Reportage of the experience of responsible tourism in Congo made by the Italian delegation of Malaki ma Kongo.
“Malaki Live: going to Africa not to sympathize with crocodiles, lions or giraffes,but to make brotherhood with human beings”.
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From August 1st to 14th, 2004 a delegation from the Cultural Association Malaki ma Kongo Italy went to the Congo to meet with two friends and colleagues of the Congolese Association Malaki ma Kongo-Congo Brazzaville and Malaki ma Kongo-Congo Kinshasa to participate to the events of the festival Three-continental on roots of African culture Malaki ma Kongo, whose annual edition was held in the Congolese 12th time in Brazzaville from August 7 to 9 In 2004, the festival Tricontinental Malaki ma Kongo has organized protests in St. Domingo and Haiti during the month of January, on the occasion of the bicentennial of the independence of the first independent Black Republic, Haiti, in Berck sur Mer (France ) in July, in Brazzaville (Congo Republic) in August, September 25 next, the association will be officially in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso to continue the festival and its activities. Congo Kinshasa, in addition, Malaki ma Kongo – which has already made other editions in the Democratic Republic of Congo – was also paired this year with the International Goodwill Festival Theatre City “Care,” a drama festival supported by the Minister of Culture and Arts of Republic. Dem. Congo. The festival takes place as traveling in several African countries and many artists from different African countries are participating. Commissioner Généralde Care, mr Nzey Van Musala, president of Malaki ma Kongo-Congo Kinshasa. A delegation of the cultural association Malaki ma Kongo – Italy visited the Congo to participate in two events of the festival Tricontinental Malaki ma Kongo and make my experience in responsible tourism …
by Letizia Farisato:
On arrival at the airport in Kinshasa on 1 August, Sunday evening, the Italian delegation of Malaki ma Kongo – arrived on an aircraft of the Congolese carrier Hewa Bora full of luggage and goods sent by the Congolese in Europe to their families in Africa – was immediately welcomed by the President Mr. Van Nzey Musala. After checking documents and baggage delivery – which took more than two hours in a dense crowd of passengers , friends came to seek and officials and airport staff – our delegation, while sweating due to the oppressive heat and, met at the exit of many other members of the Company Theatre Co. Marabout, led by Van Nzey Musala and promoter of the festival Care. Together (with Julie, Jolie, Mischu, Artur, Petit, Maguy, and Raoul Van of course Nzey Musala Marabout group of many) on the festival Care minibus – which had already started preparations for the opening next week – our friends headed to the city, stopping for a break in a small local restaurant for comfort with excellent fish on the grill, the tchikuanga (kind of bread made from cassava) and a beautiful Skoll , blonde beer of the Republic. Dem. Congo.
The density of people in the streets was impressive: never seen so many people together for miles and miles of road with people gathered on both sides, some selling on tables or on the floor of the products of any kind ( from boiled eggs to Coca Cola bottles, lighters, candy, bread, phone cards), some walking and others pending transportation to return home. In Kinshasa transport are cars of various sizes, vans and minibuses overflowing with men, women and children crowded: the young are attached to the outside of cars, a number of feet dangling from the roofs for Luggage become places of travel, short bus with onboard entire villages …! And the traffic is like any major European city: the times of departure and return to work “traffic jams” abound. The roads are really shattered, broken: some paved sections full of holes and depressions, some covered only by sand and a layer of permanent and non-homogeneous waste and garbage: it seems that it is because of overcrowding in the city in recent years as more and more people leave the villages frequently, attracted by the deceptive mirage of prosperity of life in the city and all bottilles plastic consumed. And the state is completely absent here: there are no public services for street cleaning or garbage collection, at least, their presence is absolutely no smell or out.
Arrived in Ngaba, a slum of the city, the Italian delegation was accompanied to spend the night in accommodation CEPROSOC Congolese NGO (Centre for the Welfare and Community). The atmosphere in this neighborhood, like others we visited, is very particular: the total lack of electricity – which is true in many cases as a result of damage to the local dam to provide power to several other African countries, including Congo Brazzaville, and all because of the war – leaving the whole area completely in the dark. It is broken only by the headlights of cars passing by the candlelight of small shops and street vendors and a few sets with their noise and smell of exhaust. It seems that the night would impose its own inevitable silence every night after 18 hours … but the quiet candlelight instead leaves pierce the endless vitality and ouattée sound of the wonderful people here, because despite the difficulties they never cease to struggle to go to the next.
