Ritual and festive expressions of the Congo culture


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Inscribed in 2018 (13.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© MICI, 2017

The ritual and festive expressions of the Congo culture encompass the contemporary vision of a collective celebration of the black rebel descendants enslaved during the colonial period. Nowadays, participants play congo, celebrate their freedom, cheerfully sing about their everyday lives and perform representations and sensual dances barefoot, to communicate with the earth. During the Congo season (from 20 January, San Sebastian Day, until Ash Wednesday), participants spend the day in a palisade; the gathering is celebrated in a matriarchal society ruled by a queen and her court; each person has a role to fulfil to protect the queen and members of the palisade from the devils (diablos). On Ash Wednesday, the season concludes with a confrontation between the diablos and the congos; the queen and congos take off their masks and baptize the devils in a symbolic ritual to free them and neutralize their evil until the cycle recommences the following year. For generations, the expressions have fostered social integration and provided a way of expressing joy and sensuality. Congo culture expressions are transmitted orally and everyone takes part. Congo singing, dancing and music programmes have also been held in schools, instruction is provided at the university level, and courses and weekend workshops are organized.