DRC: Dance as a tool for reconstruction. “Re-creation” Bolewa Sabourin
In the 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 lasted more than 20 years because of the coltan mines. Indeed, armed groups use rape as a weapon of war to push people out of the region, to better exploit the famous ore that is used in the manufacture of mobile phones.
Fragile mental health, anxiety, loss of self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, mutilation, these women live a nightmare. They must fight every day to resume the course of their lives and regain self-confidence. How to relearn how to love one’s body and accept oneself after being raped?
Following his meeting with Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist and human rights activist, who works daily in the DRC to help victims of rape. Bolewa Sabourin, a 33-year-old French-Congolese choreographer and artivist dancer (mix of art and activist), decides 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 around the International Women’s Rights Day. During this conference, I heard the doctor say that he had received a lot of help from European citizens, especially doctors and psychiatrists. However, the work remained long and difficult. It must be understood that it is not in the culture of the country to pour out, especially with this war that never ends. 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 more luck going through arts such as dance and singing. And then I thought, “But I’m a dancer, it’s up to me!”
“The reflection was immediate. There were lots of people in the room, everyone was arguing. All this blah did not make sense to me anymore. At the time of the last question of the public, I cracked. I took the microphone by force, and asked him what could be done to help him actively. I’m not going to live in Congo. How can I help from here? It was at first this cry of the heart for immediate action. “
“For me, signing a petition, it does not have a deep commitment. It’s a way of doing things backwards. We are physical and determined action, or nothing. “
Instead of signing petitions, he decides to take immediate action to help these women who are victims of sexual violence. He launches a concrete project “Ré-Création” organized by the association Loba, which aims to help victims of rape through dance. The goal was to allow them to put words on their sufferings, to help them to indulge in mentally freeing themselves through dance workshops.
“A first trip was organized last spring, for two weeks, to better know the reality of the field and set up a first workshop. Finally, when we were introduced, I did not say anything and I got everything immediately put to dance and they answered! “
“My goal is to help her women reclaim their bodies after all they have been through: not just rapes, but voluntary mutilations, some of them opened with machetes like cattle, 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 more of them. These women were on average 16 years old at the time of the fact, some were also pregnant with their rapists, while their body had not even finished its growth! “
Dr. Denis Mukwege does an exceptional job in the DRC. It physically repairs young women who are suffering from sexual violence. After being treated, they live in boarding school in the Panzi Foundation, created by the doctor, where they are supported by his team. We advise you to see the movie “Man who repairs women” – The Anger of Hippocrates Thierry Michel and Colette Braeckman released in 2015.
With her 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 cure these poor victims of the horror of these interminable wars.
“Faced with all this, dancing can help them feel wanted and desirable again: they move it, they enjoy it, they watch each other dance. Hence the name of “re-creation” that was given to the project, because it is a return to life in a way. It becomes a cause of dignity and pride, and no longer shame, “says Bolera.
To raise awareness, he released an autobiographical book, entitled “The rage of life”, co-written with the journalist Balla Fofana.
“I never thought about telling my life. The book is for Re-creation. It’s a way of capturing this light to talk about Re-creation and our project. Talking about women, rape, dancing, psychotherapy, it is not common and not necessarily seller. We have to find a ploy every time to finance that. We must 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
- Photographer : Isabelle Chapuis
- Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/recreationloba/