The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s troubled history, which has included enslavement, colonialism, exploitation, and a recent devastating conflict that left nearly 5 million people dead resulted in more than physical and material devastation. Tragically, the voice of the Congolese people has been muted beyond recognition. They have lost their identity, dignity, and creativity. Meaningful relationships have become obsolete as abuse and exploitation are commonplace. In the face of unprecedented atrocities, the context for healing and restoration has been largely obliterated. Widespread displacement of people from their homes and communities has destroyed the frame of reference within which personal and group identities are developed and expressed.
Congo Initiative’s Center for the Creative Arts seeks to restore an authentically Congolese voice. We are committed to using the creative process as a vehicle for transformation of peoples’ lives and futures. The center will work with individuals and groups from multiple communities, facilitating art projects, developing media that is appropriate to the specific group, including among others painting, sculpture, music and drama. The projects will be birthed in and reflect the life of communities, including their struggles and concerns.
Art provides a constructive medium for articulating and expressing grievances and seeking reconciliation among communities. Art projects will provide space for the construction and restoration of relationship. As each individual in the group tells her story and expresses her experience of the world in which she finds herself, she not only finds her voice but is also heard by her community. The completed projects will point to common pain, a common hope and a common humanity that can provide a bridge in relationships that have been distorted by exploitation and abuse. The projects then become celebrations of relationship restored.
Art projects (in their broadest sense) also provide forums to grapple with questions of identity. Who are we as we emerge out of the ruin of war? What is our pain? What do we hold dear? What do we hope for? The projects emerging out of these questions will restore and nurture identities that affirm both self and community. Personal narrative will be interwoven with the common experience of larger groups, with the anticipation that communal identity will begin to re-emerge. As individuals and groups of people begin to claim their identity and to trust the expression of their particular perspective, dignity is reconstructed and restored.
Our Center wants to encourage communities to dream and to see the world anew. The art projects will give an opportunity to concretely represent the hope people carry for their community. These projects will then act as focal points for hope acted out and will empower communities to move toward positive change. In this way, the core of the Center for the Creative Arts is transformation. Our vision is that the music, photography, theater, storytelling and sculptures that emanate from community art projects will be for the members of these communities markers of hope, healing and restoration, as well as a genuine celebration of God-given life and beauty. It is, in essence, a reclamation of Congolese identity.