If you follow Nicolas-Patience Basabose on Twitter than you will know that the man loves Africa. Never mind love, he is actually obsessed and possessed and his tales and experiences inspire great wanderlust. Here’s the Congolese national’s Africa…
Congo is as loveable as a beautiful woman to me. In a couple of words, Congo is a land full of humanity, by humanity I mean the most precious “thing” to see is beyond doubt the people. The land is a geographical magnificence. Given the low level of infrastructure development, it’s highly impossible to see all the beauty nature gifted us as it’s harsh to travel around, unless you’re a die-hard traveler who doesn’t ask for much comfort in the desire to see beauty.
The most amazing experience you will have in Congo is without doubt with the people, the 450 tribes we have a created a mixed national culture that makes anyone from anywhere feel pretty at home, like we always say, you never know if the person is from two villages down the river or from across the world. The heart of Congolese people is the warmest aspect of our national identity and attitude. We truly hope with time, we will be able to show the world what we have.
I’m not a big fan of big cities, they are full of fake people and I spend most of my time in Congo in the country side. That’s where I meet the real people who have nothing flashy to show but their own hearts and you experience their genuine personality. I somehow relive the days of our forefathers, I can experience untarnished versions of our multiple cultures in villages, the hybrid versions in big cities don’t do it for me.
A week in a village without electricity or running water is priceless. The best time of my life is when I spent a week with a pygmy community deep in the Congo basin tropical forest. One thing I would like to relive if given a chance.
Kinshasa takes its atmosphere from the rest of the country. The city was built for 500 000 people but now is home to more than 10 million. And nothing has been built in the past 40 years. It’s only now that individuals are turning it into a livable and loveable city with massive Diasporan investments coming in property development and the likes.
The amazing part of the city is the people and their hardworking and very innovative.There’s the funny “Article 15”, a Mobutu-era joke about a supposed article of the constitution urging Congolese to survive by all means. The people invented that “constitutional” article 15 that says: “Do whatever you can to survive.”As funny as it might sound, that joke gave the whole nation a feeling of entrepreneurship like nobody could have imagined. The Kinois (habitants of Kinshasa) will shock you with what they do and how they do it to make a decent and respectable living.
The city comes alive at night. There are concerts and events every weekend in the city center and Matongé, the part of the city that never sleeps. Most concerts and crazy night-life events happen there. You have to live it to believe it.
Kinshasa is just a city with immeasurable potential. It’s only starting to flourish now, as if it was asleep for half a century. Things are changing very fast but I pray the people remain the same, we don’t wanna miss that.
How long have you been traveling around Africa?
From the time I was hold enough to travel on my own and where I wanted to go, round about when I turned 18. I started working part-time so making your own money gave you the feeling of power and independence, like it’s my money and I can spend it as I see fit. But that little money vanished too fast for my liking.
Why did you start traveling Africa and why do you keep going?
As a child, my first dream was to become a pilot, an Army pilot. My biological father was a Navy officer, I’ve spent a lot of time on his job when visiting army position around the Congo’s waterways. My adoptive father was a military diplomat so traveling is like genetic in my family.I’ve always wanted to travel the world, and first thing I did was to push my mom into paying for my English lessons, which paid off as it is one of the best or maybe the best educational investment she has ever done in my life. My ability to speak English opened doors where I wouldn’t imagine.The more I traveled the more I wanted to see of places I haven’t been yet. So one trip made me hungry for two more.
Where in Africa have you been and please tell us your overall impression of each country
Well, I’ve been all over but not everywhere. One of the top items on my bucket list, if there is such a thing of course, is to see every single country on the African continent before I die. So far, I can count 25 so we still have a long way to go and by God’s grace we will live long enough t finish them all.
Top places and experiences that people would do well to experience as soon as possible?
1. Kinshasa, DR Congo : Maluku. It’s a fishermen’s neighborhood in the Tshiangu District of town, far east. I go to Maluku every weekend or every two weeks if I am in Kinshasa. The whole experience is boat/canoe cruising along the Congo River, fishing and finally setting a camp by the Congo River banks to cook and enjoy your catch with great wine and pretty company. Blissful.
2. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso: The African film festival (FESPACO). It’s just one of the most amazing gatherings where you see Africans owning up to their identity without seeking for external approval.It’s a place you can literally experience African creativity at one of its best.
3. Zanzibar, Tanzania: Holiday and white sand beaches REDEFINED. The beauty of the place, the people, the culture and the whole experience is just mind-blowing. Ibiza or Phuket ain’t got nothing on Zanzibar. And plus, you will be part of the majority, so kinda at home. I just love being part of the majority. It feels great to me.
4. Robben Island, South Africa: That place is so magical, it gives you RAW fast-tracked lessons of the essence and history of the REAL South Africa as many avoid to speak about it on mainland. If you never understood the dynamics of the South African society, that island will make you catch on facts in less than an hour. Sidenote: I would love to live on there.
5. Lalibela, Ethiopia: A town in northern Ethiopia that is famous for its monolithic rock-cut churches. Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and is a center of pilgrimage for much of the country. The ‘eerie” churches carved out of stones is an amazing showcase of African ingenuity. It feels like you are visiting habitations on another planet. Many are unfortunately falling apart now. If only Africa had a cultural fund to preserve our ancestral masterpieces *sigh*
What makes Africa THE ultimate destination in the world?
As a proud African my ultimate destination is HOME. Living in a country where you are not allowed by LAW to become anything you want to be is NOT your home. In Congo I can be all I wish to be, so that to me is the ultimate reference. I have been around the world, almost all continents, except Australasia. Honestly I have never been attracted to Australia or New Zealand, neither work nor pleasure. Maybe one day I’ll have a chance to go “walk about” with aborigines in Australia. That to me is the only exciting thing to do down under, other than that. I’ll be happy to venture into new African countries. Madagascar being next on my list for 2013, God willing.
Please tell us some of the weird and wonderful anecdotes and memories you’ve called around Africa?
Weird will be, being in Egypt on a Luxor to Cairo cruise up the Nile River. We stopped in Mallawi at a restaurant on our way up to Cairo for lunch, the waiter served EVERYONE in my group, even Black Americans but skipped me and I got attended to only when I went to being my usual self, that is YELLING at people with such stupid racist mindset.
One of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had was during my week stay with a Masai tribe in Kenya, living and working like them. It was hard the first 3-4 days, then I caught up when I left my moaning mindset behind. I’ll do it again, anytime.
My most memorable escapade was in Congo. A pygmy working on my family’s farm in the Equateur province took me home to his village deep in the Congo Basin rain forest I lived there for 10 days, dressed like one of them, they welcomed me in their community and after 10 days, I honestly didn’t feel like going back to the stressful lifestyle outside the forest. While there I experienced life in the purest way possible. Nothing external to the community mattered. They were content with everything they were and whatever happened 10km away was none of their business… We need to take the leaf and live by it from time to time.
Twitter Handle: @MrBasabose