Society Magazine

Kinshasa: Butterfly Season

Posted on the 08 March 2013 by Aengw @alexengwete

Kinshasa: Butterfly Season

Kinshasa: Butterfly Season

(PHOTO 1:A butterfly feeding on a discarded piece of banana)

(PHOTO 2: A basketful of safous aka butterfruits)


This is the rainy season in the Kinshasa area.

And rainy days in Kinshasa, which alternate with stifling and terribly
hot days, are more often than not very violent and deadly events.

Not to mention the weird multi-pronged progression of highly active
erosion heads that are literally gobbling up--live--entire
neighborhoods--corrupt cadaster officials having in the past sold
plots at improbable locations, obtaining today that Kinshasa may be
the only metropolis in the world without the tiniest park...

Anyway, strangely, this rainy season saw the Congo River quietly
return within the confines of its natural bed, after two months of
scary overflow that threatened the livelihood of fishermen and had
some people fear a repeat of the November 1999 mini-"flood of the
century" that disrupted lives on both shores of the Congo in Kinshasa
and Brazzaville.

Swarms of butterflies are fleeting about these days--a bane, for sure,
as they intrude into your glass of beer, plate, or at times they even
alight on your head.

A bane indeed, as butterflies are also reputed to bring in the urban
epidemic called "Apollo" in Central Africa--conjunctivitis, that is.

And as the local customs allow for intense touching--what with
head-butting greeting rituals and prolonged handshakes--the thing is
assured to spread like wildfire when it hits.

A woman was complaining today that an acquaintance of hers, hiding her
conjunctivitus behind dark glasses, had the gall to shake her hand
this morning--a "sorcerer," she said, hellbent on spreading her
infection around.

But butterflies also happen to usher in some delicious dietary experiences.

For butterflies often rhyme with treats like caterpillars, which are
now all but entirely gone till next season, and pulpy safou fruits,
also known as butterfruits.

Those nutritionists who marvel at how Kinois are so healthy despite
the so-called poor diet available should take a closer look at those
seasonal treats--particularly safous these days.

I just read this from "Shan Newspaper" for instance (I reformat for
readability as I am blogging from a mobile phone):

"People in West and Central Africa have been eating safou for
centuries as a fresh fruit between meals and cooked as a main course.

"When roasted or quickly boiled in salted water, the pulp separates
from the skin and seed and takes on a buttery texture.

"In Nigeria, cooked pulp is combined with starchy foods like maize to
make a main course. And if cooked for even longer, a healthy oil,
primarily made up of unsaturated fats, can be extracted from the pulp
and seed.

"Like its namesake, butter, safou is high in fats and very
calorie-dense. But unlike butter, safou is also high in amino acids,
the chemical building blocks of proteins. Concentrations of some of
its essential amino acids, such as lysine and leucine, are comparable
to concentrations found in eggs and meat.

"Plus, the fruit is also high in micronutrients and minerals,
particularly potassium, calcium, and magnesium, making safou a
superfood with the potential to help alleviate hunger and

"Aside from producing nutritious fruits, safou trees also yield a
variety of other products.

"Its wood is stiff and elastic, making it useful for tool handles. The
bark produces a resin that makes both a glue for mending pottery and
topical treatment for jiggers, a parasitic flea that embeds itself in
the skin.

"And the leaves and roots are also found in a variety of traditional
medicines used to treat everything from dysentery to joint pain."


A basketful of safous as shown in the photograph above is hawked by
female vendors in the streets of Kinshasa for less than five bucks!

Oh, I forgot: butterflies this season here also mark very auspicious
catches by fishers...


PHOTO CREDITS: PHOTO 1: Alex Engwete; PHOTO 2: Via

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