22 January 2013

Congo-Kinshasa: Giving Goma a Voice, No Words Needed

Goma — Meschack Kadima takes it upon himself to give voice to the voiceless. That's a real challenge, considering the young illustrator lives in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, in a society he feels is too repressed to condemn the troubling political situation.

Kadima uses an ordinary pencil and a box of coloured pencils to put his thoughts on paper. The war and the suppressed freedom of expression it has brought with it have supplied plenty of artistic fodder.

But one day, when Kadima saw two deaf people using sign language, he realized his art skills could be put to a good, more global cause. Inspired by how the deaf communicated without using their mouths, he decided to express the collective emotions of people around him.

"I noticed that here, in the east where all sorts of crimes are committed, there are many mute people who cannot express what they feel," the artist explains, referring to those who are silenced for political reasons. "As their brother, I decided to speak on their behalf."

Kadima tries to do just that through his drawings, which he publishes on Facebook and occasionally will do on commission.

Africa's heart

Among Kadima's signature drawings is that of a man's head, accented in the colours of the DRC flag. His face is filled in with pencil and a red stream flows down its left.

"It's the face of an injured Congolese man who cries every day," explains the Goma artist. "He fears that speaking the truth will get him killed. That's why the truth is written on his face - so that anyone who sees him knows what's going on in his country."

The face is meant to represents the DRC. The left eye crying blood represents those who have died in the east of the country. The other eye, crying normal tears, represents those who mourn in its western region.

In another drawing, Kadima addresses the underdevelopment of the continent as a whole. The young artist turns the map of Africa into the head of a woman. Her eyes closed, she is contemplative, if not downtrodden. She wear the Congolese flag as a headscarf.

About this piece, Kadima says: "The Bible says that he who finds a wife finds happiness. But if a man finds a woman who has been raped, he will never be happy. And Africa will continue to cry because the DRC is its heart. As long as Congolese women continue to be raped, the DRC and in Africa will not prosper."

Waking up

Despite the gloomy analysis, the artist remains optimistic about his country's future.

"We are still hopeful that in 20 years, there will be some change. The Congolese people are waking up. If we become more socially conscious, there will be no more conflict and the DRC will become the world's El Dorado in 20 years," he predicts.

Kadima encourages his peers to work and, in so doing, to be patriotic. "We inherited a country in ruins from our grandparents," he says. "It is up to us to rebuild it. Let's step up; let's love our country and work for it."

Listen to a segment of the recent talk our correspondent had with Mescheck Kadima.

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