DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Congo’s cemetery-market

2 min

In the Kampemba district of Congo's second biggest city, Lubumbashi, there exists a cemetery known as the Tabacongo. It's amongst the headstones of this ancient cemetery, that the living locals sell their goods. Read more...

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In the Kampemba district of Congo's second biggest city, Lubumbashi, there exists a cemetery known as the Tabacongo. It's amongst the headstones of this ancient cemetery, that the living locals sell their goods.

The Tabacongo district is located at the point where the Kampemba region's two main avenues meet. And like most cemeteries in the surrounding area, the Tabacongo is jam-packed.

This year the local authorities said they would make cemeteries one of their priorities. But with families burying corpses themselves in already full graves and market stall owners balancing their stalls on top of the tombs, the reorganisation process is not going to be simple.

“Visiting a cemetery is ceremony, we come, and then we leave… we don’t move in”

James Norbert (Le Katangais) is a freelance journalist from Lubumbashi. He went to photograph the Tobacongo cemetery.

All the town activities happen in this district and as there was no more space on the pavement around the cemetery and nothing blocking people from going inside, stall owners began selling between the pillars and the crosses.  

Along with the new arrivals - fancy clothes stalls, petrol canister vendors - came a bicycle-taxi stand, which takes up even more space than the rest. Some hang their products from wooden crucifixes, others even take them out to gain a bit of space.

Here, the dead aren't considered ‘gone'; relatives bring clothes, food and drinks to their late loved ones; we cohabit with the spirits. That doesn't mean, however, that we can move into their graves. They should be respected, and visiting a cemetery is ceremony, we come, and then we leave...we don't move in.

The police have contacted the market organisers that work here. They're currently trying to find another place to trade. If they don't soon, the cemetery might simply disappear."

Canisters of oil for sale.

Bicycle repair station amogst the crosses.

The bicycle-taxi stand.