With coronavirus restrictions limiting social gatherings, dancers Moses Ramazani, Jérémie Musimbi and Théophile Bany have to find creative ways to keep rehearsing.
Together they form the Amka Dance Project (“amka” means “arise” in Kiswahili) and they live in Goma, a sprawling city of two million on Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern border with Rwanda. The trio was planning to travel to the Ubumuntu Arts Festival in Rwanda’s capital Kigali in July (”ubumuntu” means “humanity” in Kinyarwanda), but border closures due to the pandemic mean the festival will now be presented virtually from July 17-19. The fourth edition of the Goma Dance Festival scheduled to take place from April 27-May 4th was also postponed due to coronavirus.
Dance has always played an important role in Congolese culture, but youth dance groups have sometimes been associated with deviant behaviour such as drug use and street crime. A growth in interest in contemporary and traditional dance programs means that countless youth centres in Goma now offer courses and dance is increasingly seen as a positive outlet for creativity.
Goma hosts various dance-related events and organizations, including Danse Ya Kivu Battle and Yole Africa, but The Amani Festival, a three-day annual arts event held each February, is a cultural highlight. Performers such as those from Amka Dance Project train year round to keep their skills sharp, even if they have to keep the music volume low and dance in secret.