Petna Ndaliko Katandolo is an artist, filmmaker and founder of the Yolé! Africa Cultural Center in Goma. He runs Alkebu Productions, and the Salaam Kivu International Film Festival which he has hosted annually at Yolé! Africa since October 2005.
He’s a multitalented artist and internationally acclaimed filmmaker whose cinematic style combines rhythm, image, colour, and social critique with innovation to challenge traditional narrative structures. His films skirt the boundary of fiction and actuality and provoke reflection on post-colonial African realities.
Since 1996, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been embroiled in violence that has killed as many as six million people. The conflict has been the world’s bloodiest since World War II. The first and second Congo Wars involved multiple foreign armies and investors from Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Chad, Libya, and Sudan, among others, and has been so devastating that it is sometimes called the ‘African World War.’ Women have been raped and children maimed due to political and tribal upheavals that have purged the country.
Yet even in these challenges artists such as Ndaliko find their own voice in capturing these events.
“I think there’s more to film than telling stories,” he says. “Africa is rich with traditional lore and wisdom but the colonists demanded we cave in to their Western ideology, which they deemed superior, and most Africans grew up with this notion, which is totally distorted. That is why in my films, Africaness – if I can use that word – is important to me.”
With works of art such as Jazz Mama, Ndaliko vents his creative preoccupations through tales of Congolese women who have suffered rape and damnation during war.
The 30-minute doc aimed to raise awareness around gender based violence in Congo without portraying the female characters simply as victims. It’s a shot that denotes the agility and the compulsive métier of feminine survival vis-à-vis a violent environment.
“It is possible to use art as a means to an end. Jazz Mama was meant to pass a message about the strength of Congolese women and not their victimisation; this was the critical value of the piece for its audience.”
Born and raised in Goma, North Kivu province, Ndaliko graduated in stage direction from the Experimental, Cultural and Ecological Workshop in Tchimba. He remembers seeing victims of Rwandan genocide trickling through his hometown as they fled war, his mother offering food, clothing and accommodation to the devastated men, women and children.
It is this image that stuck in his mind for years, prompting his first play, Victims of War.
“I was sick,” he laments. “I wanted an outlet that could creatively document with sheer clarity that image of war and torture that the Rwandan Genocide brought with it.”
War broke out in his country in 1996, and he began his activism which eventually led to expulsion from his home country in 1997; he went to Uganda. And in the year 2000 he founded Yole! Africa with the help of Dutch anthropologist Ellen Lammers.
Yole! Africa is a creative platform aimed at giving youth the tools to imagine and create works of art and unhinge them from the trauma of war.
Ndaliko says. “Now we have trained thousands of children in film, music and photography through Yole! Africa and we hope to do more and instill the importance of activism through creativity and art.”
He also helped set the first international film festival in DR Congo; The Salaam Kivu International Film Festival (SKIFF) which is organised by Yole! Africa and Alkebu Film Productions.
SKIFF is a ten-day festival that includes film screenings followed by community discussions, a series of workshops including video production and editing, music video creation, audio recording, music composition and performance, poetry and storytelling, hip hop and contemporary dance, as well as hosting live concerts and a dance competition. Each year the events and activities of SKIFF are oriented around a specific theme that is relevant to current events in the region.
He’s perhaps best known for Mabele Na Biso (Our Land), an unlikely true account done in three acts. The story captures Congo’s autonomy, community innovation, and its evident success. Narrated by women, men, and youth, it uses their realities to define the place they come from and the daily routine of life as it unfolds.
“We wanted to use Congolese who tell about their daily realities with the use of local and global technologies in solving their problem,” Ndaliko quips. “These characters were critical to address their challenges and our main objective was to document these factors and show the audience that people still believe in themselves and can offer homegrown solutions to their problems without the need of looking to the West.”
But why cine activism?
“Because it matters. We have an obligation as artists to impact the society with our creativity and it behooves us to reflect its challenges, needs, progresses and successes without fear or prejudice but with pride and appreciation of who we are as Africans.”
By Sam Charo