Perched on a shelf, the “Little Kabila” with the mysterious eyes greets visitors to the Kivu Museum, housed in a Catholic mission that aims to protect endangered Congolese traditional artefacts some might consider “satanic”. The museum lies hidden behind the walls of the mission of the Xaverian Fathers (Catholic missionaries of Jesuit influence) in Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite wars and superstitions, the museum has gathered an impressive collection of several hundred statuettes, masks and idols used in tribal ceremonies.
Many people are surprised that the Fathers who came to evangelise have ended up sheltering satanic objects.
Father Italo of Xaverian Fathers in Bukavu
The Xaverian Fathers, who first arrived in the country in 1954, have also amassed a lot of authentic pieces, often created for the initiation or nomination ceremony of a “mwami” (chief), explains Father Italo. Having lived in the Congo for nearly 40 years, the Italian priest closely knew Father Andre, the museum’s founder who is currently undergoing treatment in Europe. Father Italo says the museum’s mission is to get visitors to “become aware” of their roots and “understand the sense and values of their culture”.