Justice in the Congo: CoR Short Films

The Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) wealth of mineral resources continues to be a curse. Since militants from Uganda and Rwanda invaded the DRC in the mid-1990s, an ongoing war has claimed an average of 1,500 lives each day. The United States considers both of these neighboring countries to be allies, but it has neglected to effectively pressure them to halt the violence. North American and European corporations have long been deeply involved in this conflict, as many of the resources commonly found in the Congo are central to manufacturing the cell phones and mp3 players that we use each day. For more information on the conflict, and how you can take action, click here. CoR has produced the following 6 short films to highlight how artists and activists are working to bring awareness to the causes of the conflict, speak out against corruption, and use the power of art and music to heal wounds of violence and suffering.

Breaking The Silence: Congo Week

In recent years CoR allies Friends of the Congo have sponsored a week of global action to raise consciousness about the situation in the DRC and to support Congolese institutions working for peace. The following is a short video profiling Congo Week actions that have taken place internationally.

Thembo Kash: Cartooning For Justice DRC/Congo

Thembo Kash, an illustrator from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), focuses his work on two themes: the corruption that plagues his country’s government and the exploitation of natural resources by foreign corporations. Speaking about one of his illustrations, Kash says, “I’ve drawn Congo as a cake. People are helping themselves, but the Congolese don’t benefit from it.” Perhaps the most well-known of a new generation of visual artists in his country, Kash believes that the collective work of artists seeking to expose injustice can produce revolutionary results. This short film takes a look at some of Kash’s work and features an interview with the artist about the political situation in the DRC.

Women Beyond War: A World March In Africa

From October 13-17, 2010, hundreds women gathered in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for the World March of Women. Two hundred and fifty representatives from 48 countries joined over a thousand delegates from the DRC to protest violence against women. Besides leading a massive march, participants formed panels to discuss economic empowerment, public service, and demilitarization. The event could not have been held in a more appropriate place. An estimated 1,000 rapes are committed every month in the DRC, and nearly 40 percent of the victims are under the age of 18. The use of rape as a weapon of war has tormented the women of DRC during the past decade and a half of civil conflict. However, women today are winning more through their mobilizing than ever before. In February 2011, thanks to the brave testimony of 49 women, a military court in eastern DRC for the first time convicted a commanding officer for mass rape and crimes against humanity. Eight other soldiers were also convicted and sentenced to more than 115 years in prison. Congolese women working with international solidarity groups are meeting with government officials to discuss ways to hold more military combatants accountable for their crimes. This short film captures the mood of the World March of Women and conveys the demands coming from women who have for too long borne the brunt of violent conflict.

Building Beyond Conflict: Inspiring Congolese Kids For A Brighter Future

The wars that have raged in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for the past decade and a half have had horrific consequences for the nation’s youth. More than 30,000 children have been drugged and coerced into fighting as child soldiers in the conflict, and the number of girls and young women who have been raped is unknowable. However, coping with these difficulties, a variety of organizations are putting into action their faith in the regenerative power of sports, music, dance, and the arts. Yole! Africa provides a space where young people can draw, play music, dance, and play the drums. The Association for the Support of the Oppressed organizes games, music, and theater activities for groups of children. And Promo Jeunes Basket helps instill values of respect and sincerity through playing the game of basketball. By providing opportunities for young people to show off their talents and express themselves in a supportive environment, these organizations strive to help children overcome past trauma. This short film takes a brief look into the how these small, grassroots efforts are helping young people recover from the effects of a brutal civil war.

Papa Wemba: Singing For A Democratic Congo

As a young man Papa Wemba left his rural home in central Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for the city of Kinshasa to pursue his musical career. In 1969 he joined Zaiko Langa Langa, becoming part of a lineup that did not last long but whose members produced some of the country's most provocative music for years after their break-up. In the 1970s, during then-president Mobutu's "authenticité" campaign, which called for a revival of African roots and a rejection of all things Western, Wemba grew famous for rebelling against these strictures and dressing in avant-garde European fashion. In 1977 he formed a new group called Viva la Musica, membership in which has been a rite of passage for many of the country's most talented young artists. Throughout his career Papa Wemba has been an agent of free expression. Cultures of Resistance interviewed the legendary singer to talk about his music, the future of his country’s politics, and the tensions between politicians and artists in Africa.

Lexxus Legal: Hip Hop For Social Change

A long-time veteran of the hip-hop scene in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Lexxus Legal takes his influence on his community very seriously. Speaking in a way that sets his work apart from so much contemporary hip-hop, he says, “that in general rap without being engaged in the community means nothing.” Not only has Legal’s country lost more than 5 million people to the ongoing civil war, he tells us that his hometown of Kinsasha has the highest level of AIDS in the DRC. In an effort to combat the culture of violence infused in his community and to stem the spread of AIDS, Legal co-founded Racines Alternative, an organization that encourages young people to express their frustration through music rather than acts of violence. This short film profiles the rapper’s politically engaged lyricism and his belief in the power of music to stem conflict. As he says, “Through culture and rap we can succeed where the politicians failed. We can show that we’re ready to take the lead despite all that’s happened to us so that we can rebuild this part of the world.”

Click here to learn how to support the struggle in the DRC/Congo.