We head to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to continue our series on African artists conquering the continent. Goma is one of the country’s main cities, and the city has also in a few years become a pole for urban dance in the DRC. Faradja Batumike and Meshake Lusolo want to change the image of their art and make breakdancing shine.
In Goma’s cultural center, sports, music and dance mix. Everyone is training their activity alone or in a group, a team has just started training. It was there, on the macadam of the basketball courts, that Faradja Batumike performed his first dance performances.
“Nothing is exclusively dedicated to dance in Goma. Although it is a cultural subject, dance is not really like other disciplines. Here at home they give dance lessons, but the musicians who have learned here have developed much more than the dancers who jump in all directions.
In 2007, Faradja still hesitates between football and dance. Back then, the dancing profession didn’t exist, and he didn’t even think of making a career out of it one day.
“In the beginning, there were not many professional dancers with us. There was no dance school, there was nothing. There were just events all the time, shows, we danced in schools. It was just for popularity. Afterwards I was a bit solo and in 2009/2010 we created another group with other friends. This is the group I have developed with so far. Besides that, we started to show the positive image of dance. Through this, we monitored street children. The idea is to educate young people, but above all to contribute to social and positive change through dance, to make hip-hop and the hip-hop spirit known.
After becoming an ambassador for hip-hop, he organized his first festival, the Goma Dance Festival, in 2017 while traveling, first in the Great Lakes area and then in Europe.
A discipline that is still poorly regarded in the DRC. In one of the cultural center’s halls, dancers practice their latest creation. A piece that evokes time presented by the Street Dancers Company in Kigali last July. Breakdance figures are combined with hip movements inspired by rumba, the famous Congolese dance and music style. In the middle, one of the representatives of the company, Meshake Lusolo.
“At home, my father didn’t want me to dance. He thought it was banditry, so you don’t belong in society. I wanted to prove to my father and my family first that I could succeed at this.
Like Faradja, he has become a dance activist over the years. Since 2015, Meshake has organized Dance Ya Kivu, a hip-hop festival in Goma, and participated in matches, often abroad.
“When we go to Europe we try to take what we don’t have and we bring it back, we try to use force there to push people to do better and change their mentality because we have a bad reputation. When we go there and come back, it gives other artists the courage to push even harder, because tomorrow it’s their turn.
Despite the lack of resources, space and infrastructure, Faradja Batumike and Meshake Lusolo hope to make Goma the national capital of urban dance. And why not the African capital?