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Field notes

Old Age in Kinshasa – Part 4.

  1. PHOTOGRAPHING THE BANA LEO SHOWS

By Katrien Pype, research professor at IARA (KU Leuven, Belgium) and Fellow at DASA (University of Birmingham) – blog September 2016.

This is the final blogpost connected to my research on the lifeworlds of elderly Kinois. The research was funded by a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship (PIOF-GA-2009-252331) and was carried out at the Anthropology & STS departments at MIT (Cambridge, USA, 2011-2013) and the Africanist Anthropology Department (IARA) at the KU Leuven (Leuven, Belgium, 2013-2014).

The four blogposts accompany the paper “Dancing to the Rhythm of Leopoldville: Nostalgia, urban critique and generational difference in Kinshasa’s Music TV Shows” (Journal of African Cultural Studies, 2016).

Rather early in my research on the livelihoods of elderly people in Kinshasa, I was approached by Kiripi Katembo Siku. Since early 2012, Kiripi accompanied me from time to time on my visits to elderly in their homes, in hospitals, retirement homes, and dance clubs. He had planned to set up a performance with a lookalike of Patrice Emery Lumumba, and wanted to provoke reactions from Kinois when they stumbled upon the sozie of Lumumba on the market, at the bus stop, or before a church. Kiripi quickly moved away from this initial idea – especially because the Lumumba sozie (lookalike) he wanted to work with, lived in Brazzaville and it was rather expensive to cross the Congo River, and pay him to wander around for a few hours as Lumumba in Kinshasa. We then tried to set up a project in which late colonial/early postcolonial nightlife would be re-enacted.

Unfortunately, due to Kiripi’s untimely death in August 2015, the project will never materialize. Upon my request, Kiripi gave me a few digital copies of the many pictures he had taken during our collaborative visits; and he authorized me to use these images in scientific communication.

As the event will never happen, and it might take years before Kiripi’s archives will be opened up, I am publishing here the six pictures he had shared with me. All of them were taken between January and April 2012 in Kinshasa. [text continues below]

 

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Some of these photographs were shot in a nightclub (Boyoma Boyoma) in the community of Bandalungwa, where the Bana Leo shows are often recorded. Others were taken in the houses of the Bana Leo and Sentiment Lipopo members.

These pictures dialogue with the photographs taken by Jean Depara, an Angola-born photographer who Kiripi admired very much, and about whom he spoke often. Jean Depara had travelled to Kinshasa/Léopoldville in 1954, and eventually became Franco’s privileged photographer. Depara is probably best known for his photographs of the city’s nightlife, populated by ambianceurs. Depara also took pictures of the colonial ideal citizen, the evolues (the “civilized” colonial subjects, who lived along the rules of the Catholic Church and the Services of Education and Hygiene). Depara’s pictures can be viewed here.

Depara’s photo’s were taken in 1957. 55 years later, Kiripi and I visited people who Depara might have encountered when moving from one bar to another. The visual aesthetics are the same. Both Jean Depara and Kiripi Katembo focus on the individuals, who look into the camera. Depara and Katembo do not need a décor, they improvise a photo studio wherever they are, and do not get distracted by matter. The urban resides in these human beings themselves, their look in the eyes and the clothes they are wearing.

I think Kiripi would be honored by this comparison with Jean Depara.

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