The beautiful people, athletic and muscular young men, chubby children, women proud and elegant … this image of Africa too often neglected by the media, who seem to only play on pity through images gloomy damage Unfortunately, any kind that tear several African realities, by neglecting against anything that gives honor and dignity to a continent that should not be abandoned in despair. There who know how, for example, as Brazzaville Kinshasa fabulous outbreak, a ferment of cultural centers, schools, institutes and academies of art? You can find exhibitions, laboratories of modern art, traditional or mixed in many places, the theater (especially in Kinshasa), ballet and dance (especially Brazzaville) take place in theaters, movies , schools, workshops, testing and rehearsal are often old houses to be demolished or short with the rent is not too high for the meager pockets of artists. In educational institutions, programs are high, training is hard and disciplined. All this despite the situation of buildings: buildings torn (the best is reserved for European schools, such as an exclusive school in Brazzaville, where only citizens can study French), banks that retain their original appearance only because they are broken and ruined, music rooms where musical instruments – in non-optimal conditions but preserved with great care – can be calculated on the fingers of one hand (1 guitar, 2 clarinets, 2 violins … all students of the Institute!) Yet despite this, inside the schools can breathe a fresh air of optimism and a bustling business: in the corridors there are students who carried out, studying, trying to re-examination to pass.
The next day, with friends of Marabout Theatre, after a breakfast with bread, butter, coffee powder Nestlé (the years of boycott in Italy for the first time sharply contrasted by the reality now touched the finger c ‘is absolutely true, here we find another brand of coffee that Nestle milk powder is almost exclusively and the same house … here malfamée multinational corporations reign uncontested), the Italian delegation of Malaki ma Kongo left with two friends to the Marabout attend the trial of a Congolese traditional ballet, still in the district of Ngaba.
Walking through the streets, everyone turned to look at the only white in circulation in this area: in fact, usually Europeans and Westerners in general walk and live almost exclusively in certain parts of the city, where is are the major hotels and luxury seats. They believe that poor neighborhoods are dangerous, or they do not feel at ease when they see the difficult conditions of life in these places. By the way Italian-Congolese group, both adults and children turned around to scan the walkers, while the excited children shouted: “MUNDELE! MUNDELE! “. The street became a race of little boys who were passing from mouth to mouth the cry “Mundele! Mundele! “Ran in the direction of travel of light Italian delegation. The latter, frightened and confused, could not react like … a mixture of unease, fear and curiosity took their minds: what does it all mean? Why are people screaming as they pass? What do they want? What were their intentions … and what would they do next? Would they approached to ask for more money or to steal their bags? Or were they just curious? How should we behave: ignore them or try to be nice? … My God!
But friends Congolese Marabout explained after “mundele” means “white / white” Lingala language and people and children call it that white people to greet, to give a warm welcome. It is a sign of joy and hospitality. If after the white bow in turn, for these children and adults is a great gift: they will be very happy that “mundele” and has welcomed and they will feel privileged … At some point a child of 4 years suddenly jumped in front of our small group travel, basting with joy shouting “Mundele: hello! “Understanding the situation is obvious Italians, by disrupting the heart, and because the joy and love took the place of suspicion and bad faith, and because they perceived the evil yet to see if current and present the effects of colonization – even the latest generations – who have taught for centuries hypocritical and monstrous conception of the superiority of the white man on black. And now the TV continues this work by proposing a “top model” of civilization that all dream by treating it as a paradise. Surely, beyond what history has left us, there is still the culture of warm hospitality to strangers: The African big heart … (the comparison with how to welcome foreigners in Italy is perceived right on).
Almost a week after our delegation left for Brazzaville: arrival at the “beach”, she was preparing to cross the majestic Congo River, the second largest river in the world after Rio Amazon. A river extraordinary subject of many local myths and legends around the world, especially for explorers and adventurers, a river that, even now, hiding many secrets … This river separates the two sharing and closest capitals in the world: Brazzaville and Kinshasa precisely. In some respects, from the shore we see the skyscrapers and the headlights of cars in the city on the other side. A spectacular sight!
