six-month to one-year contracts to the creatives he spotted for a monthly salary of around 1,000 euros.
Supply of canvases, paintings and tools from the best manufacturers with one goal: to free them from the material contingencies of everyday life, often very difficult on the continent, so that they can focus fully and solely on creation. He is the only one to offer this kind of contracts to artists and to support them internationally.
In the Art-Brazza gallery you will find exceptional pieces by great artists from both Congo, such as Chéri Samba, Moké or Shula Mosengo. There are also those of young people who go up. With the artists of Kinshasa on the ground floor and those of Brazzavillois upstairs, you will be in contact with works intended for the biggest European auction houses, if they cannot find a taker on the spot, because Art Brazza s’ will soon be moving to Paris to open a gallery completely dedicated to contemporary African art, with the ambition of one day moving to London and New York.
When Brazzaville ends its day
The intersection of the end of the day and the beginning of the evening can be delicious at Vog, and augurs well for great feasts. We fell in love with this private club. While the “Sarkozy”, “Benoit XVI” and other SUVs crisscross the boulevard Denis-Sassou-N’Guesso, the place deserves a stop to have a drink that can go until late at night, so it feels good in this bar with a Florentine atmosphere. This is where Frédéric reigns with elegance over an establishment with an atmosphere whose tranquility is reminiscent of home. Smiling, affable, with the physique of a top athlete, the butler always has the right word with the right distance from his customers. Whether on the terrace framed by greenery or in the cozy room, this soberly decorated house welcomes a population of regulars, personalities from All-Brazzaville who indulge in tasting pretty wines accompanied by succulent boards of cold meats and cheese.
In the Bacongo district
Brazzaville will surprise you after dark if you stop in the Bacongo district. It is here that the beating heart of the capital of Congo comes to you, with bars, like at Deguy, to drink a local beer with friends, posed on high stools, and get drunk on music. Congolese and Nigerian around small round tables.
Bavongo and Matsoua Street remain remarkable for its cohort of sappers who parade and challenge each other. The stuff is their religion and this avenue their “Champs-Élysées”. There was a time when the returning diasporas reigned supreme over this chromatic battle. But the rise of quality second-hand clothing has raised the level of local sappers who are on a par with Parisians. Nothing more to do with the thrift store which could not compete with a first hand. Coming from all social strata, from the executive to the unemployed, the sappers, to designate the members of the society of ambianceurs and elegant people (Sape), are all at the same level to blaze without complex, display their costumes in the most beautiful fabrics and engage in a chromatic dialogue that is unique in the world.
This pleasant stop will encourage you to immerse yourself even more in the Brazzaville night. In this historic district of Brazzaville, it is possible to discover the largest market in the city, the Total market, but also the Case de Gaulle which was the general’s residence during the Second World War.
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The “sappers”, a phenomenon to discover and appreciate
The Congolese photographer Baudouin Mouanda has done a remarkable job on this phenomenon, depositary of the soul of the Congo and beautifully immortalized in exhibitions that have toured the world.
Despite the cruel lack of a high gastronomy restaurant that would have been worthy of a great capital like Brazzaville, the Congolese capital is really an endearing destination, as long as we take the time to discover it after having confided in obtaining it. visa to a travel agency, a step that it will not be trivial to unload to avoid being exhausted before setting foot on the banks of the Congo River, in this city dear to General de Gaulle who made it during three years the capital of Free France and where he delivered in 1944 the speech in which the question of the emancipation of the African colonies was considered.