Kinshasa and Brazzaville are the closest capital cities in the world. During the colonial era, the proximity of the two cities created a mutual influence in both the planning and the development of urban identities. « How can we reconcile, through a combined effort, through a new city model, the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial era relics on both banks? » asks Bernard Toulier (*). If the population recognises this heritage as being important and if it can identify with it, can the cultural landscape in the vicinity of the Congo River become a common, shared heritage in the area?
In the thirties, similar racial segregation projects are developed in the capitals of the Belgian Congo (Leopoldville: now Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and the French Equatorial Africa (namely Brazzaville, now in the Republic of the Congo). Transportation on the Congo River increases and the population in Kinshasa is already twice the population of Brazzaville. When de Gaulle made Brazzaville the capital of Free France in WWII, it drives impressive and prestigious construction projects. A social reform is also launched at this time. By 1945 the population of Leopoldville is three times that of Brazzaville. The new policies adopted in the fifties don’t help to promote a cohesive city planning. When the countries became independent, most of the important building work is made in the International style. In the nineties, help from China and Dubai investors implanted in both Brazzaville and Kinshasa launch numerous ambitious projects. They are now contemplating a new urban identity, a futuristic « River City » (Cité du fleuve). The intangible cultural heritage helps bring the community together and promote social cohesion. The shared heritage should help define « BraKin » as a common urban identity on the Congo River.
Link: full text by Bernard Toulier
(*) Head curator of the Heritage department in the French Ministry of culture