Studios Kabako, a Congolese performance and theater studio founded by Faustin Linyekula in 2001, was created to? address social memory, fear, and hope in the aftermath of civil war. Through its cultural programs and urban interventions, the studio aims to create a network for dance and artistic expression in a city that is geographically and culturally isolated, and that has been the theater for a series of major battles over the last decades.
Studios Kabako presents art not as a form of entertainment but as a form of political empowerment. The studio uses different tools—among these, dance, theater, and music—to help local communities imagine an alternative to the hardships of daily life, and understand that they can have a hand in creating a better future.
At the time the studio was founded, Linyekula was just twenty-seven years old and already a renowned African choreographer and director, traveling throughout Africa and Europe. When he returned to the DRC, decades of dictatorship and conflict had devastated the country, which is still contending with the displacement of large numbers of refugees, government corruption, economic instability, and significant human rights abuses. Studios Kabako was founded in recognition that under these circumstances, the Congolese people, especially young people, were living without hope, completely immersed in their daily survival and unable to imagine an alternative.
Linyekula, who had studied literature as a young man, was drawn to dance because he felt no other form could adequately express the violence he wanted to expose. He knew by his own experience the transformative power of art—in particular, dance. Studios Kabako is now well known in the dance world and in the European festival circuit for producing poignant and evocative theatrical experiences. The studio’s pieces inform an international audience of the geopolitical consequences of postcolonial instability and the exploitation of the Central Africa region.
Over the years Studios Kabako has steadily developed its presence in Kisangani by producing and performing works in the city; offering youth programs in many artistic forms; and providing the facilities and technical expertise to help residents produce art that exposes the city’s most critical issues while building the possibilities for alternative developments. The young people in the DRC are the direct beneficiaries of Studios Kabako’s work, gaining dance, music and artistic skills as well as professional expertise in writing, development, video and event production. Some students become part of the Linyekula’s touring group or create their own touring projects, produced by Studios Kabako.
Studios Kabako also practices urban acupuncture. Though the organization maintains offices and recording and rehearsal studios in the city center, it has brought its work to the rural fringes and vacant areas of Kisangani by organizing a series of mobile performances. Studio Kabako is currently working with Viennese architect Bärbel Müller to build two more facilities within the city; through these projects the studio is experimenting with environmentally friendly technologies, communal living systems, and educational models that are unprecedented in this region.
Studios Kabako strives to provide the citizens of Kisangani with the skills that will allow them to use creativity not just as a professional means, but also as a way to build a new approach to life. Studios Kabako has realized that in order to rebuild war-torn regions, we must be able to envisage an alternative to the culture of destruction. Studios Kabako is manifesting how art should be the first design component in building a better society.
The most important infrastructure is the human infrastructure.
— Faustin Linyekula