DRC: Dance as a tool for reconstruction | “Re-creation” Bolewa Sabourin
In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, in the provinces of North and South Kivu, many women are victims of sexual violence because of the armed conflict that has been going on for more than 20 years because of coltan mines. Indeed, armed groups use rape as a weapon of war to drive people out of the region, to better exploit this famous mineral that is used in the manufacture of mobile phones.
Fragile mental health, anxiety, loss of self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, mutilation, these women are living through a nightmare. They have to struggle every day to get on with their lives and regain their self-confidence. How to relearn to love your body and accept yourself after being raped?
Following his meeting with Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynaecologist and human rights activist who works daily in the DRC to help rape victims. Bolewa Sabourin, a 33-year-old Franco-Congolese choreographer and artivist dancer (a mix of art and activist), decides in turn to support Dr. Mukwege by participating in his fight.
« I met Dr. Mukwege on March 8, 2016, at a conference organized by the Paris City Hall on International Women’s Rights Day. During this conference, I heard the doctor say that he had received a lot of help from European nationals, especially doctors and psychiatrists. However, the work remained long and difficult. It must be understood that it is not in the country’s culture to flourish, especially with this endless war. Many people have seen deaths, lost loved ones, so it is difficult for these women to position themselves as victims. Dr. Mukwege was convinced that we would have better luck if we went through arts like dance and singing. And then I thought to myself, “But I’m a dancer! It’s my job to do it! “
« The reflection was immediate. There were a lot of people in the room, everyone was debating. All that talk and talk no longer made sense to me. At the time of the last question from the audience, I snapped. I took the microphone by force, and asked him what we could do to actively help him. I don’t have a vocation to go and live in Congo. How can I help from here? It was first of all this cry from the heart for immediate action. »
« For me, signing a petition is not a deep commitment. It’s a way of making people feel past. We are the physical and determined action, or nothing. »
Instead of signing petitions, he decided to take immediate action to help these women victims of sexual violence. He launched a concrete project “Re-Creation” organized by the Loba association, which aims to help rape victims through dance. The aim was to allow them to put words to their sufferings, to help them to indulge themselves by mentally liberating themselves through dance workshops.
« A first trip was organized last spring, for two weeks, to get to know the reality on the ground and set up a first workshop… Finally, when we were introduced, I didn’t say anything and I immediately started dancing and they answered ! »
« My goal is to help her women re-appropriate their bodies after everything they have been through: it is not just rape, but voluntary mutilation, some of which have been opened with machetes like cattle, from the vagina to the breasts. Others were raped with Kalashnikovs. Their bodies were both raped and abused, before being rejected, because neither their husbands, nor their families, nor their communities wanted them anymore. These women were on average 16 years old at the time of the incident, some also found themselves pregnant by their rapists, while their bodies had not even finished growing! »
Dr. Denis Mukwege is doing an exceptional job in the DRC. It physically repairs young women who have suffered sexual violence. After being treated, they live in a boarding school in the Panzi Foundation, created by the doctor, where they are cared for by his team. We advise you to see the film “Man who repairs women” – La Angère d’Hippocrate by Thierry Michel and Colette Braeckman released in 2015.
With his dance workshops, Bolewa Sabourin allows these women, aged 16 to 17, to reclaim their bodies, little by little to love her again, to escape for a short while. It is a therapeutic method to mentally heal these poor victims of the horror of these endless wars.
« Faced with all this, dancing can help them feel desired and desirable again: they move it, they enjoy it, they watch themselves dance. Hence the name “re-creation” that we gave to the project, because it is a return to life in a way. It becomes a source of dignity and pride, not shame. » explains Boléra.
To raise awareness, he published an autobiographical book entitled “La rage de vivre”, co-written with journalist Balla Fofana.
« I never thought I’d tell my life story. The book is for Re-creation. It is a way of capturing this light to talk about Re-creation and our project. Talking about women, rape, dance, psychotherapy is not common and not necessarily a salesperson. We always need to find a scheme to finance this. We need to renew ourselves in terms of ideas to capture the audience and open doors. The book is not there for my glory, but for the glory of our project. »
Photo credits and contact:
- Loba association
- Photography : Isabelle Chapuis
- Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/recreationloba/
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