Simple murals turn into a ticket to Paris for women from DR Congo

Artwork on huts in Makwatsha village caught the attention of the local French centre's director who invited the women to exhibit in France. Sales from the paintings and tourists are helping the women earn for the village.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Josephine Muloba stands next to a hand-painted hut in Makwatsha, DR Congo. May 13, 2017.

Women from Makwatsha village in the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are giving their community a tourism lifeline by painting walls of their homes.

A longstanding tradition has turned the village almost by accident into a star attraction for Chinese tourists.

The murals of daily village life, painted by the women during the dry season and using only natural pigments, caught the eye of the director of the local French cultural institute when he passed through on holiday — and he decided to let the world know.

This photograph taken on May 13, 2017, shows children standing in front of a hand-painted hut in Makwatsha, DR Congo. (AFP)

Not only did he contact a local travel agency to try to put the village on the tourism map but he also organised for some of the women to be invited to Paris in 2014 to exhibit their paintings.

The outside walls of the huts are decorated with paintings of local life, flowers, and butterflies, making "the village of the women painters" a draw also for tourists from France and Belgium.

For the Paris trip the villagers painted their works onto canvas and sold eight of them for a total of $60,000 (52,600 euros).

"Because of the painting, we were able to go to Paris and exhibit our works of art. I believe that in the future it could pay well, it will lead to other projects," said Jean-Pierre Kabaso, a village elder.

This photograph taken on May 13, 2017, shows villagers Josephine Muloba (L) and Prosperine Mwelwa (R) after they painted a hut in Makwatsha, DR Congo. (AFP)

They used the cash from their artwork to install a water pump to their 500-resident village.

Despite instability in the country, they try to change disadvantages into selling points.

"Some tourists arrive in very beautiful four-by-fours very hard-wearing vehicles and they can try them out on our rough roads. For them, it's fun getting stuck in the mud and having to get out. It's like a new type of tourism!" said Eric Monga, a village chief.

TRT World’s Fidelis Mbah reports how paintings of women changed the village.