Congostyle is a term my brother and I coined to describe a joyful jerry-rigging philosophy of life: fast, cheap, creative and efficient. Partly born out of necessity in a place where there isn’t a Home Depot you can drive to, partly a reflection of the astounding sense of humor of the Congolese people, it is in fact absolutely not “Congolese” but rather something universal to the human condition.

The inventors of duct tape will be the first inductees into the Congostyle Hall of Fame.

In my brother’s own words: “Congostyle as incepted by ME, is not about forcing yourself to be cheap. It’s making do with the inherent limitations of your situation.”

We are now accepting submissions of your own Congostyle solutions. Email them to me at [congostyle at gmail dot com] and they *might* get added to the album if they are deemed Congostyle enough.

I would just like to add that since I’m stealing most of these pictures from my brother’s photostream, this album is, in fact, Congostyle.

Congostyle Wiring
Congostyle Wiring

In Pointe-Noire. I was trying to think up a caption for this, but I simply can’t. I cannot figure out why the cable is tied to the faucet. And I can’t justify such close proximity of an electrical wire to water. 

Congostyle volume control
Congostyle volume control

Taken in a taxi in Pointe-Noire, home of Congostyle. The happy reincarnation of a discarded computer keyboard key. 

Congostyle TSA Container

I was running out the door to catch a flight, and I realized I was leaving for 4 days and needed enough face cream to last me but I wasn’t willing to take the pot and pay $25 to check my luggage. I looked in my medicine cabinet and found an unused contact lens case and filled each compartment with a dollop of face cream. 

Congostyle U-HAUL

Pointe-Noire, Congo. “Pousse-pousse” is the term used for these home-made giant wheelbarrows, which are basically a metal box on car wheels, with a handle-bar areas on the front and the back. They are the main mode of moving and transportation other than trucks and cars in the city, for short and not-so-short distances. This guy has artfully piled (highly flammable) foam mattresses and is transporting them from a wholesaler to a retailer, in all likelihood. These are the main form of bedding in Congo, and honestly, “mattress” is too generous a description. 

Congostyle Pregnancy Tech Solution

The Geek Squad couldn’t have solved this problem more artfully. MangoFerret, so far one of only two honorary Congostyle inductees was eight months pregnant and on doctor-ordered bed rest. Her only connection to the world was her desktop computer from which she could chat with various friends and family. Only this desktop had a screensaver, and she could not disable it. So she rigged pink yarn to the mouse, in order to be able to tug at it from the couch if the screensaver came on. The binoculars were to see which of her contacts came online when the computer dinged, so she could determine if it was worth the trip from the couch to the desk to talk to that person. This entire situation might very well be my absolute favorite Congostyle contender. 

Congostyle Stamp

Made in Pointe-Noire by stamp-carvers on the sidewalks. They whittle away tire-rubber with flat-blade razors. One day, these “MADE IN CONGO” stamps will be available for purchase in an online store. That will be our crowning moment, when Congostyle goes viral. We dream big, here. 

Congostyle Silver Polishing

Only because there are many, many ways to do this better and more efficiently. 

Congostyle Shoe Return

Possibly not my high point as a grownup. I bought some hiking shoes before I had anything to hike and tried them out around my neighborhood with four layers of duct tape plastered to the bottom to be able to return them. It worked. I’m still simultaneously proud and embarrassed that I thought of that. 

Congostyle Baking

I was late for Thanksgiving Dinner! And those friggin raspberries needed to be dry 10 minutes ago. 

Congostyle Level

I have to admit, I don’t know where in my brain these ideas exist. This is not the classiest solution, particularly since I had to chop the book in half so it wouldn’t take up too much room. In retrospect the book would have been a more interesting read than it is a level. 

Congostyle Privacy Screen

Taking a nap in your car in the middle of the day, in a public parking lot instead of having a cup of coffee like a normal grownup is already Congostyle enough. Add on to that premeditation when you drive around with a little blanket and a tiny pillow in the back seat for that very purpose. But then, tearing out two double pages from Le Courrier International and wedging them in each of the back windows in order to avoid passerby glances (and judgments) brings the Congostyle to a whole other level. 

