Wednesday, July 3, 2013

“Le Marché des Valeurs” or "Thieves Market" Kinshasa, DRC

Ok, ok I apologize I really have been promising some African pics for awhile but here goes!  This is one of the many markets in Kinshasa.  It is actually called “Le Marché des Valeurs” or The Value Market but it is more commonly known as “Le Marché des Voleurs” or The Thieves Market.

This was its original location before this area was paved over to make a public square and fountain area for the 2010 50th Anniversary of Independence.  (I'll see if I can find some pics eventually of the Panther made of gold leaf that immediately got the gold washed away by the water, but that's another story...)

This market is located at the end of the main road downtown Le Trente Juin or Boulevard of 30th June, and it is definitely not for the faint hearted whatsoever!  If you hate to haggle like I do its not very fun, but after a few trips there including one where I accidentally only brought $10 I found it a bit empowering to barter for goods.

You can sort of see in this first photo but there is about two rows of shacks lined with vendor tables sort of making two gauntlets.   The first time I went on an extremely hot and humid day (most days were ;)) with my good friend T and her driver Papa Kilutu.  When we told him where we wanted to go he promptly told me in French "Madame guard your purse there."  But he came with us and acted as sort of our guide/bodyguard.  Bodyguard is a bit ironic because Papa Kilutu, (which Kilutu means Older Brother in a local language because he was the older brother of the person who put him in contact with my friend for his driving job) was a somewhat tiny man...standing about maybe 5'3" and possibly 100 lbs.  One day I went on a quest to buy charcoal with him and my housekeeper in their neighborhood and we ended up with a GIANT bag that was about 5' tall and a foot and a half in diameter.  They joked in French that the charcoal was bigger than Papa Kilutu and I laughed at the joke and then they switched to the local Lingala language after that.  But I could communicate with him in French and he could speak quite a few local languages so I always felt safe with him. 

I call the rows the gauntlet because once we as "Mundele" or White Expats showed up we were greeted with shouting in chorus of "Madame", "Madame", and "Mommy".  The Mommy was a bit hard to take from a complete stranger and that I was childless at this point too.  Once you picked up for instance a carved wooden monkey and then passed on it the next tables down the line would all hold up their matching wares to offer you.  The price they would first quote would be quite absorbent usually $50 for something that should cost $5 tops so haggling was quite necessary.

If you look carefully in the middle left hand edge of this image you can see cages.  In this market you could buy very sickly looking African Grey Parrots and sometimes even Monkeys!  If you are an animal lover this visit really wasn't recommended.  The animals looked so sad and sick :(

Here you can see a local bus making a pick up stop and some of the paintings for sale outside of the booth areas.

Here is a small crowd of people and goods waiting to use the local taxi system just opposite of the Market.  On the day I took these photos I saw two women get into a knock down drag out fight where clothes were even ripped!

Lastly it looks like they were doing a bit of repair work on the road or sewer?

Well I have so many more photos and crazy stories to share from my time in the Congo...but I hope you enjoy this first installment.


  1. Thank you for sharing, Lulu! This was very interesting to read. What an adventure you had!

    1. Thanks for your comment Debbie. Every day was an adventure in Congo, you never knew what you were going to see!

  2. A really interesting post and I love the photos (: