Kinshasa, the former Léopoldville, developed in less than one century from a few pre-colonial settlements into a metropolis of almost ten million people. In the city, the marketplace has always been at the centre of contemporary debates on public space and, therefore, its various trajectories through time and space reveal much about the origins and forces that shaped the city.
Drawing on published material, archival documents from both Belgium and Congo, and fieldwork, this paper not only tells the history of one of Kinshasa’s most important places, it highlights the multiple and often intricate processes of agency between local and foreign actors that are at the core of Kinshasa’s urban identity. Through the micro-study of the marketplace different issues are touched upon such as the limits of colonial and postcolonial planning, the contestation and appropriation of colonial and post-colonial rule by local actors and the role
of intermediary population groups in the production of space of African cities.