Richard Kiepert, map of the Congo Basin
Colour lithograph, 47 x 72 cm, collections KMMA HO.1953.74.2
Immediately following the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, the German cartographer Richard Kiepert (1846-1915) made the first detailed map of the Congo Basin. It shows the impact on the borders of the free trade zone and the Association internationale du Congo (which would later become Congo Free State).
Out of respect for the rulers of the Lunda Empire, who had not been invited to the conference, Kiepert also drew the borders of what he labels as the kingdoms of the Mwata Yamvo, Kasongo and Cazembe.
The traces of the journeys made by 46 explorers from seven countries in the 19th century cannot conceal the vast unknown territory around the bend of the Congo, an area that is left largely empty.
The Berlin Conference was held from November 1884 to February 1885 by the German Chancellor von Bismarck and established the conditions for the creation of colonies, which spurred the carving up of Africa. It was also intended to regulate the free trade issues within the Congo River zone. Thanks to the Geographical Conference that Leopold II had convened in 1876 in this Royal Palace, the Belgian King was able to obtain an international agreement on the exploration of equatorial Africa and the abolition of the slave trade. But despite the efforts to coordinate the African plans of the future European colonial powers, conflicts of interest would soon arise.
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