Indépendance cha cha tozui e
Oh! Kimpuanza cha cha tubakidi
Oh! Table Ronde cha cha babagné o
Oh! Dipanda cha cha tozui e
(Independence cha cha, we’ve won it
Oh! Independence cha cha, we’ve achieved it
Oh! The round table talks cha cha, we’ve carried them off
Oh! Independence cha cha, we’ve won it)
Joseph Kabasele « Grand Kallé », 1960 (the single, Surboum African Jazz, AJ001).
(The word for « independence » is « kimpuanza » in Kikongo, and « dipanda » in Lingala).
Here’s a country crippled by shortages. Since the mid-Seventies, Congo-Zaire has slid progressively down the slippery slope into economic crisis. A defaulting State, declining public services, Mickey-mouse civil service salaries that force state employees to seek other revenues, increasingly rare salaries (cash-in-hand replacing formal pay), generalised shortages, the dollarisation of the economy (the dollar being the only currency worth a thing), increasingly acute poverty levels, and an isolation that has led to the breaking off of all external assistance all these factors have led to civilian violence, to all social life being turned into a commercial relation, to the predominance of monetary logic in human relationships, and to a loss of moral markers that now fills the churches and gives credence to witchcraft. With war and massacres to top it all.
Here’s a town that used to be known as Kin-the-Beautiful, that has virtually no road system or any public transport services left. Here’s a town that’s been totally abandoned, zigzagged by people who have to walk everywhere, whose ruts have turned into lakes and whose refuse has built up into pavements. Kin-the-Joyful has become a battle cry. Quite frankly, it’s not the town itself that makes me want to come back to Kin, but rather its inhabitants. For they bellow out this cry, which is not a cry of desperation. This cry has the rhythm that makes the whole of Africa dance, and it has never deserted them. It has the dignity of those who know not to expect a thing from anyone else, who know that they have to manage on their own.
But what’s the best way to speak about Kinshasa without mythicising it? What’s the best way to share the enthusiasm this vitality sparks without turning it into a projection of our own fantasies, as is so often the case? What’s the best way to report on this artistic hubbub without singling out notable exceptions to the detriment of the ensemble?
The answer is by letting the players who live Kin life on a day-to-day basis speak out (our thanks go to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its Cultural Action Fund grant that enables us to put these country by country dossiers together), by entrusting a plucky young woman journalist, who moves outside the circles of the powers that be, with coordinating this dossier, by seeking to testify to this cultural vitality’s underlying logic.
After all, Kin really is incredible! This town that has nothing and practically no backing of any kind manages to achieve what others have been struggling to do for so long now namely to produce its own cultural agenda, to tour shows round the different districts, to make creation exist despite the shortages, and to transform survival into creative resistance.
Kin is a lesson to us all. And it is no accident that this dossier closes one chapter before opening a new one. As the last monthly issue of Africultures, this dossier prefigures the spirit of our forthcoming new quarterly due out in March 2003, which, in a desire to understand the present, will aim to deconstruct myths by remaining rooted in reality; to testify to the necessity of a given creative form and to highlight its diversity and contemporariness; and to be a platform for artists and critical debates. It will remain in keeping with our present spirit, therefore, but will have added depth and will open up to forms as yet unexplored in our columns.
It will also remain in keeping with the independence that forces us to make do with what we have, without institutional handouts, to produce quality in complete simplicity. Perhaps it is this common ability to manage alone, with all the commitment and creativity that that implies, that places us on the same wavelength as our subject, enabling us justly to report on this Africa that inhabits us, on Kinshasa and elsewhere.
///Article N° : 5652