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History of Kongo Kingdom at Tunis' Dream City festival

Poet Fiston Mwanza Mujila performing at Tunis' Bir Lahjar Cultural Centre. Congolese photographer Sammy Baloji collaborated with him and 2 musicians for his 'Missa Luba" piece   -  
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Missa Luba , biennale à Tunis


The 9th edition of art festival Dream city is taking place in Tunisia's capital until October 8th.

Congolese photographer Sammy Baloji offers a deep dive into the history of the Kongo kingdom starting from the 15th century with his work Missa Luba.

The Kingdom included portions of present-day The Congo, the DRC, Gabon, and Angola.

The performance of about 45 minutes touches on themes including politics, slavery, and the evangelisation of Africa.

"I was keen to work on these themes because the Belgian propaganda has it that it is Belgium which brought civilization to Congo," Baloji said.

"It was interesting to work on an era prior to the arrival of the Belgians, to shed light on evidence of civilization and political organization in pre-colonial Congo. The whole project started coming together when I discovered letters that King Afonso sent to the King of Portugal’."

Political, cultural and religious interactions

The piece revolves around the Missa Luba, a Congolese religious music genre, and the semi-fictional story of interactions between the Kongo Kingdom, Portugal and the Vatican.

Fiston Mwanza Mujila is a poet. He is one of three artists that collaborated with Sammy Baloji. He is the eccentric narrator that leads the public in back-and-forth time travels. Because the story about interaction back in the 15th century echo present-day issues.

"When reading these correspondences, we come across really funny stuff, clothes that Portugal’s King sends to his counterpart in the Kongo Kingdom, civet cats that are shipped to Portugal."

"It was most important to reflect about these exchanges with today’s perspective, Fiston Mwanza Mujila says. "The dynamic remains the same today, it’s only the form of the exchanges that has changed. Nowadays we talk about humanitarian aid, scholarships, Congo’s minerals that are exported or minerals from Niger which are shipped to France or elsewhere."

Musicians Barbara Drazkov and Pytshens Kambilo also collaborated with photographer Sammy Baloji. Together with Mwanza Mujila, they perform Missa Luba at the Bir Lahjar Cultural Centre.

Rumba is featured in a section of the performance: "We play the song Independence Tcha Tcha, [at some point] we have mixed it to a song by Dr Nico Bougie at Motema. In doing so we tried to mix the Rumba of the likes of Dr Nico and Independence Tchatcha to emphasize that we were talking about rumba."

The Missa Luba is another common tread of the performance. Missa Luba is unique setting of the Catholic Christian Latin Mass wich is sung in styles traditional to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Kyrie, for example, is in the style of a kasala, a poetic genre sometimes performed during funerals by the BaLuba people. The Sanctus and the Benedictus are inspired by Bantu farewell songs.

'Missa Luba' will be performed in Brussels in May next year during the Kunstenfestivaldesarts, an international event dedicated to contemporary artistic works.

Tunisia's Dream city festival gives prominence to musical, dance, theatrical performances as well as contemporay art.

The urban festival unique methology consists in inviting "Tunisian and international artists to create contextually by engaging with the city and its inhabitants."

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