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The "Congo" which was originally called the Congo Free State, was later referred to as the Belgian Congo, having been taken over by the King of Belgium, King Leopold II; he was aided by some of...
...the leading African explorers and the support of several European governments for the promotion of African exploration and colonization.
One of the primary reasons for this "colonization" was the discovery in this part of Africa of natural resources that could be harvested for enormous profit: leading among these for many years was ivory which was used for the making of women's fans, piano keys, etc. The ivory trade became so devastating that there was a strong fear of the extinction of elephants. (And the trade was eventually outlawed.) It was also during this time that the inhabitants of this location were enslaved by Belgian whites, carrying out the tasks of hard labor and dying often without the concern of many of their "overseers."
This all had an enormous impact on the region. It is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC). It is "the third largest country in Africa." Its neighbor is called the Republic of the Congo, located to the west of the DROC. DROC is also referred to as Congo-Kinshasa (for the name of its capital).
In terms of the culture, the DROC "reflects the diversity of its hundreds of ethnic groups." This affects the culture in that these groups live "differing ways of life." As mentioned earlier, many changes were experienced by the "colonization" of the Congo, as well as the ensuing battle to achieve independence and years of internal strife (war). These influences kept the groups separated so that they have remained relatively constant over the years. "Sixty million inhabitants are mainly rural." Only about thirty percent of the population (which lives closer to or in the cities) have seen changes because of the influence of the West.
The music of this area is noteworthy: called sui generis. The combination of native Congo music with the Cuban rumba, and themerengue have created soukous. This genre of music is considered the blending of music from the Belgian Congo and the French Congo starting in the 1930s. "Soukous" is taken from the French word secousse which means "shake." It is often referred to as the African rumba or just "Rumba."
Art from the Congo is also notable: it includes traditional art forms as seen in masks and wooden statues. Other "art" is found in the works of contemporary artists and even fashion designers, such as Odette Maniema Krempin, Lema Kusa and Henri Kalama Akulez, among others.