Art and music in Congo

By James Addis, Senior Editor

I’ve traveled all over Africa for World Vision to report and write about events in the continent, though regrettably, I have never been to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

That’s a shame, because the war-torn country exerts a fascination for me. I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps because the country’s vast interior is given over to jungle, perhaps because the famous George Foreman/Muhammad Ali fight was hosted in the capital, Kinshasa, or maybe simply because I’ve edited a lot of copy from there.

Benjamin Yumba at work in Kinshasa. (Vianney Dong/WV)

The last piece was from our communicator Vianney Dong, who tells the story of a former sponsored child who has gone on to study at the Kinshasa Fine Arts Academy and recently won a major international art competition. Although growing up dirt poor, Benjamin Yumba never gave up the urge to produce great pictures. When he could not afford paint and brushes, he would resort to using charcoal from the embers of burnt-out fires. You can read the full story of Benjamin in the Summer issue.

I was reminded of Benjamin when I read a story in The Economist the other week. It’s about a new documentary called “Kinshasa Symphony,” following the ups and downs of the Kinshasa-based Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste as they prepare for a concert of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. The all-amateur orchestra is more inventive than most. When strings break on their violins, they are compelled to replace them with brake cables from old bicycles. Other scenes include a viola player scraping away at a busy Kinshasa traffic interchange amidst great clouds of dust.

The film sounds like an absolute joy. View the trailer here. I looked up “Kinshasa Symphony” on Netflix; it’s not in stock yet. But you can reserve it now, and if many people show an interest, maybe it will appear sooner.


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