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  • Writer's pictureBeth Duff-Brown

Hurry Up and Happily Wait

One of the best shops in Kinshasa for superwax cloth, a favorite among the women of West Africa and a must-bring gift for some of the mamas in the village.

Day Two in Kinshasa and though we’re stuck here until Friday — we got bumped from the flight to Kananga in central Congo today — I’m having fun getting reacquainted with the sights, smells, sounds and the incredible visual displays that remind me why I fell in love with this country so long ago.

Today I went shopping for some “superwax.” It comes in every imaginable size and saint, adorned with animals and fish, flowers and fauna, the latest presidents and popes, and many Jesus Christs with and without his crown of thorns. The cloth with Mobutu in his trademark leopardskin toque was once ubiquitous here, but no more. I looked for some Obama — he is such a beloved figure here — but no such luck. I have made it my mission to find some!

One of the traditions here is gifting pieces of superwax cloth to the special women in your life. For me, that will be Tshinyama’s wife (he was the Peace Corps cook for some 20 years), the chief’s wife and the Catholic nuns who run the small clinic in the village — if they are still there. (Again, I don’t know what to expect when I get to Kamponde since so many people were forced to flee during the uprising of 2016 and 2017.)

Superwax was originated by the Dutch and became a favorite across the continent, particularly in West Africa. The batik-like waxing process holds the colors true and long. Be sure to turn up the volume for this one — shopping amid some soothing Congolese music.

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