November 2008 –
The words of Petna Ndaliko have become almost prophetic. Just before the SKIFF film festival in Goma, he announced the festival would go on whether there were rebels approaching or not. And indeed: the rebels advanced, but for the festival it was ‘business as usual’.
White armored vehicles of the United Nations patrol Goma, Eastern Congo. Soldiers with the famous blue helmets look in each direction, searching for any possible danger. But what probably does not catch their attention, is the torn poster of SKIFF, the Salaam Kivu International Film Festial. The event, co-sponsored by the Dutch ‘Africa in the Picture,’ ended late October.”It was a great festival”, says Sekombi Katondolo (26).
Sekombi is the younger brother of Petna, and their cultural center Yolé Africa was organizing SKIFF. “More than nine thousand people attended the festival”, says Sekombi. “We showed twenty-two films, held dance competitions, music performances and artistic workshops.” The films were screened in different locations in Goma, the city that was nearly destroyed in 2002 when the Nyaragongo volcano erupted. But now inhabitants watched SKIFF-films in the Goma soccer stadium, on the basketball pitch and in several conference halls around town.
At Yolé Africa, Goma’s only cultural center, they say that people who face a crisis period have a strong need for a cultural ‘escape.’ And these days can certainly be described as a crisis period. Rebel forces of General Laurent Nkunda, who has been claiming he wanted to conquer Goma, nearly reached his goal while the SKIFF festival was in full swing. However, Nkunda stopped short of launching the final attack on the city -as for now. “Despite the renewed fighting, we refused to stop the festival”, says Sekombi. “It was amazing. During our closing ceremony, thousands of people attended. We think it might have been the biggest public gathering since the president visited Goma.”