Congostyle Press

I found two cinder blocks. Picked up discarded black and white prints from the Pasadena City College photo lab TRASH CAN. And decided that the two together would make bookends, so I painted the cinder blocks and pasted the black and white photo. When I was done, I realized the only weight heavy enough to act as a press were the cinder blocks themselves and the only ziplock bag I could find had Trader Joe’s pita chips in it. I didn’t even blink before wedging the bag in between the blocks. 

Congostyle Toy

Because it works when the power is out. Because it can be made by hand. Because it shoots rubber bands. Low-tech plus rubber bands, duct tape, gum or toothpics instantly make for a Congostyle contender. 

Congostyle Nut

Congo–where else? Where there are no Home Depots to buy a replacement nut. Or Office Depots to buy any new office chairs. Think of how badly you must need a chair in order to come up with this terrible solution. 

Congostyle Jewlery Repair

Safety pin. 

Congostyle Muzzle

One of the rules of Congostyle: if it uses tape, a can, duct tape, string, toothpicks or safety pins in the fixing process, it’s probably Congostyle. Hmm…this raises an interesting question. Is McGuyver the original Congostyle artist? What is true is that Tommy is the definitive Congostyle mascot. This right here. Shepard Fairey. Make me one of your stencils of this image.  

Congostyle Mite Allergy Solution

Freeze the books, freeze the mites.  Kind of like Save the cheerleader, save the world. But not. 

Congostyle Kinkos

CongoStyle Kinko’s. My mom walked into Kinko’s four years ago, when this little caddy was filled with pencils, pens, highlighters, glue sticks, rubber bands, staplers, staples, paper clips, rulers, white out…and MULTIPLES OF EACH…and said, after pausing to examine the contents carefully:

 “If this was Congo, they would have raided those the minute the doors opened.” 

Welcome to the recession people. Congo came to Pasadena. 

Congostyle Gate

Old sign board + chair = good enough gate to keep people as lazy as ME out. 

Congostyle Diploma Frame

This was a temporary solution. But one that greatly amused me every time I entered and left my room. 

Congostyle Flip-Flops

Because they’re misspelled. Awesomely. 

Congostyle Window Repair

It uses tape, therefore…

Congostyle Faucet

In Congo. Our plumber simply does not care. Or is a genius. Who doesn’t care. 

Congostyle Fashion

Potato sack. Enough said. 

Congostyle Plug

It’s scary to me that four of our Congostyle contenders are electrical. 

Congostyle DVD

Anything pirated is somewhat Congostyle, but the seemingly random and nonsensical variety of movies is definitely so: Eastern Promises, Saw IV, Bangkok Dangerous and The Passion of Christ, Starship Troopers, Anaconda 3, Street Kings and The Shepherd. With a little note, at the bottom “World Classics film is carefully chosen”. JUST LOVE THIS. So. freaking. much. 

Congostyle Phone Charging

Instead of…getting a new phone. The charging input in my phone (red one) broke so that I could not charge it. The very cheap very annoying to use OTHER Nokia worked fine. So I would just “surrogate-charge” the battery in that one, then just insert it into mine. I did this for a year. 

Congostyle Dog Grooming

This is a man who loves his dog. This is also my brother. I am also a woman who loves her dog. We’re weird dog people. 

Congostyle Dog

However it is NOT scary to me how many Congostyle contenders are Tommy-related. He’s a dog who only accepts as toys used kitchen towels that smell like my mom, and empty plastic bottles. Petco stuff we bring him has no effect on him. 

Congostyle Track Change

Jack it up, flip it around by hand and voilà! You’re going the OTHER direction on the train tracks! Just don’t forget your jack. 

Congostyle Carabiner

Not safe for rock-climbing. 

Congostyle Break Time

I don’t know who this former Border’s on Lake Ave employee was, taking her break, chillin’ in her car’s trunk. But I want to be friends with her. It’s a GOOD–and very Congostyle–idea. 

Congostyle Air Freshener

Who doesn’t like the smell of clean laundry? (other than severely allergic people)

Congostyle Adaptor

Coming from paris, I had a Nokia phone, and had to buy a French-to-US adaptor. But I lived in an old house, so I had to get a 3-prong-to-2-prong adaptor. Instead of just getting one single new cheap, convenient, US Charger for my very basic Nokia. 


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