By Lucie Gil, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy.
The 27th annual theatre festival Joucotej (Journée congolaise de théâtre pour et par l’enfance et la jeunesse) took place in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, from May 7th to 13th 2013. 45 plays were shown focusing on the issue of “peace and the rights of the child”.
The Joucotej festival was launched for the first time in 1987 by the theatre company Les Intrigants. It is dedicated to youth, and involved children and schools as well as theatre professionals. Valentin Mitendo, artistic director of Les Intrigants and president of the festival, points out the importance of educating and training the young generation through the arts. In an interview given to Agence France Presse, he declared that “if you do not educate your children, your country will be taken over by the children of others”. Promoting the “arts’ beauty and quality” is thus seen as a tool of empowerment and integration of the national youth.
The emphasis placed on youth education was particularly visible this year. Before the official festival even started, twenty teenagers were chosen to take part in a training program delivered by theatre professionals. They eventually presented their own creations and were fully included in the organizing team of the festival. At the same time, mainly from January 2013, 150 schools joined Les Intrigants, together with artists from Angola, France, Cameroun, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville and DRC. Valentin Mitendo believed in the Joucotej to be an important “meeting point” and underlined the fact that the DRC’s ministry of primary and secondary education now starts to understanding the aim of the festival and the benefits of this kind of initiatives.
Writers and actors intervened in secondary schools to explain and present their work to the children and make them play and experiment the theatre stage. The quality of these interventions was carefully watched by Les Intrigants who tried to promote regular meetings with the classes as well as artistic projects on the long run. The adaptation to school programs and schedules was a real challenge. Another was the lack of economic means, especially in this time of economic crisis. The theatre company thus developed its partnerships at the national and international level and managed to raise $30 000 to finance its event. Its main contributors were the Fédération Genévoise de Coopération, the Association de soutien au théâtre des Intrigants and the Fonds pour la promotion culturelle.
Center for Cultural Diplomacy Studies Publication
Institute for Cultural Diplomacy