The concept of Viva Kizomba Congress Amsterdam

“Viva” from the Latin “vivere” means “live“. This definition leads to the next question: what is live? To try to give an answer to this question would be to venture into the Sophie’s world of the Norwegian, Jostein Gaarder. Therefore, in an attempt to answer, I campaign for the African definition of the word “live”. This choice was not made because it is about an African dance (kizomba), but because Africa was the first to give value to this word, live.

In 1222, Africa published the first manifesto of human rights in the world, the Mandé Charter (Mandingue Kalikan). For human rights, which occupy a prominent place in the kingdoms and African empires, the word “live” is represented by three pillars: love, freedom and fraternity. All three pillars rest on the “agreement”, and it’s on this “agreement” that African societies have developed their way of eating, drinking, singing, dancing, hunting, and so on. This way of living allows African individuals to maintain respect for human life, freedom and solidarity, and it prohibits any form of discrimination. It is this form of harmony that Viva Kizomba Congress Amsterdam wants to try to give back to the kizomba community today. This is because nobody has a monopoly on knowledge and everything is built together. For example, it is not because somebody is African or black that he/she dances kizomba better or that he/she has a better knowledge  of their history than a person who is not part of their community.

I would like to share a personal anecdote that led to me taking this position years ago. During my Master’s research, I had to write my first paper. The topic was on my home town and region (before addressing other African countries and regions). Having chosen my subject, the program director sent me to see an expert, Professor Jean-Marie Wautelet of the Catholic University of Louvain la-Neuve (Belgium). During our preliminary discussions, I asked myself the following questions: what did he know about Africa? What’s known about my region and my village? And finally, what did I learn from him and why did he not ask me directly to tell him about my culture? All of my questions were the result of my ego, inadequacy or pretending to have a better knowledge of my childhood home than a stranger. The result of my first paper was a disaster. I could continue to hide behind my incompetence with big words (it is racist, it lays down the law, it is revisionist, etc.) and not to go to the 30 minute feedback session that was offered to me, but I decided against it. Having accepted the outcome, I showed up at his office. We spent two hours talking and I realized that despite believing that I knew my region best, my own knowledge was in fact very basic. To rewrite my paper, the Professor gave me the names of notables in my region and we built a list of questions to ask them. As we worked, I gradually realized that he knew my area in incredible detail. Before the end of the feedback session, I learned to put aside my pedantry and accept that I could learn about my own culture from a stranger . Once I had rewritten my paper, I was intrigued and annoyed with myself because I realized that I did not even know the traditions of the neighborhoods I crossed every day to go to school and where I played football. Some would say that it was an exception, but I disagree. I’ve met so many people (who do not have an academic level), even in the kizomba community, who have a rich knowledge. This is why we can learn from everyone even those without official qualifications. Following this parenthesis, please return to the description of Viva Kizomba Congress Amsterdam according to the Mandé Charter.

In respect the Mandé Charter, Viva Kizomba Congress Amsterdam designed a logo that represents the work to be done in the current kizomba community. The first part of Viva Kizomba Congress Amsterdam’s logo is designed as follows: the node symbol in the middle of the circle is called “Mpatapo”, one of the Adinkra symbols (Adinkra symbols were originally created by Ashanti kingdoms of Ghana and the Abron Gyaman of Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa. Adinkra is found on traditional African outfits and is used as symbols of decorations or ornaments. However, each symbol has its own historical and socio-anthropological explanation). The Mpatapo is a symbol of reconciliation, peace and pacification. It represents the link or the node that links the various protagonists (kizomba, authentic kizomba, urban kiz, kizomba R&B, kizomba hip up, etc.) to a harmonious and peaceful reconciliation. The Mpatapo takes us into the heart of the Mandé Charter and allows us to respect freedom and individual development. So, the Mpatapo shown in Viva Kizomba Congress Amsterdam’s logo is a symbol of peace after conflicts.

 

The second part of Viva Kizomba Congress Amsterdam’s logo is “congress“. Several people asked why we chose the word “congress” rather than “festival”. The word “festival” refers only to activities in the world of dance. The word “congress however, embraces several types of activities and understandings of the Mandé Charter that Viva Kizomba Congress Amsterdam try to follow. Viva Kizomba Congress Amsterdam allows you to discuss historical, sociological and anthropological topics that are related to the kizomba dance and music with academic experts. Each year, you choose the questions that interest you, and after each edition, Viva Kizomba Congress Amsterdam undertake, with academic experts, publications and conference proceedings in journals. While some are interested in lectures and debating, others follow workshops or dance or visit the beautiful city of Amsterdam and its cultural richness: thus, no requirement for you to do an activity that you do not like. Finally, Viva Kizomba Congress Amsterdam offers a space of freedom and mutual learning for personal development during the day, and in the evening, a place to share a dance in order to bond with all trends of the kizomba dance and music. That’s the challenge of learning and mutual pleasure that the word “congress” offers for the moment, until you make it evolve.

The third component of the logo is the three red crosses to represent the city of Amsterdam. In view of the controversy, the lack of mutual listening and debate in the kizomba culture today, Viva Kizomba Congress Amsterdam dares to conclude that we are dispossessing kizomba of its main matrix, dictated by the Mandé Charter. Therefore, Amsterdam, an innovative, vibrant, tolerant and energetic city and the world capital of freedoms, allows us to stay true to the course set by the Mandé Charter. According to Viva Kizomba Congress Amsterdam, this is the only city today which includes all the ingredients of the first manifest of human rights that will allow us to achieve the three pillars of our goal: love, freedom and fraternity.

The final part of the logo, the circle, encases all three elements to construct a coherent whole, representing the agreement, which is required in the Mandé Charter to achieve our goals.

This is the concept of Viva Kizomba Congress Amsterdam, explained by its logo. But know that all this can never be achieved without your active participation, which is why the contribution of each participant is expected for the construction of this building.

Noel Sawamakossa (Event director)