Reintegration / Ancestors

By Monica Demott
(formerly University of Iowa)

Democratic Republic of the CongoKongo artist. Cosmograms. Drawing Christopher D. Roy.

Perhaps the most eloquent statement Africans make about the cyclical character of life is through the ideographic signs or cosmograms from Kongo peoples of lower Democratic Republic of the Congo, which represent the passage of the sun from east to west, from zenith to nadir, from the realm of God to the world of the ancestors.  The passage of the sun is a metaphor for the cycle of life.  At each of its corners a circle represents a man or a woman. The cosmogram represents the birth of a person as the sun rises in the east, man’s zenith as he reaches adulthood at noon, his decline and death as the sun sinks into the realm of the dead, and his final zenith in the realm of the dead, the midnight of the sun.  But the next step is birth again.  The horizontal line takes the name of God, the Kalunga line, and the vertical line connects the realm of god and the ancestors.