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Ultima Vez / Lukah Katangila
IMPRISONED GODS (Miungu Gerezani) New Creation 2024
under the wings of Ultima vez
© Sofie de Backere
Lukah Katangila is a man of the world. Someone with both feet on the ground who looks around curiously and asks questions. Sometimes, he decides to put those questions to other people in the hope of evoking curiosity in them too. Inviting them to stand next to him and become aware of new or different perspectives. You could describe him as empathetic and engaged. He describes himself as an 'activist'. He is someone who acts, a man of action, committed to (young) people, women and ancestors and their cultures, those who have no voice and are little or not heard, seen and understood. He gives them support and a stage, both in his choreographic work, but also by giving them the opportunity to develop themselves and to show and express themselves on a stage. For this purpose, he founded an organisation in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa, that provides children a safe space and allows them to develop themselves through dance.
Despite his 27 years, Lukah already has an extensive track record. He grew up in Goma, a city in northeast Congo. Lukah grew up in the city, but in his youth, he often went with his parents to visit relatives in the surrounding villages. This was usually at times when there were traditional festivals, ceremonies and rituals. It was at such times that he first saw Aunt Adèle, his father's sister, dancing. He was instantly enchanted and from then on started dancing along at similar gatherings. The eight-year-old who spoke little or nothing had found his language. Then Michael Jackson became his big example, until hip-hop came on the scene. He started dancing in the streets, at school and all over the house. And when he wasn't dancing, he watched dance films on the internet. There, he stumbled across Martha Graham. She became his new inspiration. Although her dance was outwardly very different from what he himself had practiced as a dance up to that point, there was an important similarity. For both universes, the ground, the earth, forms the basis for the dance.
Lukah has been dancing professionally since 2013. But it dawned on him early on that if he wanted to satisfy his hunger for new dance impulses, he needed to go abroad. Initially, he travelled to countries on the African continent, where he could expand his knowledge of traditional and contemporary African dance. But then he also had the opportunity to travel to Europe and dance and attend workshops in London and Bristol, followed not much later by Paris and Brussels. He realised that Western dance styles gave him something different from African ones. He himself puts it as follows: "The African dance styles draw and the Western dance styles write". In Africa, people draw and imagine with dance. Inspiration consists of images, representations of ancestral culture, or figures and elements in their immediate environment and perception including animals. In the Western world, people (re)write more with dance: Ideas, concepts, analysis, in short, a more intellectual approach. Mixing the two approaches gives a complementary, new style, essential to his personal signature as a dancer and choreographer, which he describes as writing with images. This is why he continues to travel back and forth between the two spheres of influence. Alone, Kigali (Rwanda) becomes his new base in Africa, as his critical statements in Congo have increasingly targeted him and friends of his are imprisoned in Goma. In 2018, he will study at ISAC in Brussels, specifically to develop what he calls 'writing through dance'. He now also appears in the Belgian arts field as a dancer but also as a maker. Whereas his solo 'Ndoto or My Story' (Winner Roel Verniers Prize) also has autobiographical elements, in his next solo 'La Veste du Président', he chooses a fully committed focus on abuse of power and exploitation in Congo.
In his new performance under the wings of Ultima Vez, MIUNGU GEREZANI or Imprisoned Gods, he will not be seen on stage himself. Lukah's focus this time is on religion and its associated culture. The current continent of Africa used to be called Alkebulan, before the arrival of colonisers from the West. The black peoples bore the name Weusi and had their own faith, power, medicine and great knowledge of nature. These cultures had a multitude of gods and goddesses with specific duties such as Lisà (God of the sun and heat), Vunjajungu (Goddess of Creation), Ashanti (Goddess of fertility), Mbumba (Rainbow Python God), Mulungu (God of waves) and Oko (God of the forest, hunting and medicinal herbs).
With the arrival of the settlers, Christianity with their only, male god also appeared on the scene. This faith was also an important link in the subjugation of the African peoples. From the Christian motto 'The rich will not go to heaven', the population was encouraged to surrender all their wealth anyway.
Unlike traditional culture and religion, which is characterised by nuance and attention to differences, Christianity introduces an all-encompassing polarity: Heaven versus hell, Christianity versus other religions, white versus black, good versus evil and good versus bad. On top of this, the reference frames and context of Christianity literally refer to a completely different (experiential) world. This fact is sharply articulated in the 1972 song Nakomitunaka by Kiamwangana Verckys, a Congolese composer and musician. The song caused a stir and riots not only in Congo, but also in the Vatican.
"Lord, I wonder/ Where does black man come from/ But who is our ancestor after all/ Jesus, the son of God is white/ Adam and Eve are white/ All the saints are white ...
All angels are white/ The devil is depicted as black. ...
We, we believe in their white prophets/ But they refuse to believe in our prophets ..." (Translated from Lingala)
Moreover, the original culture was further eroded as many statues, masks and other religious objects were shipped from Congo to Belgium, to be locked up as curiosities in museums. In Lukah's words, "the gods were imprisoned".
The performance questions and challenges the tension between the two religious worlds, their current meaning and impact. Images and masks of gods, locked away in museums, are liberated, exposed and embodied. Bible verses quoted and crosses erected and carried. To the heartbeat of traditional rhythms and the trance of electronic mantras, we are drawn into a world of movement and images, where perspectives shift and dogmas disappear.
During the creation process, Lukah enters a dialogue with the dancers about the current meaning of traditional culture, in a country dominated by Christianity, which has moreover degenerated into a self-enriching commercial institution.
Lukah guides the dancers to find, shape and experience the essence of their personal story within the theme. Creating the choreography begins by creating a series of body positions. These are inspired by images and masks of African gods. The choice of those images lies primarily with the dancers. Linked to this is the question: what do you remember/know about your/our heritage? For this, the starting point can be looking at images in books or on the internet. After which he lets them choose the image(s) that appeal to them personally and tell why. These images form the stations through which the choreography is created. This element is linked to the African component of his signature: dancing as drawing. From the moment the movement sets in, the writing component makes its appearance and the choreography comes to life. The four dancers work all over the world, but were specifically chosen by Lukah because, like him, they are originally from the Goma area, and each is associated with a distinctive traditional dance style:
Rega, a people of hunters, who dance mainly from their arms and shoulders.
Tembo, a tribe strongly associated with elephants. With them, feet and undulating movements are characteristic.
Shi, fishermen with as characteristic rowing and round movements with the hands and arms.
Hunde, a people of shepherds whose dance includes chaotic movement in all directions with a coarse and wild character.
Moreover, there are differences in dynamics and rhythm between the styles. Although the dance is based on traditional forms, it is certainly not intended to imitate them. They serve more as a frame of reference within the theme and as such influence Lukah's dance language and choreography. In this, hip-hop acts as a connecting form between the dancers. The dancers involved are: Meshake Lusolo Rene, Bienco Hangi Luanda, Benjamin Katangila Bembeleza, and Halloback Jonathan Kabangi.
Traditional culture is also revealed in images. Visual artist and fashion designer Alex Akuete will draw the costumes, Emilie Heger will fabricate necklaces that reference traditional necklaces, and multidisciplinary artist Preci Numbi will create masks out of metal that the dancers will use to embody the gods. Christianity-related images and Bible verses will be present on large screens through video projection. And there will be passages, movable passages with different shapes: gates to another world or destination, doors to heaven or hell, downsides of a medal or transitions to other perspectives and emotions. The colours will assume black and white to accentuate the polarity.
The tension will also be audible in the music. On the one hand, acoustic percussion-based music will give a reference to traditional cultures, and on the other hand, contemporary electronic music will fill the space. Yvan Nyatimayi,
Patient Ramazani and Ben Kamuntu will create the musical score. Mike van Alfen, as dramaturg, will be Lukah's content sparring partner, focusing mainly on the expressiveness of the material.
Haloback Kabango is a Congolese dancer, choreographer and actor from the Ndaro Dance Company, operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He started traditional dance in 2010, with the Rinha Crew group, perfected his technique in 2014 with training in traditional dance at the Sangoa (Goma). His dance is based on daily social issues in society, to express through contemporary and urban dance the social problems facing the people of South Kivu.
The aim of his work is entertainment and information through transmission. Through dance, he is committed to positive change and to contributing to social welfare as an artist. His contacts with MANGA MANGWA Nathalie, MERLIN NYAK'AM, KETTLY Noëlle, Wesley Ruzibiza, Dorine MOKHA and Jacques BANAYANGA are important sources of inspiration. The artist created his first contemporary dance performance, "Effacer", in 2014. He then founded the cultural company C4 and created the performance "Le Bruits des Bottes", with which the artist made his first trip to Kigali. He then joined the company FIRE DANCE, where he participated in the creation of several performances: "La Danse courtise le Slam" and "Face à cacher". This led to meeting dancers Josh MASHEKA and Christian Mousse Nyakadekere during several street performances. The artist is also involved in a number of projects for neglected children, launching the "Sauvons la rue" project in 2021, with children living on the streets.
Meshake Lusolo is a young dance artist from the Democratic Republic of Congo who performs on regional and international stages. He uses African traditional dance, afro, contemporary dance and hip-hop as a bridge to connect people and cultures from all over the world. He has done workshops including with Wesley Ruzibiza (Rwandan), Alexandra Seutin, Angel (Senegalese), and Mathieu Niento (Belgian) and from hip-hop in Paris with Tweet Boogie, Nelson, Manu, Tony Mc. Gregor, and Buddha Stretch.
He teaches dance classes to all ages and is a promoter of art in Goma, the city where he lives. He regularly organises and supports cultural events, festivals and exchanges, especially those aimed at promoting youth and social change in DRC He has a passion for dance and for collaborating with others to empower dance artists and use their art for change and peace in the Great Lakes region.
Bienco Hangi Luanda (b. 1989) is a dancer, choreographer, teacher, scriptwriter and cultural entrepreneur.
His scenic movements depict like an architecture, a physical expression that opens up to the audience to a mimic dimension, unleashing a sense of the importance of work for an independent life. He did house dance workshops with Compagnie Bapson Baba (Kampala) and contemporary African dance from 2012 with Germaine Acogny, Alesandra Seutin, Wesley Ruzibiza, Ange Aoussa, Mathieu Nieto, Vincent Mantsoe and Dorine Mokhade. He did the choreography for Ben Kamuntu's clip 'Bosembo' and the duet 'Qui Pleure Mieux', 'Formated' , 'Blood' and 'Collectif'. He also toured Europe with Africolor.
Benjamin Katangila Ben is a dancer, choreographer and performer from Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Born on 17 July 2000, he began his career as a professional dancer in 2010, when he discovered hip-hop, breakdance, afro house and contemporary dance. He has attended workshops by Merlin NYANKAM (France),DAUDET GRAZAI (Côte d'ivoire), Nicole PONZIO(Suisse) Sonya ARMAGHANYAN (Romania) TOBIASZ Sébastain (Poland), Le Myballés ((BE), B-boy Menno van Gorp (NL), Lilian Nabagala and Wesley Ruzibiza, among others. Throughout his career, he has worked with several dance companies, gaining deep body control through international collaborations. He is co-founder of Rina Dance Crew, one of the best hip-hop dance companies in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, and artistic director of the Ndoto Goma Kids project. In 2021, he made two solos in collaboration with Meshake Lusolo: 'L'Autre Moi' and 'Ligne Croisées'.
Alex Akuete is a dancer, painter, fashion designer.
> From 2014 to 2016, he volleys in hip-hop and house dance at Let's go Urban and participates in competitions and dance battles such as So you think you can dance.
> He develops his own style and participates as a dancer in The Common People, a project by Jan Martens and Lucas Dhont (premiere September 2016, DESINGEL)
> In 2017, he founds the artistic collective Xray Company to give young people opportunities for self-expression.
> In 2017, he starts XRAY ART STUDIO, a platform to paint artistic stories on existing/recycled textiles. Unique pieces, based on stories of the artist or client. These creations are incorporated into exhibitions/performances at events in Antwerp (Fameus, Fomu, Kavka) and abroad (Kunstverein Wagenhalle Stuttgart).
> In 2017 and 2018, he collaborates with choreographers Fanny Heuten, documentary filmmaker Leonie Deriemaeker and dancer Evelyne Van Hecke of Moving Ground and participates in the museum night at Fomu.
> In 2019, he will show his first performance as Work In Progress in Arenberg as part of WIPCOOP by Mestizo Arts Platform (MAP). Working further in collaboration with MAP, he will show Connect with your demons again in October 2020 at Rataplan, but this time in combination with the solo Paradox, which he (Sept '20) commissioned by KVS. As part of Antwerp Bijou/ Fameus, he creates Essence with Nina Planteféve-Castryck of which they showed a Work In Progress at Love at first sight in HETPALEIS (Sept '21). He is 1 of the 5 actors in Who's Tupac? by Jr.cE.sA.r / NNT & KVS.
Precy Numbi was born in 1992 in Kisangani (DRC). After studying Graphic Arts and Fine Arts at the Beaux-Arts in Kinshasa (diploma 2015), he had the opportunity to participate in personal and collective exhibitions in the DRC but also in France, Burkina Faso and in Belgium. Since 2016, he has participated in numerous workshops and carried out several residencies. In 2019, he won the Solidarity Secular Prize at the International Sculpture Biennale in Ouagadougou.