After the long and complex bureaucratic practice to be able to cross (although they are the same people on one side and the other of the river, in fact the settlement has created two different countries and across the river means to pass from one state to another), Malaki ma Kongo Italy has finally embarked on a boat and was received and welcomed by the other side of Malaki ma Kongo Brazzaville, led by President Magloire Biantouari. To reach the Bacongo neighborhood, where the Italian delegation would stay in southern Brazzaville, we took a taxi. The taxi here, such as buses and transportation in general, are all the same color green, all approved. The cars seem to be generally in slightly better conditions compared to Kinshasa. As we have subsequently discovered, life in general takes Brazza a slightly different coloration in Kinshasa: a city it seems a little less metropolitan and quiet, and everything seems to be a little more order, more treated on the other hand there is the same level of overcrowding as Kinshasa and Brazzaville in the state has a somewhat stronger presence.
Unfortunately, the effects of war are still evident here and lately: over here a little over two years, many buildings still bear the signs of bullet holes from guns and bombs among the people of groomed despite the difficult conditions, there is more than an invalid: the young beautiful women, dressed in colorful traditional clothes and elegant, made up and arranged with amazing hairstyles requiring hours of time, but lame because of a leg or foot damaged by a bomb. Centers of electronic and computer, appliance stores, gas stations, car wash, etc.. all abandoned: there is as drawings, posters on the walls, all equipment was looted during the conflict, or damaged beyond repair.
All these places are just beautiful memories of times when the city is enjoying a quiet life and laborious. In areas closer, as in the area Nganga Lingolo in the Pool region – one of the main theaters of conflict – are the remains of burnt houses, nothing but the walls, where there were windows there even the black signs of destruction of fire and smoke, the roof has completely disappeared.
Arrived, finally, Bacongo, a neighborhood of the city that has experienced more devastation of war, and where there is still one of the most famous and most beautiful markets of fruits and vegetables, were deposited the suitcases. Right after we went to the “Space Matsoua” to celebrate the opening of Malaki ma Kongo Festival Artists exceptional dance and ballet traditional griot minstrels (small living books of the African oral tradition), African language poets Local (Kikongo and lari), singers … all have taken place in a beautiful blend of a high level of performance that reflects the depth of the truly artistic and intellectual richness of the Congolese people. Among them, Adolphine, Ardos Massamba, Bobatu Workshop, Audette and Co., pouts Ballet Co. Zu dia Katiopia, Emérode and Co., Vika Petolo.
A blackout hit that night, but the evening continued to unfold smoothly, even if the lights of candles, showing once again how the artists and people in general have here an extraordinary commitment to the dignity and to work even under difficult conditions, always with a smile. Instead of being discouraged, everyone tries to quietly industry to find solutions to problems and to keep moving to the next, with an enviable strength of mind. And the warm welcome Congolese wanted to provide opportunities for Italian friends to film images of the festival, the shows were repeated a second time after finding a generator that allowed the illumination of the place: at last, they really are provided with a lot of will in spite of the crude stereotype that West Africa does not want to work!
In the center Labou Tansi, then still in the Bacongo district, the Festival Malaki ma Kongo continued with demonstrations of the Boxing of the Pharaohs, an ancient martial art that dates back to the African Egyptians. The creator of this martial art renewed, the great master Sa-Ra Samba, has been working for years with Malaki ma Kongo in research and promotion of the roots of African culture. This physical-spiritual discipline has several centers in cities of Rép.du Congo and is now exercised internationally.
In the center Labou Tansi, still in the district of Bacongo, the Festival of Malaki ma Kongo Lingolo Nganga was found, in place of Malaki ma Kongo here we find the Mbongui Malaki ma Kongo, the “cultural center” where all Malaki movement was born. Outdoors, between secular trees and ntsamba (palm wine produced in this place), the sound of drums and traditional instruments, our delegation from Italy and artists Co. Zu dia Katiopia gave a performance of dances and rhythms to which the neighborhood of the district, women, children, old people, came to attend: the intercultural party has raised a lot of curiosity and participation, especially in view of Mundell (Brazzaville called “musungu”) that have caught showing whether ndombolo dancing (traditional dance of Africa from the center with circular movements of the pelvis). All have shown the importance of preserving African cultural roots is not a commonplace (as unfortunately many people believe today, because of the attraction of the Western model, led to exaggerated by the media and the global market) value of this culture is also recognized by many Western and white.
In particular, Malaki ma Kongo believes and works on development projects manager development model based on the traditional African sense, built by Africans themselves, and therefore African-centered and sustainable long term for years and years of cooperation based again on the export of a purely Western model showed in fact the failure of the development department, which does not take into account local cultural foundations. Africa still can not get out of this hybrid still strong presence of its cultural roots – one side – in opposition to development projects that focus on purely Western concepts that never was last few years – the other side.
