Creativity, Workshops & Peaceful Protest in the Eastern Congo

Throughout the globe arts festivals provide a platform to foster creativity through interactive workshops, panel discussions and inspirational performances. The 10 day Salaam Kivu International Film Festival (SKIFF), has these elements and more, as it is a place to express thoughts on political change for peace.

Annually 15,000+ gather from around the world in a peaceful protest against political instability and war, while celebrating the arts, learning new skills and welcoming cultural diversity. Yolé!Africa Cultural Center, hosted the 10th annual SKIFF festival in July 2015. Held in Africa, the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The festival aims to showcase the unique talent found in the Eastern Congo and it’s neighbors, bringing about positive change. Artists coming from the regions of Rwanda, Burandi and DR Congo are uniting and collaborating despite past differences.

The festival offers thought provoking panel discussions, film screenings, theater performances, dance competitions, an opening night gala, awards ceremony, and free workshops in film, video, digital art, production, music and dance. Aiming to teach youth how they might use their skills productively. The local community is drawn to this cultural light. The festival encourages the growth of a sustainable civil society as they provide artists with a platform to showcase their talent and work. Another goal is to unite people around the globe who want to help bring peace to the region.

Sample Workshops Include:
*Photojournalism
*Beat-making
*Experimental Film-making
*Hip Hop Dance
*Documentary Film-making
*Street Photography
*Film Scoring

SKIFF (Salaam Kivu International Film Festival) was founded by Petna Ndliko Katondolo, a Congolese activist and filmmaker. He still serves as the festivals artistic director, partnering with director Cherie Rivers Ndaliko. The New York Times article, Arts Sanctuary in a War-Torn City, writes about what inspired Petna to create the annual event with his wife Cherie. He was a boy who grew up inspired by Kung Fu movies shown at the local theater, later becoming a performer himself. Catastrophe struck in 2002 when the volcano Mount Nyirigongo erupted across the city. Consequently guerrilla gunmen, in different groups, lurked for control among the anarchy. The festival was born in hopes of bringing renewal to Goma. Encouraging youth to bring about social change through the expression of art. Aspiring rap artist, “Dieudonne Dunia Kangwindi, says that the new Africa must be constructed by the youth. That they should try to make peace rather than continue with the wars their ancestors went through between DR Congo and Rwanda. He believes they must fight for reconciliation, thinking of the future. Many positive results have come from this type of thinking, including the rise of entrepreneurial spirit in the place of violence and negativity. In a recent interview, we spoke with a local business owner who is a roofer in Texas, and he agreed wholeheartedly that any organization striving to make for a better future for the youth in society is only going to be rewarded with stronger generations to come who enjoy economic strength and prosperity.

There have been challenges where warlords threatened to tread upon Goma during SKIFF. United Nations Peacekeepers urged them to close down early. Yet the audience was energized and wanted the show to go on. The relentless spirit of the festivals performers and attendees urged one another to continue onward. Some performers and advocates of the event feel there is too much emphasis on negativity in the news.

Yolé!Africa, home to SKIFF, is a media organization based in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, which specifically focuses on the next generation youth culture. The building structure is a bungalow with murals, tall stone walls and barbed wire to secure the location, which is in a residential neighborhood. Some of the artists coming out of the movement use art to promote positive activism. Their Facebook page showcases the artistry from the Congo. The short YouTube video: Yolé!Africa: Salaam Kivu International Film Festival, gives a sampling of the energy, passion and unique African modern dance found in the Eastern Congo. Break-dancing takes on an entirely new flavor when based out of the continent of Africa.

To recognize the 51st Independence Day of Democratic Republic of the Congo, Salaam Kivu All Stars released a song and music video. The video “Saisir l’avenir” meaning “to seize the future” can be seen on YouTube and features talented singers and rappers from Eastern Congo. The music is refreshingly unique from mainstream rap and hip-hop heard on popular music stations of the USA. Live sounding raw drum beats capture the modern spirit of Africa. Profoundly dancers and artists whom had attended the festival auditioned for the music video. Also the video was shot by individuals who participated in the music video workshops. Production workshops yielded powerful results.

Music and art transcend the barriers between nations, languages and our differences. The Salaam Kivu International Film Festival has the potential to make lasting change for peace.

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