This article aims to explain the Wagenya people and their special bond with the Congo River in DRC. The entire world fishes but not all the entire world is using the same fishing methods. Traditional and modern fishing methods both have some common points, however, in some regions of the world fishing is not only about catching some small aquatic creatures, it is rather an art, a life and an ancestral heritage which makes it different from other fishing practices. Let’s talk about the Wagenia fishermen and the Congo River.

Wagenia location

The Wagenia people are a community of people and a village based in the Kisangani region located in the Democratic Republic of Congo which stretches along the Congo River and the Lualaba. The Wagenia fishermen are located 5 Km from Kisangani city in the Tshopo northern province of the DRC.

Origin of the Wagenia

The Wagenia, commonly referred to as the Enya, are a Bantu ethnic group from Central Congo. Originating in the 17th century, the name ‘Wagenia’ derives from the primary tribe name, ‘Enya’, which settled around the Congo River and Lualaba. Their ancestors, residing in the same regions, are credited with a unique traditional fishing technique that is known worldwide. We will be explaining more about the Congo River and Wagenia fishing method in the next paragraphs.

Before we talk about the Wagenia fishermen with their emblematic and unique fishing method let’s first describe the Congo River so that you can understand why the fishing method is known to be unique in the world.

The Congo River

The Congo River, located in central Africa, from the Katanga province up to the Atlantic Ocean, is the second African longest river after the Nile River, and the 8th world’s longest river. It is famous for its more than 3 million Km2 of basin size, second in the world after the Amazon River by its discharge and for the fact that it’s the world’s deepest River with 212m. The Congo River has always been one of the wonders of the DRC, which makes the country the greatest African hydroelectric power with the Inga dam.

The Lualaba is the main source of the Congo River before falling into the Atlantic Ocean, the Lualaba has a series of 7 falls commonly called the Boyoma Falls or the Stanley Falls, the discharge of these falls is one of the important in the world over 17000 ms, and the last falls of the Boyoma falls series is the Wagenia falls and that is where the Lualaba is transformed into the Congo river. The Boyoma Falls is one of the incredibly beautiful places you should consider visiting in DRC. Try to watch and appreciate those wonderful places described on our YouTube channel.

Now let’s explain the Wagenia fishermen of the Congo River and why their method is known to be unique.

The Wagenia Fishermen and their Fishing Method

Wagenia people are trying to keep their ancestral practice alive even though it might not be easy. So what is the Wagenia fishing method?

The Wagenia fishing method in the Congo River consists of using ingenious wooden scaffolding tools, they use them with incredible intelligence; although the Congo River flow is extremely high and dangerous, the Wagenia fishermen do not hesitate to jump into the waterfalls of the Boyoma Falls, usually called the Wagenia falls. As mentioned before, the Boyoma Falls are one of the most dangerous in the World.

The Wagenia fishermen perch precariously on wooden scaffolds stretching over turbulent rapids of the Congo River, they are hauling up huge wicker baskets against the water flow in the hope of catching up some Tilapias, Nil perch, etc. Wagenia fishermen are preserving and passing this ancestral fishing method from father to son.

The economy in the region is not too good and fishing in the Congo River is considered its main source of revenue, although the fish caught are not enough to maintain stability in Wagenia village, it is still an important ancestral heritage and culture. The site is warmly receiving different tourists from around the world to see its culture and nature.

10 facts about the Wagenia Fishermen

  1. Historical Roots: The Wagenia fishing technique dates back centuries and is deeply rooted in the traditions of the people living near the Lualaba and Congo Rivers.
  2. Unique Scaffolding System: The Wagenia use a distinctive fishing method, constructing wooden tripods and nets across the rapids to trap fish from the fast-flowing waters.
  3. Dangerous Waters: Despite the treacherous currents of the Congo River and the dangers of the Boyoma Falls, Wagenia fishermen exhibit remarkable courage and skill in their fishing methods.
  4. Seasonal Fishing: The fishing method, while traditional, is typically practised during specific seasons when certain fish species migrate and are more abundant in the Congo River.
  5. Cultural Significance: The fishing technique is not just a means of sustenance but holds significant cultural and ceremonial importance for the Wagenia community.
  6. Communal Effort: The construction and maintenance of the wooden scaffolding are often communal efforts, highlighting the strong sense of community among the Wagenia.
  7. Economic Importance: The catch from the river plays a pivotal role in the local economy, with fish being a primary source of food and income for many families in the region.
  8. Environmental Connection: The Wagenia have an intimate understanding of the river’s ecosystem, often recognizing subtle changes in water patterns, fish behaviour, or environmental cues that others may not easily recognize.
  9. Boyoma Falls Connection: The Boyoma Falls, also known as the Wagenia Falls, are intrinsically linked with the identity of the Wagenia fishermen. The name itself signifies the deep bond between the community and this natural wonder.
  10. Tourist Attraction: The unique fishing technique and the bravery displayed by the Wagenia fishermen have turned the area into a tourist attraction. Many come to witness this age-old tradition and the symbiotic relationship between the fishermen and the river.

Closing through

The Wagenia fishermen live in the Kisangani region Tshopo northern province of the DRC around the Congo River. They are known for their emblematic ancestral fishing method which consists of fishing with huge wicker baskets in the Congo River water flow in which fishes are trapped.

The Wagenia practice has been preserved for centuries and passed from father to son. The method is known to be dangerous as well since the practice is made in Congo River waterfalls usually named the Wagenia Falls the seventh waterfall of the Boyoma Falls.

It is an incredible practice that showcases how the DRC has different beautiful ancestral heritages.

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This article is based on the YouTube video, The Special Bond of Wagenya Fishermen and the Congo River- DRC. Feel free to watch the video version and hear Felie share her views directly with you.