Day Four: Kinshasa
International Disabled People’s Day
Yesterday was a strange day.I was told the day before we were due to meet some NGO’s – we were driven to the centre were I had led a workshop the day before. All the actors from Mabina Mboko were waiting – now due the proposed meetings I was to have that morning and the fact that I was presenting a human rights/ arts that changes lives/ social model talk to a huge crowd that afternoon, I have my new best dress on.So I was less than happy when I was told the group is waiting for you to continue the workshop from yesterday…oh my! I thought quickly shall I pick up on some of the techniques from yesterday etc. and then decided – you guys lead the workshop and I will join in. Bev was also enthused enough to participate. I loved it – we had no signer which I felt worked better than the previous day. I was also taught a worship song – the signing has more determination and focus than English worship signs – so glad of a few new ones…
Then we were driven to the conference centre – this was held in the French school – not the Jimmy Carter Centre as expected! After sorting the technical things out for the powerpoint – I noticed only 10 people were present – Freddy said they would come later – so I screened All For Claire. I was asked to talk about my past and upbringing especially how my deafness was dealt with in the UK – if you know me, given half a chance to talk about myself, shyness doesn’t feature – so I told them – was very open and even shocked some people. Disability discrimination is relative whatever context you grow up in….I am so aware of the poverty levels in Congo, but also see how people support disabled people as part of the community – there are pros and cons in both of our cultures. Keeping that line was important for me. As I began my talk, more and more people arrived and the room was quite full by the end of it - I put out the challenge of empowerment to ensure disabled people’s voices are heard first and foremost and for them to be in control of the arts (it was weird , but I couldn’t stop thinking about Ian Stanton (http://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/files/library/Shakespeare-Ian-Stanton.pdf) and the battles he went through). They were really impressed when I explained about our young peoples work.
At the end of my presentation we had lots of comments, more than questions. I was set a few challenging ones – one about how hard it is to pay for their children’s health care so why should they do the arts. I talked about quality of life issues and that we can all do the arts to help think about our lives and place in it. I didn’t want to give contrite or arrogant answers, the issues here are huge, but it is important to give the disabled or deaf artist a voice – in the media etc. At the end I was swamped and gave out all my brochures and business cards… lots of artists gave me their details and people seemed really affected by what I said…
Then off to dinner – Lebanese restaurant and onto the finale of Off Off festival…an open music event – it was fantastic – in the street on a huge stage – with really dangerous steps. Wheelchair users were carried up onto the stage – so scary to see. Health and Safety is definitely not a priority here! There were people everywhere dancing and connecting, and every band contained disabled or deaf people – the talent here is limitless. I was invited onto stage and reminded them that disabled people all over the world were celebrating this day, we are a global community – and boy did we party. I danced with loads of people and had kids all around –mostly they stood looking at me – probably from shock (it’s not every day you see a big white woman shaking her booty!), so I encouraged them to join me – it has been caught on film – so there’s no denying it happened.
Went to bed exhausted, but really, really happy – this morning my knees are killing me!