Since returning to Kigoma, Tanzania on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in central Africa for my Fulbright research, I have been looking for two of my Congolese friends. I was told that they crossed the Lake, and returned to two of the cities in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to live– to be together with their family and relatives.
People should not be reduced only to suffering, and narratives only to exodus, which I recognized in my anthropology classes at California State University, Chico. Nevertheless, many popular media narratives, especially those coming from the West, reduce Congolese in eastern Congo only to victims, without agency or the power of creation. Still border areas are not like the interior or coastal areas of nations. Even in the grievous violence and fear and Ebola, the people and the stories coming from DR Congo are much more complicated, or as the Congolese will say in French, compliqué.
Often, at the heart of this compliqué and tenacity, are the music and songs in all their places, and in all their forms. This is where my Fulbright research about Congolese music traditions will hopefully take place.
One sister with her boyfriend at a club in Goma, tells NPR journalist Eyder Peralta, “Rumba is good, even through war, through Ebola. Rumba is still there, and Congolese keep living.” Read or listen to the story here at NPR.org.
Christina Lauren Quigley is review editor and web developer of Ethnography.com and vlogger at Laurelin the Other. Christina is a 2019-2020 Fulbright Scholar Alumna (Student Research Program). She began working and writing as an ethnographer–anthropologist in the mountains of northern California as an activist alongside Native American Mountain Maidu communities. Christina has also been known to work for minimum wage in America, selling booze to ordinary Americans at a neighborhood liquor store to further study cultural transmission of Americans’ methods of coping through alcohol and illegal drugs.
Once bewitched, Christina fell under the spell of Congolese rumba music, and lived at the shores of Lake Tanganyika in East Africa to research the ways that music culture diffuses across boundaries from eastern DR Congo to Tanzania and crosses secular–religious spaces. Christina is a Swahili speaker and holds an MA (Music) in the anthropology of music culture at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and a BA (Anthropology) focused on culture, society, and medical anthropology at California State University, Chico.