Recently I watched a compelling video about a Congolese Drumming and Dancing teacher from Santa Cruz named Vivien Bassouamina. Someone from my class sent out a link suggesting we make a video of our Congolese Master teacher along the same lines to help promote him. The video was so good I drove down Christmas Day to Santa Cruz where Vivien teaches and took his dance class. My goal was to do it without killing myself, as I am packing about 70-80 extra pounds and have not been actively dancing or fit for too many years.
Vivien was terrific, but then so is my Master teacher Sandor Diabankouezi. They come from the same region in the Congo, near Brazzaville, and Sandor has 20 years more experience than Vivien while Vivien has explosive, ultra fit youth and charisma going for him. I’m in the process of engaging the videographer, Devi Pride, for work with my teacher.
My teacher Sandor has been in the US teaching Dance for a good 24 years. Vivien has been teaching for 4 years. But they have more in common than their culture, coming from the same area of the congo, and being drumming and dancing teachers. They have both had their mothers killed in their homeland. Vivien’s sister was also killed by rebels. Though it was factions in the Congo that did the killing, it is the continuing imperialism and exploitation of African resources, specifically minerals mined in the Congo used in laptops, cell phones and other digital technology that is the real source behind the ongoing rapes, torture and slaughter of people in the Congo. And that would be us white imperialist warmonger/ consumers in American and Europe.
I can’t begin to guess how it must feel to these congolese masters to live, dance, drum, sing and teach in the land of their oppressors while the slaughter, torture and rape on a massive scale continues unchecked. It has been happening for decades, since King Leopold of Belgium began enslaving and exploiting the Congo.
I bought T-shirts from Friends of the Congo with the face of Patrice Lumumba on them during Congo week several months ago. Now I have to face giving or selling them and explaining to people how Patrice Lumumba, elected to run his country, was murdered by foreign interests not wanting democracy to come to the Congo because it would interfere with the resources being sucked out of the Congo for profit.
Part of me wants to skip the whole thing, because trying to talk about the Congo with the people I dance and drum with is risky business. We who drum and dance congolese don’t want to know about or feel any of the collective guilt we are suppressing over what has happened and is still happening. But just because we are getting away with not talking about it or doing anything doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.