The conclusion is that there is a gradual loss of cultural identity and yet one that never start in terms of creating a Western-style, with great suffering for all, not only for African, but also for all Western same who, driven by a strong sense of solidarity efforts are inevitably vanish.
A Nganga Lingolo – land on which the Pool Malaki ma Kongo Italia has developed a micro-credit “Emergency Project for Women War Victims in Congo” – we visited a large land on which species are cultivated vegetables . The land here is very fertile, and indeed the appearance of plants was beautiful. Fields, well cared for and in order, affect the rainforest. Right next to a stream can take water. Unfortunately there are no funds to build a pump for irrigation could greatly reduce time and effort for this work. A shame, because the family has cultivated a spirit of sacrifice and a willingness to work really wonderful that we Malaki ma Kongo Italy we want to support. With our project we plan to allow more mothers to start and / or support horticulture in the following if necessary even from the standpoint of agricultural training with a group of young agronomists Congo Brazzaville, specializing in local cultures.
We will continue to ask the “community ethics” Italian help to raise funds and to support this project, and the other “A computer for Africa,” which allows us to collect computers, printers etc. . as well as typewriters, sewing machines, second hand, to be shipped to the Congo for training and teaching the use of young people and adults Congo. The computer-learning center tutorial was then visited by our Italian delegation. Tutorial effect was one of the educational centers and larger IT Brazzaville south until the war broke out and all the equipment the school has been looted or damaged. You could count 15-20 students per class, in disciplines such as programming, analysis and management, the secretariat office, the English language, computer maintenance, computerized accounting. The building is still in good condition and performance, although in a much more limited as a result of damage suffered. It will serve as a reception center computer that we send from Italy and those computers will be used in part to integrate the computer rooms of the school and others to be given a bonus to students with good reason. In general, all – friends, artists and non-member artists ofMalaki ma Kongo as well as in Kinshasa from Brazzaville – really a warm beautiful, that of the classical tradition Congo, the delegation from Italy.
Everyone wanted to give something to friends who traveled so far, and especially they all confessed the joy and hope that this visit has brought them for having felt that they are neither abandoned nor forgotten, despite the war ended recently and continues to stay away from the world, because of fear. TV and media, in fact, do not give sufficient information and complete information about the situation of Congo (Brazzaville in particular). Very often the public – even in the rare cases where it happens to be aware of international aid that these countries need – consider these countries as places entirely and exclusively to risk not being informed on such that there are quiet areas where one can quietly travel. On the way back to Kinshasa before returning to Italy, Letizia Farisato – President Malaki ma Kongo Italy – held a conference on responsible tourism within the “Espace Malaki Ma Kongo,” the day before the opening of Festival Care, causing great interest and enthusiasm among the Congolese who were at the beginning of their knowledge of the principles of responsible development and international cooperation ethics (there was a conference on Ethics in Finance the 11th edition of Malaki ma Kongo Brazzaville). Finally, the theater show “Biso” Company Co. Marabout theater and dance and traditional ballet Kongo “Tiya” of Ngoma Za Kongo Brazzaville concluded an evening of great style, followed by a cocktail reception during which the official Italian delegation met with several authorities and community leaders. The festival Care then continued the following days with theater companies from Cameroon, Chad, Dem. Central Africa, Gabon, Togo, Burkina Faso … Tongolo with the Arc-en-ciel & Africa Theatre, the Theatre Workshop of the Littoral, the Actors Studio Mille, the Ecurie Maloba, the Ngoon Cie, Cie Theatre intriguing. After Kinshasa locations of performance will be displaced in Brazzaville, Pointe Noire, Libreville, Bangui and Lambaréné, as established by the tradition of the traveling festival.
Among the shows we do not want to forget those offered to the lower population, old people and street children: they not only attend performances, but each year the festival gives gifts to everyone. This is the commitment of artists and men of culture with which ethical Malaki ma Kongo my works (in Europe Malaki also works with artists who intend some of their cachet responsible for development projects). At the airport, waiting to board that would have extended our delegation in Italy, emotions and images of these two incredible weeks passed, one after the other: we already regretted having to leave. Dear, sweet and special friends of the Congo have left indelible traces in the memory and heart: the will of conviviality, solidarity of the people and especially the dignity, fortitude, the will to live and desire to improve the living standards are now so hard a lesson for the soul and a message that Malaki ma Kongo Italy has pledged to increase and spread in Italy and worldwide. We want to restore hope and confidence in the lives of these brothers and sisters through our solidarity projects, join our hands in love and universal brotherhood.