On Calendars and Kingdoms

by Aaron Bangundi

The Kongo Calendar

Before 1885, what now is referred to as the “Democratic Republic of Congo”, consisted of a territory where several kingdoms and empires reigned (Kongo, Luba, Kuba, Lunda, etc.).

The Kongo kingdom was one of them. The now called “Democratic Republic of Congo” was the Western portion of the kingdom, the northern part of neighboring “Angola”, west-southern part of Gabon and southern part of former French-colony “Republic Congo” (not to be mistaken with Democratic Republic of Congo, which used to be a Belgian colony) were also part of it.

Like all kingdoms, they had their own customs, military, political and economic structure. Before the arrival of Europeans, there was also already an existing calendar. The calendar was made up of a week of 4 days. The 4 days included 3 working days. The fourth day was a rest-day and also a day for the market. Those days were N’kenge, N’sona, N’kanda and N’konzo. One month was spread over 7 weeks and one year over 13 months. The seasons were divided in two parts: the rainy seasons and the dry seasons

Kitombo was the first season, which went from October to December. It was the season of first rains. Kyanza was the following season, that went from January to February. The last rainy season was Ndolo, which went from March to mid-May. The dry seasons started at/in? Sivu, which went from mid-May to August. M’pangala was the last dry season, that arrived with hot weather. It went from August to September.

The first Europeans to arrive in the Kongo Kingdom were the Portuguese. They ended up colonizing the Kingdom until it got divided into parts, after the Conference of Berlin (1885). This is also known as the ‘Scramble of Africa’. When the first Portuguese Christian Missionaries came, they were at first accepting of the way Kongo people were following their calendar. However, after some years they ended up by imposing the Christian calendar and converted the Mwene Kongo (King) Nzinga Nkuwu to Christianity, and changed his name into João I.


During the colonial era to designate a Congolese man who Europeanized by sharing values and adopting the Belgian types of behavior was called an “évolué”. In 1948 certificate was introduced by Belgium in Congo. The card was a certificate of civilization for the native population. People who obtained that card were considered as an “évolué”. A new certificate was introduced in 1952 called “immatriculation”. Social assistants would visit the house of an “évolué” to check if it had a bed, seats, how the interior looked like, if the children were wearing shoes and underpants and the woman could eat with a fork and knife. Social assistants would make a report and the “évolué” would end by getting “immatriculation’ as certificate, if he would meet the standards.

In 1971, eleven years after the independence, dictator Mobutu Sese Seko launched a policy called “Zarianisation”. He invited the Congolese population to renounce the cultural heritage of the colonial era by the way of dressing and abandon European names for the authentic ones. Statues and plaques that recalled the colonial past were removed. Names of cities and provinces were also changed. For example, Leopoldville became Kinshasa. The Western costume had to make way for “authentic” clothing styles. Men were from now obliged to abandon the Western tailor-made suits and wore the ”abacost” (à bas le coustume), a shirt jacket with short sleeves. The Democratic Republic of Congo was renamed the Republic of Zaire (1971-1997). However, French remained the official national language of the country and Western progress was still embraced. Until this day, people that speak French are seen as intellectual and civilized by the population.


Wagenya is a village next to the city Kisangani, situated in northern Congo. For centuries, people living there have developed a unique way of finishing fish in the river. They had built a huge system of wooden tripods across the river. The tripods are anchored large baskets that are lowered in rapids to sieve the waters to catch fish. Large fish are entrapped as the baskets are quite big. The fish is divided among all members of the same family. The locations where each person can set his baskets are inherited as a property of land.