But whose image? Whose power? Whose bodies?
My history hinges on severed hands. And on photographs taken by missionaries who wanted to abolish slavery even as they believed we were inferior to them. My history hinges on the world believing that I will forever be hopeless and helpless.
Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Dance.
Photography. Image. Power. Violence.
I am Congo a reality of a fiction
What I embody, I believe, is elemental. It is water, earth, fire, air. Dance. It is Ejo-Lobi. And it has power. So I rethink the clicks and flashes that have cast us in history. And I flirt with liberation from the colonial gaze.
From its opening frames, Matata defies the recorded image to shape it’s own reality. The film follows a female protagonist who sits for a posed photography session. The session takes an unexpected turn, spiraling into a series of dance-inspired dreamscapes, blurring projections of the mind with historical fragments and the external, waking world. As a filmmaker, Ndaliko is concerned with movement, but it is more than just that of the film’s subjects, it is away from prescribed representations of Congo and into a new future. — Nelson Walker and Lynn True
Matata is our reflection—as filmmaker, writer, and scholar—on the photographs of Alice Seeley Harris. Ms. Harris’s abolitionist activism set a precedent for the use of documentary photography as a tool of social justice advocacy. At the same time, her approach to photographing Congolese subjects—both human and natural—belies her inherent belief in the superiority of Europeans over Africans. In short, Ms. Harris was among the most important advocates for Congolese rights in the early 20th century and, simultaneously, unable to recognize Congolese subjects as her equals. What troubles us is that this contradiction continues—photography remains a popular medium of intervention by international organizations addressing Congo’s many crises but many of the resultant images retain the legacy of domination and exploitation. In response, we have crafted a curriculum for a workshop that we are implementing across Congo in partnership with the University of Nottingham, which holds Harris’ archive. In it, we use Harris’ photographs to teach students to decompose the colonial regard and compose their own representations of self and others.
Matata is connected to a series of workshops, entitled Decomposer le régard colonial, organized between Yole!Africa and the University of Nottingham. Cast members for the film include professional actors, established artists, and selected workshop participants from various cities in the DRC (including Goma, Lubumbashi, Kinshasa, etc.).
ABOUT THE DIRECTORS
Petna Ndaliko Katondolo is an award-winning filmmaker and educator from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His multi-genre artistic works are acclaimed for their provocative Afrofuturistic artistic style, which engages historical content to address contemporary sociopolitical and cultural issues. He is founder and Artistic Director of the Yole!Africa cultural center and of the Congo International Film Festival, he also teaches and consults regularly for international organizations addressing social and political inequity among youth through culture and education. He is currently the Artist in Residence at the Stone Center for Black History and Culture at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Chérie Rivers Ndaliko, writer and researcher
Chérie Rivers Ndaliko is an interdisciplinary scholar, writer, and activist whose focus is art and social justice. She is the author of Necessary Noise: Music, Film, and Charitable Imperialism in the East of Congo (Oxford University Press, 2016). She has also worked as a film composer, writer, and executive producer for films including Mabele na biso (2014), Congo: 50 ans et au-déla (2012), and Jazz Mama (2010). Dr. Ndaliko holds degrees from the Berklee College of Music (B.M. in Filmscoring), and Harvard University (M.A. in Ethnomusicology; Ph.D. in African Studies), where she was a pioneer of the University’s Social Engagement Initiative. She is currently the Director of Research and Education at Yole!Africa in Goma, DRC, and a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill