The Congo Myth River in the belly - between fiction and reality: A performance that unites

Moloch: Kongo River
Moloch: Kongo River | Photo (detail): epa Bothma © picture alliance

By Missy Bangala

The river, our river, is very alive. Who doubts that? Who would ever doubt it? The river, our river, laughs at death and its acolytes. The river is everything for us. She dandles us. She sings for us. She speaks to us. She flatters us. She caresses us. She feeds us. And beyond all this, she shows herself. Yes, she shows herself to her children. She lets herself be admired. She likes that. She loves that. She is in us. We are in her. Sometimes she presents herself in the shape of a mermaid. In the DR Congo we call her "mami wata". This beautiful woman, who seduces gods and angels, and climbs the banks of the Congo only to sunbathe there. A spirit. A body. A woman. With the look that kills.

If she appears to you, you are lost. Lost in the soft belly of infamous pleasure. Her kiss is more deadly than death. Her mouth more powerful than any atomic bomb.

My river, she lives in me. She lives through me. She lives from me. She is in my belly. River in the belly. A performance rich in emotions, which tells us in no uncertain terms: "There is a city down there under the river, a second world where the dead dwell; there is a metropolis down under the Congo River, as much fun as Kinshasa ... Those who die in the river live on there; they marry, they have beautiful children, they drink themselves full, they dance the Rumba in the river." In realising this vision, which tells us much about the work of the author, Fiston Mwanza, the director Carina Riedl has succeeded in changing the image of postcolonial Africa.

The text describes an experience that is expressively presented in the performance and raises some fundamental questions about identity and the occupation of space. The river is everywhere. She lives all over the world. She connects us. She joins us to each other. She unites us, but are we able to perceive that? Are we able to live in harmony with the elements while we go about our business? Identity crises arising from dealing with others who have to be accepted regardless of their backgrounds and skin colour are many and very unsettling.

River in the belly. She has always been there. Just as she is in all people. Everyone has her under his or her skin. Everyone has her deep in his or her soul. The river is all the rivers of the world. All currents. All seas. All watercourses. All lakes. All streams.

Here you can watch a video about the theatre project River in the Belly (in German):