Located in Central Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) has a population of 66,514,504. Kinsasha is the capital. There are over 200 African ethnic groups of which the majority are Bantu; the four largest tribes – Mongo, Luba, Kongo (all Bantu), and the Mangbetu-Azande (Hamitic) make up about 45% of the population. French is the official language, but many Congolese also speak Lingala (a lingua franca trade language), Kingwana (a dialect of Kiswahili or Swahili), Kikongo and Tshiluba. Established as a Belgian colony in 1908, the Republic of the Congo gained its independence in 1960.
The Philosophy Department has an Adjunct Professor from Democratic Republic of the Congo. His name is Donatien M. Cicura. Dr. Michele C. Dávila interviewed him for Lingua Franca.
Dávila: Professor Cicura, how many languages do you speak?
Cicura: I can speak up to six and I read nine. The ones I am fluent in are French, English, Italian, Swahili, Lingala and Mashi. The others that I can read are Latin, Ancient Greek and German.
Dávila: Which one is your family’s language?
Cicura: That would be Mashi, but also Swahili.
Dávila: How was your education in Congo and was it difficult to study?
Cicura: Well, I was the first one in my family to study because I wanted to. I didn’t have a model. I was born in a small, remote, conservative village. I walked every day five miles each way to go to school. There is no free schooling in Congo. I used to go to school in the morning and then I went to work. My first salary was when I was 7 years old; that’s how I paid my studies. I worked with a guy that processed the tree to make the medicine quinine. In fact, I began to work before I began to go to school.
Dávila: Did the Civil War affect your studies?
Cicura: I had left school already when the war started. I did a B.A. and a M.A. in Philosophy in Kinsasha. Then I went to Rome and did a Bachelor of Theology in 2002 because I wanted to become a priest. In 2005 I even got a Master of Theology here in Cambridge, MA, but then I decided to return to Philosophy and got my Ph.D. from Boston College this year.
Dávila: How long have you been in the United States and why?
Cicura: Four years. I came to do my Ph.D. in Philosophy.
Dávila: What are your plans for the future?
Cicura: I would like to have a full-time position in teaching because teaching is my passion. Also, to start a family and publish my work.
Dávila: Thank you very much for your time, professor Cicura.