Mother’s Day, Congo-Style

Today, like all days, mothers in households across Congo are quite likely the first to rise. They will wake their children and feed them, probably some tea and a little rice. They will sweep the house and the dirt around it until it’s perfectly striped, like a zen garden. (The better to keep snakes away.) They will wash clothes — by hand in a bucket, using water fetched from a well and carried home — then lay them out to dry on the shrubbery all around their house, or their roofs, just in time to catch the morning sun. Being a Sunday today, they will go to church dressed to the nines, high heels included. But most days, they will visit the local market and buy some beans and vegetables, maybe a protein like fish or caterpillars if they’re lucky, while spending probably no more than 1000 francs ($1) on a day’s meal. They will do all of this while looking beautifully clean and coiffed, balancing babies on backs, and the day’s purchases (or harvests from nearby fields) on heads. British writer George Monbiot said it best: “If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.”

There is probably no fiercer love than a Congolese child for his mother. Mothers are everything to them. Mothers give unfailingly, unendingly. They care, comfort and soothe unconditionally. Their children’s adoration persists into adulthood, where mothers are highly respected. One of the nicest and most common greetings a woman receives around here (even for me, a foreigner and non-mother) is “Jambo, mama.”

So Happy Mother’s Day to all you selfless mothers out there — African and non; past, present, and future; and surrogate aunties too. Jambo Mamas!

Viviane with the kids for a visit.

Viviane with the kids for a visit.

Beautiful greens (and posture).

Beautiful greens (and posture).

Carrying water uphill.

Carrying water uphill.

One of our favorite ladies from the local Fungurume market. She's always there selling something (peanuts, lately) with a huge smile for us.

One of our favorite ladies from the local Fungurume market. She’s always there selling something (peanuts, lately) with a huge smile for us.

Heading to the well, water jugs in tow.

Heading to the well, water jugs in tow.

Rain or shine, the work never ends.

Rain or shine, the work never ends.

This grandmother from our Congo River trip asked us to take her photo. Twenty minutes later, she went fishing, piloting her own pirogue on the river, standing in the narrow canoe with perfect balance and rowing with incredible strength.

This grandmother from our Congo River trip asked us to take her photo. Twenty minutes later, she went fishing, piloting her own pirogue on the river, standing in the narrow canoe with perfect balance and rowing with incredible strength.

8 comments

  1. Oh Jen, you brought tears to my eyes, made my heart swell with love, and brought my memories of all the women I met to life. I am so glad to see our favorite vendor is still at the market. Give a double handed Jambo sana, mama, for me on your next visit!

    Like

  2. Thank you for this post. I always enjoy your writings but this is special. We have all the conveniences here in America and yet we complain!!
    Love, Grandma

    Like

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