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Mobutu’s Nsele Palace

Submission by Xuefei Shi

Mobutu’s Nsele Palace is my choice of architecture in Africa. I like it because of the overwhelmingly intermingled history and surrealism it carries. Situated 40km east of Kinshasa, DRC, the palace was commissioned by the flamboyant dictator to be an imperial Chinese garden, mixed with his additional Afro-Futuristic, Art Deco and Baroque tastes. Muhammed Ali trained and allegedly married his third wife there before fighting against George Foreman in the famous “Rumble in the Jungle”. The Chinese garden was initially constructed by Taiwanese agronomists and architects around 1970 before Mobutu switched his interest and sought support from Chairman Mao, and remained to be his favourite residence until being pillaged in the 1990s. Today its ruin stands lonely in the Congolese jungle, contrasting most strikingly with the conditions the leopard-skin dictator has left to the country.

Extra references: (in Norwegian); (in French). Photo taken by JOHN WESSELS/AFP.

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