Seminar - Anthropology Department location:Cape Town, University of Western Cape date:7 March 2012
Independence anniversaries are moments in which deceased heroes are commemorated, glorious victories are remembered and blissful images of the future are projected. Past, present and future all come together in spectacles performed during independence festivities. Yet, June 30 2010, in Kinshasa, a ‘drama’ unfolded as the military march was abruptly interrupted by street children intermingling and enacting ndombolo-inspired dances in front of the president. Police and soldiers started beating up people; the state channel aborted the live broadcasts; and people urged to return home. The order and discipline that the military march had expressed had in a few seconds given way to chaos.
In my presentation, I will take this ‘drama’ as a case to study political sensibilities in contemporary Kinshasa. The main premise of the presentation is that performances are not merely ‘representations’, but are also crucial events within the circulation of feelings and affects. Therefore, both political aesthetics and affects involved in this ‘drama of Independence Day’ will be studied. I will first juxtapose the various aesthetics at play in the independence festivities, both performed in the défilé (military inspired aesthetics) and afterwards (the ‘popular’, sexually explicit dances); and then analyse the ways in which the performances and reactions express different senses of ‘nationhood’, different approaches to ‘the past’ and to the value of ‘independence’.