He is a futuristic visual artist and performer who wants to bear witness to his society, proposing solutions for reuse, both tangible and intangible. By working by analogy with what society throws away, he invites viewers to think about and even interact with his work. He has made a name for himself by strolling the busy streets of the Congolese capital in "robot sapiens" costumes made from pieces of plastic and scrap metal from all kinds of household machinery. Eco-futuristic pythiases warning of the consequences of overconsumption and the one-way traffic of waste.
He came to Brussels to find peace because of his bad experiences with the police in Kinshasa. Here he further expanded his character family with decolonisation figures like Patrice Lumumba. The street remained his favourite field of expression. With his living sculptures, he reaches people who do not go directly to museums. For instance, he works with homeless people and invites a cyclist with a shoulder injury to don a superhero costume. His characters give you the courage to stand up. His work has no language, race or gender.
With his powerful, authentic pen and extraordinary voice timbre, Ben Kamuntu, slammer from Goma (DR Congo), explores the multicoloured sounds buried in the beauty of language and poetry. He is the winner of the European Prize for Congolese Literature, MAKOMI, 4th edition 2021, special mention by the jury. Ben KAMUNTU has participated in the Amani Festival (4th, 6th and 7th editions), the CIFF Festival (Congo International Film Festival) and the JAM session in Dakar. His slams have been used in documentaries such as "Congo Calling", "Les messagers" and "Kwa Ukweli".
In 2022, he toured Europe (Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy ) to present his album "Vis", with a series of dates including conferences, media tours and concerts. With this first album, the artist invites audiences on an intimate journey into his universe: that of a young man in his nineties, born in the war-torn Kivu region. "VIS" is a cocktail of emotions, revolt and hope, life and death, indifference and remorse, bringing the artist's local reality to the universal.
Ben Kamuntu is an art'ivist and founding member of the Goma Slam Session collective, Kamuntu is committed to promoting alternative education through art, especially slam poetry. He conducts writing workshops in schools, prisons, centres for underprivileged children and women in need, and transit and orientation centres for children released from the army and groups.
Nyati Mayi, a multi-instrumentalist, singer and improv dancer of Congolese origin living in Brussels, sings and plays, among other things, the lulanga, a rectangular stringed instrument from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has formed with DJ SoFa, Nyati Mayi & The Astral Synth Transmitters since 2020. Their album, Lulanga Tales, was also released that year. They performed at the AB, among other venues.
Patient Ramazani is a multi-instrumentalist. He plays electric guitar, bass guitar and balafon, a type of xylophone originally from Mali. He also uses a Loop Station. He worked at the Amani festival in Goma and participated in season 9 of The Voice with his group Ziza Youssouf. The group was formed by three friends who met in a refugee centre in the Namur region. Ziza sings, Patient plays guitar and Pape plays the Kora, a West African stringed instrument. Among other things, he created the music for 'La Cage' solo performance by Faraja Batumike (2022).
Mike van Alfen, was born in Amsterdam but has lived in Brussels since 1996. After graduating from the Amsterdam Academy for Theatre and Dance (1989), he created several physical theatre performances and worked, mainly in the Netherlands, as a freelance performer and co-creator in dozens of projects in a wide variety of styles, forms and disciplines (including Wouter Steenbergen, Jan Langedijk, Michael Matthews, Suver Nuver, Theater Terra, Made In Da Shade, and Trajekt). In Belgium, he was featured in projects by Fatou Traoré, David Weber-Krebs and Seppe Baeyens/Ultima Vez).
Between 2007 and 2014, he was part of the artistic team of workshop/podium MC in Amsterdam, where initially he could also be seen as a performer, but his activities increasingly shifted to collaborating as a facilitator/supervisor/dramaturg/director with new storytellers from the big cities (including Alida Dors, Linar Ogenia, Tjon Rockon, Dionne Verwey).
Since 2014, he continued this work freelance in the Netherlands (including solos by Hanneke Kuijpers, Ester Natzijl, Igor Vrebac, Sheyda Darab, and Sherise Strang), but also increasingly in Flanders and Brussels. For instance, he did several projects with Mestizo Art Platform, and supervised projects by Sabine Molenaar, Nadine Baboy, Karim Kalonji, Yipoon Chiem, among others. He has been working with Pitcho Womba Konga since 2016, with whom he made 'Kuzikiliza' (2017) and 'Fire will be ashes, but not now' (2022) for the KVS, among others. Recently, he has been working as a dramaturge on projects by Zino Schat, House of Circus and Heavy Hitters/Lea Ved for Korzo in The Hague, Ébana Garin (DAS Graduate School, Amsterdam) and in Belgium by Mano Amaro, Salim Haouach and Hassan Khayoon in Belgium.
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