by Nina Sophie Meyer | Wintersemester 2016 | Freie Universität Berlin
Episode 1: JJ Bola
Episode 2: Mulele Matondo Afrika
Episode 3: Patricia Balusa
Episode 4: Lauren Boboto
Episode 5: Diki Fundu
I have always actively engaged in events, projects and conversations that took a critical stance towards colonialism and the ongoing exploitation of the African continent, and I have been wanting to help change the discourse that positions colonialism as a positive civilising mission. However, taking the physical step to something bigger was only due to the creative space Sarah gave us in the seminar “Colonial Genocide in Sub-Saharan Africa”. Upon having read “Leopold’s Ghost”, and other pieces that focused on the Congolese genocide, I decided that the Congolese Genocide and the exploitation of the DRC and its people was going to be the foundation of my project. Most importantly, rather than crafting a paper of my own, I thought it was important to listen to those who had been directly and indirectly affected by this genocide. The topic very much circles around the matter of representation and the importance behind who authors history. Therefore, I decided to speak to the descendants of those who had lived through and survived the colonial period. As the leaders of the European discourse have written and re-written African history for the past 500 years, it is time we stopped talking and started listening, hence the title “It’s Time to Listen”.
The first step of the project was sourcing out young Congolese men and women who would be willing to engage in a conversation about the Congolese genocide and its aftermath. As the DRC has very strict censorship laws in referral to governmental critique, I was not sure how people were going to react to my request. I was surprised however, how many people were more than willing to speak out on these issues and agreed to meet me for an interview. The first step towards finding my interviewees was to apply to join the Facebook group of the UK based CONGOLESE ACTION YOUTH PLATFORM (CAYP). As it is a closed group that limits its membership to people of Congolese decent or people with direct connections to the DRC, I had to explain my project goals and motivations and was thankfully admitted to the group which allowed me to start establishing contacts. As most of the members were based in London, I managed to conduct all my interviews in just two trips to London, and one trip to Norwich, where I met Congolese Author Fiston Mwanza Mujila, who happened to be living there at that moment and who’s agent was kind enough to give me his personal email address. At this point, it is important stress that this project would not have been possible without the time and effort of my interviewees, as well as their friends, agents and acquaintances, who helped me establish some of the contacts. Furthermore, it was only through platforms such as Facebook, which would enable me to reach the magnitude of Congolese men and women living in the diaspora. The contact with my interviewees primarily went through the Facebook Messenger, through which we discussed interview times and dates.
Format: Why a Video Podcast?
I was faced with the choice of transcribing interviews, doing an audio podcast or conducting a video podcast. As I am hoping to reach as many young people as possible, I thought this medium form would not only capture people’s attention, I also noticed it was a great way to convey my interviewees’ emotions and reactions. Due to these reasons, I decided to opt for the video option, which further enabled easy sharing on YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites.
- Equipment: I used a Canon 700D for all the video shoots and enhanced the audio through a Mondpalast Microphone with Stereo for Nikon/Canon Camcorders. The material was filmed on a tripod with the help of Marishana Mabusela and Philip Modu.
- Editing: I used a trial version of “Final Cut Pro” to edit the episodes. I used Mac’s program “Garage Band” to create the theme songs. The song in the trailer was downloaded from an open access page that provides legally shareable music called the Free Music Archive (“Free Beats Sel. 3″ By Black Ant).
I was very happy with the process and the outcome of the interviews due to the fact that the interviewees shared a lot of ideas, experiences and thoughts, which were new to me, some of which I was completely unaware of. Especially coming from a UK angle, it was very interesting to hear about the political discourse as well as the education within the UK in regards to the DRC. What struck me most was the difference in hopefulness/ hopelessness between the interviewees. While some interviewees saw a positive future for Congo, other interviewees like Mulele expressed their pessimism in regards to its future. I also noticed the generational difference within this issue- the older generations seemed to be less hopeful than the ones representing the younger generation. The sentence which fell every single interview was “Congo is the richest country, yet its people are amongst the poorest”. This sentence resonates within me still.
The Future of the Project
Although this project started off as a university project, it is my plan to continue this project on a larger scale. Adding to the videos I released today, I have conducted two additional videos and will hope to continue in a similar fashion. I am aspiring to make a second season focusing on Nigeria and its exploitation by the British Empire, also setting focus on Biafra and the discrimination of the Igbo population within the country. I have already received some feedback towards my first five episodes and will use the constructive critique, which mostly came from a cinematographic stand point, for my following videos. I hope you will join me on the journey of my project, there is more to come!