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CounterPULSE is building a movement of risk-taking art that shatters assumptions and builds community. We provide space and resources for emerging artists and cultural innovators, serving as an incubator for the creation of socially relevant, community-based art and culture.

The strength of Hope, my journey: The beginning

by BybBibene / January 30th, 2013 / Posted in: Byb Chanel Bibene, CounterPULSE, Performing Diaspora.

Sunrise, one morning in June 1997: Students were readying themselves for school, workers for their jobs, merchants for their businesses in the city, in the markets, peddlers were at their usual occupations, the many unemployed, graduates with or without hope, were looking for work, students were on their way to school, and that’s when everything happened, the explosions of heavy weapons that began a civil war that separated the inhabitants of the same nation, families, children from their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, fleeing the cities and seeking refuge in forests, leaving behind everything valuable they had ever owned.

 

A civil war broke out in Congo Brazzaville in 1997.  The populace was forced to leave the capital. It was by some sort of miracle that they managed to escape the firearms, the stray bullets, and avoided being kidnapped at the roadblocks established to control ethnic identity.

During this war, women and children were raped in the forest where they were hiding. Some families saw their sons forced to have sex with their mothers, or fathers have sex with their daughters; they had two life or death choices: execute the sentence or die.  Many chose the second option and therefore perished, other traumatized children never understood how they came to mount their mothers and lie with their progenitor and one day committed suicide, or were exiled from their family forever by disgust, shame and disgrace.  Sometimes those choices had no importance, and were simply transformed into distractions for the assailants who would end up executing entire families, leaving nobody behind.

Mass graves were dug in order to swallow up hundreds of dead, who were never identified, as if their time on earth had been useless, as if they never existed.  Many were buried alive.

It was more than a tribal war, a war of powers, brothers killing each other; at times no one knew who was fighting against whom, gripped by hunger, the men became like hungry wolves attacking whomever without concern for their tribal affiliation. Brothers raped and killed each other.

 

Thousands of families, people were hungry; they were thirsty and thus lacked everything, water, salt, sugar, food, and blankets for cold nights under the stars, shoes or sandals to avoid walking on thorns.

For a long time, during the war, children, students, myself included, had no right to be educated, not even after the truce, the so-called peace, they no longer knew how to go back to school, to do what, to study what, with what teachers?  Many children had been forced to join the armed combat militia, separated from their families, drugged, transformed into killers, into killing machines without conscience or scruple.  Many perished physically and mentally.  Women were beaten and raped.

It was war, the one I experienced myself, in my flesh, my guts and my skin. Kidnapped one day, taken from the hands and before the eyes of my parents.  Miraculously I survived. I was transformed into a slave warehouseman who had to arrange the transportation of all the loot plundered here and there by the militia men, those who had become scavengers, those who spoke the language of my father’s tribe, himself kidnapped a few weeks earlier.

This war, which was not my war, was the one that stretched across many countries from Africa to the Middle East, to some countries in Asia, where the dead were laid out by the thousands each year, and poverty became increasingly shrill, where lack of education or just plain life, became alarming. In the same year, a change of political regime occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Wars broke out in the east, in the north Kivu and all along the border with Rwanda. The discovery of Coltan just made the situation worse, causing thousands of deaths and especially the sexual slavery of women and young girls. People fled from there to the Republic Congo, country. It was not better here as well.

A few years after war stopped, I manage to live my life in the present moment, trying to forget about the past, which of course kept rising up my mind, my soul, as there was constant news about wars occurring in other African countries. The war in Ivory Coast and Libya triggered this project I titled Taboo and Heroes. Here Taboo stands for the lack of expression, things we are not allowed to talk about by fear of death, imprisonment or any other reasons to keep the people quiet and silent observant.  Heroes are the victims, the children, the mothers and fathers who bravely endure the hardship to protect their families, to keep looking for water and food, to keep fleeing and walking miles and miles for safe shelter, to keep hoping for a better future.

The point of this artistic project, combining dance, theater, music and video, is to demonstrate the essence of these dramatic situations, which are lived by thousands of populations throughout the world. The alarm bells ring constantly, but unfortunately it seems that the policies do not change, systems remain the same and consequently these wars erupt again, without ever ending.

With this project I would like to sound the alarm once again in my way, conveying the emotions of the victims of war visually through contemporary artistic creation.   I would like the audience to be conscious of how the body of a man struck by the force of an exploding grenade vibrates, launched from a tank created for the sole reason of causing death.

Many of the people in this world, even those from the supposedly civilized and powerful countries that can actively, truly and efficiently contribute to stopping wars, have no idea of what a war is, of what a war victim is, of what starvation is, except for what they see on television, at the movies, or read in the newspapers.

This project is intended to bring this little known reality to the stage, so that all can sound the alarm to say a resounding ‘No’.

Throughout my residency at CounterPULSE, I will be sharing every specific moment of my adventurous journey from the Capital city Brazzaville to the city of Dolisie and finally to reaching the economic city of Pointe-Noire were Congo oil is exploited. I’ll  be sharing stories about what is real life in the Congo. Not the war life, the happy life, the fun life, what we eat, our music, our dances our good craziness. I also will share the creative process, the discussion with the performers, what they would experience. This is the overall, the big picture, the beginning of my journey.

 

 

 

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4 Responses to The strength of Hope, my journey: The beginning

  1. nadhi

    this is very moving byb. amazed at your strength (and the strength of the many you are speaking for) and amazed by your courage to produce this work.

  2. mark

    Powerful. Some of this imagery reminds me of typical video game violence that I interact with everyday. It is easy to become desensitized to violence and almost glorify it, like in some of my favorite video games.

    Taboo & Heroes seems like an interesting, eye-opening event!

  3. Muisi-kongo Malonga

    Byb,
    Thank you for sharing your story. It takes incredible courage and strength to give voice to such pain through art. I feel deeply connected to your and this work, because my family is from Congo-Brazza and suffered deep losses as a result of this war. Thank you for being a brave beacon of light. Your work is inspiring.

    Muisi-kongo

  4. Byb Chanel Bibene

    Hi guys, the journey is not over yet. You finally saw the show. I’ll take it to the next level and I’m inviting you to stay tuned.

    Blessing
    Byb

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