Faustin Linyekula and the esthetics of survival

November 2007 -

In his latest dance The dialogue Series: iii. Dinozord, choreographer Faustin Linyekula (1974) poses a simple question to the inhabitants of Kisangani on video: "What is your dream?" One answer was repeatedly given: "Why would we dream in this city? War or riots may erupt at any time. There is instability, no money, no work, and the city is so isolated...."


Linyekula wants his city of birth in the north-eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo to dream again. This encouraged him to return to the city in 2001 after years in Nairobi, Reunion and Europe. According to Linyekula, working in the DRC is not a question of compromise. "It's about satisfying the same artistic requirements as in Europe, for example, despite the technical and financial limitations." And it is vital. "Not only the country is in ruins, but also the heads and hearts of the people, and that is the most destructive."

His Studios Kabako is attempting to establish a network of cultural centres in the city that are solely devoted to performing and images. The Prince Claus Award that was awarded to him this year will be invested in that project. A new series of workshops and performances will commence in January 2008. "At this point in my life, I believe it is essential to leave a stamp by my artistic approach on the city level. Not only on a small group of artists, but on a larger group of the population. On young people, or simply on people who are willing to beat a personal path in this extraordinary environment."

Linyekula parphrases Lebanese poet Adonis: "How can I journey to myself, to my people, if my blood is on fire and my history in ruins?" He finds it a fascinating question. "With my work I strive to open spaces, to create new windows with other perspectives. The most urgent is learning to see ourselves again and looking back into our collective past. The various regimes in DRC have brought manipulation and amnesia. But how can we ever deal with the future without learning from the past?"

Poetry and theatre were his first loves. Dance came later, in Nairobi. But first and foremost, Linyekula considers himself a storyteller. "Going on stage and telling stories is an attempt to remember my name. I construct my work with what I encounter along the way: dance, texts, video, a poem by Rimbaud, my grandmother’s Banyua rituals, Ndombolo dance steps from Papa Wemba music videos. As a storyteller that adapts his story to where he is and who he is telling it to. The esthetics of survival, as it were. I do not care that I do not fit into a box."