Institutskolloquium Ethnologie location:University of Heidelberg date:16 December 2014
Since more than a decade, music TV shows such as Bana Leo (the children of Leopoldville) and Sentiment Lipopo (The feelings of Lipopo) have become extremely popular in Kinshasa. The words "Leopoldville" and "Lipopo" refer to the city of Kinshasa during the final part of the colonial era, which is also the period of the birth of Congolese rumba. Recorded in local night clubs, these TV shows are dominated by elderly people. Broadcast in prime time on Thursday and Friday, and repeated during the weekend, these programs attract a large audience among the young and elderly.
I want to make two arguments. First, I argue that these TV shows are part of the popular culture of elderly Africans. Usually, students of popular culture have privileged youth and women as key categories in the analysis of the production and reception of music, dance, film and theater. However, elderly people are becoming clearly delineated social categories in African cities. They are beginning to claim their own spaces of representation; they have their own agency, their own expectations and desires; they express their own ideas of entertainment and amusement. In this presentation, I situate these TV shows among the intergenerational tensions played out in contemporary urban Africa. Secondly, I understand these weekly TV shows as technologies through which "the urban ancestors" and the origins of the city are mentioned, described, and celebrated. In the (discursive and performative) reconstitution of the origins of Kinshasa's urban culture, these TV shows offer a critique on contemporary city life and express the desire to generate a societal transformation, even to start over. My presentation thus proposes to initiate the study of popular culture in Africa in which elderly Africans take an active role; and I propose to think with nostalgia and media. The text thus combines thee different analytical lines which are usually silenced in contemporary writing about the African city: old age; media; and dance.