Writing by Muriel Munga Closeup typewriter
Kin Market

Darkness is still upon the city as the “early birds” enter the market to set their stalls... A couple of women carrying large basin filled with loaves of fresh bread over their head, smile happily and walk slowly towards their destination, hips balancing to the rhythm of their own footsteps... A fat woman, legs apart, using a candle to light her surrounding is braiding a half-dozing lady’s hair, head tilted onto her chest, mouth somewhat open...

As the sun rises slowly up in the sky, tables are being laid out….fruits are piled up like little colourful castles, offering different types of prices whilst green vegetables are all bunched up together with carrots, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines offering a delightful rainbow of vegetables... As I walk down the aisle, I feel like a total stranger who has come to disturb the peace of the morning, but each goes about their business, totally ignoring my presence or simply staring at me and wondering what I am doing so early in their market…

To the left, hung and folded loincloths of vibrant hue attract my attention whilst the woman seller sitting on a low stool is breastfeeding her child, a smile on her face, unaware of the presence of a total stranger, camera in hand, ready to shoot... Then suddenly, aroma of cooked concoctions fills the air: boiling coffee in a big old pot being watched over by a bunch of scrubby and thirsty men waiting to be served…greasy doughnuts in an old raggedy pan being fried by a couple of women…though very appealing, it is too early in the morning to allow my stomach to sample such food.

All of a sudden, a baby cry and a chicken’s crow break the silence of the dawn as if to signal the opening of the market! Hands in the pockets, I continue my rounds as I marvelled at the camaraderie amongst the vendors. Men and women shouting about their prices and greeting each other with “Mbote”, “Hello” and spreading the latest gossips...

Slowly but surely, the early risers, food basket in hand, enter the market...The first comers, dressed in green or blue comfortable trousers and shirts - uniforms used by people working in private homes - all seem to know exactly where to go as they march on, heads up and stiff like a soldier’s walk... A couple of fishermen, their catch on shoulder, a content smile on their face, walk swiftly to their booth, with a “this is going to be a very good day” attitude... The market, as far as the eye can see, is eclectically “decorated” with different sized-shaped-colourless, decrepit shelves, tables and metal sheets, of second-hand dolls with lost head and/or eye, miniature lorries with no tyres…old shoes with faded colours, colourful material with plastic buttons and bows; sweets, nuts, home-made waffles and coned ice-cream…Then a “white man” comes out of nowhere, his black face painted with milled dried roots of cassava, called “foufou”, white-pasted-food usually eaten with meat or fish in a sauce.

An old lady, breast as long as football player’s socks, hair dishevelled under a children’s scarf, is sitting right on the dusty floor and repeating the same movement like a robot: cleaning her vegetables in an iron basin, keeping them neatly in small bunches and finally cutting them into very thin slices... Some children in rags, unable to attend school, run barefoot around the market, messing up stalls and disturbing the somewhat jovial atmosphere. A stray dog barks towards my way, his fangs pointed at me… but thankfully, is pushed away by stones thrown at him and coming out of nowhere…did someone just save my life? Congolese beat fills the air whilst a number of sellers clap their hands to the sound of this international captivating and almost hypnotising rhythm...

As I reach the first alley of the market, where fishmongers are cleaning and fastening their catch of the day on individual hooks, I wonder how this market would look like after torrential rain as my eyes catch the sand on the floor leading to the other lined lanes of stalls….I can feel the market buzz has just started around me as potential buyers push me ever so slightly out of their way…