NGOUNIÉ AT THE BORDER OF GABON
Small in size, Gabon is immense in its diversity. Its nine provinces offer a multitude of landscapes, languages, artistic, gastronomic, craft traditions … It is a journey to the heart of these nine provinces that we offer, to meet these particularities that make the charm of Gabon. Fourth stage of this journey : Ngounié.
If you ever cross a river in the province of Ngounié, do not forget to throw in the water a coin for the genius who lives there: it is the custom here. Ngounié is indeed characterized by its traditions, many of which have a connection with water, omnipresent in this province.
The river which gave the province its name, Ngounié, takes its source near the border with the Congo, before flowing into the Ogooué upstream of Lambaréné. Ngounié and its numerous tributaries generously water the large forest plain located between the Chaillu massif and the Ikoundou mountains. In this province with the surface of 37,750 km2, several ethnic groups coexist: Eshira, Pindji, Punu, Tsogho and Vili… As well as a population of Pygmies evaluated at 789 people by Unesco in 2003.
Coming from Lambaréné, we arrive in Fougamou, a city which bears the name of a powerful genius living in the famous waterfalls nearby. These were baptized by the explorer Paul Belloni Du Chaillu “Falls of the Empress” when he discovered them in December 1858, in homage to the Empress Eugenie de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III.
The National Road I then leads to Mouila, the capital of Ngounié province. This city of around 20,000 inhabitants, spread over both banks of the river, is a good starting point for exploring the region. At 5 km from the city is a natural curiosity: “the blue lake”, which owes its name to the sapphire hue of its waters.
To the South towards Ndendé, several tracks give access to the green plains of Tougoutiti, Matassou and Makanda very frequented by buffaloes, antelopes, bush pigs, porcupines, ducks, bustards, francolins…
Main town of Dola department, 75 km south of Mouila, Ndendé has 4,500 inhabitants. It is the last Gabonese city before the border with the Congo.
Main town of Dola department, 75 km south of Mouila, Ndendé has 4,500 inhabitants. It is the last Gabonese city before the border with the Congo. It is located in a hilly savannah area surrounded by the Chaillu massif and the Mayombe mountains.
To the east of the plains, you can see the western foothills of the Chaillu massif, which have always fascinated those who approach it. It is home to the highest point in Gabon: Mount Milondo, which culminates at 1,020 m.
THE DISCOVERY OF GOLD HAS SPARKED NEW INTEREST IN THE REGION
These forest-covered mountains, considered one of the priority areas for conservation in Gabon, represent a sanctuary for many endemic species. Its edges also harbour many natural resources, gold first.
Its discovery in 1930, particularly in the village of Etéké, gave birth to a new interest in the region, with the development of mining sites, then that of forestry and agricultural operations. Another treasure of the Province: Mbigou stone. This village located 800 meters above sea level is famous for its soft limestone (soapstone) which lends itself perfectly to sculpture.
Currently, few artisans work in Mbigou itself or use local stone. But a large number of craftsmen – in particular those of the Alibendeng neighbourhood in Libreville – carve works in similar limestones which they call “Mbigou stone”. The region is also renowned for its sacred art. Wooden sculptures of the Mitsogho, Punu, Eshira ethnic groups, effigies covered with copper strips of the Massangho, masks… So many objects that always have a ritual value for the inhabitants.
At the crossroads of the Chaillu Massif and the Mayombe chains, the village of Mimongo is also considered to be the temple of Bwiti, the traditional initiation rite of Gabon, which is called Bwété here.
The province of Ngounié is also home to some of the oldest churches in Gabon: the Catholic missions of Saint Martin of the Apindji, Sindara and Mandji, dating from the end of the 19th century. There is no doubt that the Ngounié, in addition to its natural resources, is at the roots of an intense spiritual life.
A legacy whose importance goes beyond the borders of the Province.