From lived story to stories lived on the stage. Next it will be on screen. From the many roads I had to take to escape the fires, now the roads are imprinted in my mind. All I can do is share the hope that kept me alive, and hopefully this will inspire the world, inspire the young people in my country and the elders as well. Taboo and Heroes project has reached another stage of its process; the process itself is another stage of the journey. We finally succeeded in presenting the images of this chaotic journey on stage. We took the train with the audience that came to find out what this project is talking about and certainly how they could relate to this story of a different world. Let me say thank you to the dancers who opened their hearts and arms and stepped into the project. At the beginning of the journey to put this work on stage, my head was filled with these thoughts; how am I going to convince these artists to embark on this troubled train filled with hundreds of people, rebels, blood, smells, cries, screams, hell and all the bad things you certainly only see in a Hollywood movie? The dancers are Americans, except for Baindu who originated from Africa and is familiar with the stories of wars. What about Chris, Krystal Ernest, Kiazi, Latanya and Rashidi? How am I going to ask Rashidi to play the killer soldier? How can I ask him to rape a woman on stage? How am I going to ask everybody to act out this hell? Feeling guilty for putting these images in their heads, apologizing at first, I had to create a sense of security for them and even for myself, asking all of us to act at only 70%? Would this be cheating the audience, breaking my oath to stay faithful to how this story of mine needs to be delivered so that the audience can understand how the war that struck the Congo was a bad thing, thus asking all of us to put forth an effort so that these situations can stop worldwide? I would like to say thank you to the artists and thank you to Counterpulse for taking the risk to select this work for the Performing Diaspora program. I know that a lot of people are rarely excited to go watch a show that talks about blood, rape, slaughtering, and genocide. They’d rather go see something fun, which makes them laugh or not think of anything after a busy week at work. Thank you for taking a risk to let me express myself on the issue of war. I say risk because my creative choice could have been very stormy. But I chose not to remember just the hardships, the worst memories. I chose to also remember the moment before the war, everyday life in the Congo. What it used to be and what it is after the war. Before the war it was such a beautiful life, full of joy. We enjoyed the food, which we had available at all times. We enjoyed going to school to fulfill our dreams to become “somebody” in society, to make our families and the country proud of our accomplishments. That life in school, in the science clubs, the literature clubs was filled with very smart students. We enjoyed the rivers, the sound of roosters, playing with the dogs and the cats, chasing after the butterflies and the dragonflies, going in the Nganda (bar), or the clubs to enjoy the beer, the palm wine, the imported liquors, the music and the dancing. The dancing and the music were so rich, so innovative. Every year the musicians and dancers would come up with new dances and new sounds. We never danced twice to the same thing. Nothing could beat that, not even Michael Jackson’s moon walk or Beat it song! Man no! I had to remember the dance contests with friends, where we would mix foreign music with our own and make a new style and brand it. I’ll save you from the details of that happy life, as if it could be anywhere on earth. I had to remind myself of that in this Taboo and Heroes piece.
Then, after the war, the return to hope for life, the struggle to stay alive and recreate what was before the war. And we did it-we are doing it-even though the politicians don’t believe in the dreams of the people. They want to maintain chaos as long as they profit from it, or their friends from the Western world wish to maintain the repression so that our resources can be exploited on the wounds of the people. But we fight hard for that good life.
Taboo and Heroes is a wonderful journey in the end, with a short pause for the chaos. It is a part of my history. Next, I’ll film the movie in order to tell this story to millions around the world.
Byb Chanel Bibene