Interview

Slow #03

SLOW (Slam Our World) wants to bring street art treasures to the stage and into the spotlight by fusing urban expression and theatre. An international guest is invited for each session. This time slam poet Do Nsoseme Dora and film maker Fabrice Kalonji were invited for the third edition. Together with local artists, they try to capture the colourful and diverse soul of Brussels in her verses after a short residence in the heart of the city. A few days ahead of their performance we had a little talk with Do Nsoseme Dora and Fabrice Kalonji about Kinshasa, slam and their personal achievements.

Interview by Kasper-Jan Raeman and Julien Van de Casteele
Photos by Nina Daelemans

I want to bring to stage a discourse with a thousand faces, a union of culture in order to touch as many people as possible

Could you tell a bit more about the collaboration with the artists of KVS, Pitcho Womba Konga and Roland Dumbi-kabangu?
Our collaboration with Pitcho and Roland was very exciting. We met each other back in August during the lab “City Dramaturgy”, organized by KVS and Plateforme Contemporaine, its cultural partner in Kinshasa. The project united six slam artists with six videographers with the goal to create a symbiosis between the moving image and slam poetry; two universes that aren’t too familiar with one another in Kinshasa. Pitcho and Roland have helped us to think further than just illustrating slam poetry with images, by exploring how the two can complete each other. The collaboration thus pushed us to use words and images in a new way. The first week was focused mainly on group exercises to stimulate inspiration, confidence and courage. The following week we were put in pairs, and asked to roam the streets of the city in search of a way to express what we wanted to tell about Kinshasa. During this lab we produced two slam videos Je ne suis qu’un homme and D’ici à là-bas.

What can we expect of your performance at KVS?
For SLOW#03, we wanted to re-appropriate well-known Congolese texts such as the national anthem “Debout Congolais” or the popular song from Franco “Mario”. We also wanted to talk about Brussels from our outsider perspective, as well as the amazing contributions of various artists we met here. We’ve had the chance to meet the winner and the second winner of the recent Belgian championship of slam, Lisette Na Meza and Giovanni Baudonck. If all goes well, they will both perform with us during SLOW#03! We were also impressed by the body-percussionist Annie Deltour, who will add a live soundtrack of breathing, clapping and stepping to the performance. During the show we will tell you about Brussels and Kinshasa using slam poetry, video, dance, percussions, singing and even wrestling. A really surprising mix you should come witness with your own eyes.

During the show we will tell you about Brussels and Kinshasa using slam poetry, video, dance, percussions, singing and even wrestling

In what way did Brussels influence your work?
Brussels is a cultural crossroad and has allowed us to bring various disciplines and artists together. The result can be seen in SLOW#03. We met artists of Congolese origin such as singer Junior Akwety, twin dancing sisters Les Mybalés and slam artists Yousra Dhari and Léïla Duquaine with whom we’ll be sharing the stage. We also organized workshops in three Brussels schools with kids aging from 16 to18. The kids experienced these workshops as an opportunity to express themselves, to pull out what they feel deep down. A young guy of Moroccan origin wrote: “We are not the most beloved, but we love the most.” One of the schoolgirls expressed: “Normally we’re chatting a lot, but this time we were silent, because this is something deeper. It showed us that behind a person there is always a story, something that you don’t see or can’t even imagine.” We’ve thus absorbed all these encounters with the objective to present different Brussels stories lived by people from here and elsewhere.

In Kinshasa, we half-jokingly refer to Brussels as ‘Lola’, which means paradise; part of my text for SLOW talks about my encounter with this paradise

Slam poetry is a very important medium in Kinshasa, could you describe the impact of it on society in Congo?
Slam poetry is a way of expressing a need for change. In the Congolese society, it helps opening debates and expressing protest in a pacific way. Congolese slam artists very often express in their poems the aspirations of the people, the everyday life of the Kinois in a poetic manner. We live in a country that lacks security and peace, where suffering and struggling is part of our daily life. The slam poet Microméga le Verbivore, has a weekly radio show in which he slams about what happened that week, with a lot of humor and word plays. We need those strategies to reclaim our right to free speech. I’ve noticed that here in Europe, people tend to keep their problems inside. When we have problems, we get people together to tell them about it. And it means a big relief, we feel lighter. Sharing it with others allows us to advance.

What do you want to achieve personally with your work?
Through SLOW, I want to bring to stage a discourse with a thousand faces, a union of culture in order to touch as many people as possible. I became a slam poet because I felt an urgency to speak out. I cannot remain silent anymore – not about what happens in Congo, and not about what I’ve witnessed here in Belgium. In Kinshasa, we half-jokingly refer to Brussels as ‘Lola’, which means paradise. A part of my text for SLOW talks about my encounter with this ‘paradise’.

SLOW #03 takes place at KVS, Brussels on 24 and 25 November. The performance on 24 November is free for Subbacultcha members. Join here.