THE CONGO MARKET WHERE CAR PARTS GO TO REST

Tucked away on the back streets and alleys of Kinshasa lies a thriving market of vendors selling anything and everything you might need to keep a car running.

Photography: Maxence Dedry & Jean-sylvain Tshilumba Mukendi | Author: Charley Locke

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Tucked away on the back streets and alleys of Kinshasa lies a thriving market of vendors selling anything and everything you might need to keep a car running. Wander this warren and you’ll find pistons, camshafts, brake rotors and more stacked in tidy piles or laid out in rows. “It was surreal,” says Jean-Sylvain Tshilumba Mukendi. “You would see spare parts very neatly organized, from tiny screws to radiators, you name it, all spread out in little stalls.”

Mukendi and Maxence Dedry spent two weeks exploring the market in the city’s N’Djili district for Les Mitrailleurs. The two photographers first learned of the sprawling market while visiting the city, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in January. As many as 300 vendors sell parts of every description, most of them salvaged from Japanese cars imported for spare parts and scrap.

The photographers spent a week getting to know people, and another week making pictures. Vendors don’t make many sales, and pass the time playing checkers, smoking, and drinking—often tangawisi, a local concoction made with ginger. It’s not an easy way to make money, it offers a glimmer of promise to men with slim prospects. “They keep on dreaming and fantasizing about the Western world, in which they’ve got super nice cars,” says Mukendi. And no need for parts to keep them running.

This vendor's hands are blackened with motor oil.

Stalls at the spare parts market in N'Djili.

Spare parts vendor Papa Nsay Célestin.

Santini Dona amid his wares in the market.

The market from inside an old vehicle.

Men cook lunch.

Junior Teto, a vendor in the market.

Vendor Jérémy Ngobila sits at the steering wheel.

A selection of bearings in the scrap market.

A vendor gets out of the hot sun.

Graffiti in the market.

A woman spreads her wares out on the ground.

A vendor burns old electrical wires that can't be sold.