Fighting boys, strong men and gorillas: notes on the imagination of masculinities in Kinshasa

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The article provides insight into the current violent practices of urban youngsters in Kinshasa. At nightfall youth gangs transform the streets of Kinshasa's townships into arenas of the fight. Frequent regular clashes between these gangs create young violent leaders, who not only sow terror but also provide security for the inhabitants (young and old) of their territories. Although many of these boys and young men are trained in foreign fighting styles such as judo, jujitsu and karate, in the public clashes between the fighting groups, these boys and young men perform mukumbusu. This fighting style, inspired and based on the gorilla, was invented during the last decade of colonialism, and is an original mixture of a traditional Mongo wrestling practice, libanda, and Asian and Western fighting practices. In the article, I scrutinize the practices of these young fighters through the diverse images of masculinity (kimobali) upon which they draw, such as the fighter and the soldier; and the models of masculinity that they contest, the sapeur and the staffeur.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-271
Number of pages22
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007