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Congo dance project helps refugees take steps towards rebuilding lives

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By Vania Turner and Andreas Kirchhof  |  12 March 2018

Congolese choreographer Fabrice Don de Dieu Bwabulamutima believes in the healing power of dance.


He travels with his drama and dance company to refugee camps across the Democratic Republic of the Congo, teaching people who have experienced war and violence how to overcome trauma, rebuild their self-confidence and learn to live with other people again through the medium of dance.

“Dance touches everybody, regardless of your position of power, your age or your race,” says the 40-year-old instructor who has put his own dance career on hold.

His company, Kongo Drama, has been conducting a four-month dance, drama and music programme entitled ‘Refugees on the Move’ in Inke camp, in Nord-Ubangi province, which hosts more than16,000 refugees from the Central African Republic.

  • Lin-Clair Mangogba, 25, loves taking part in the hip hop dance class. "It makes me happy, after dancing my body feels better, I feel full of energy," he says.

    Lin-Clair Mangogba, 25, loves taking part in the hip hop dance class. “It makes me happy, after dancing my body feels better, I feel full of energy,” he says.  © UNHCR/John Wessels

  • Refugee dancers warm up before taking part in a class at Inke Refugee Camp, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    Refugee dancers warm up before taking part in a class at Inke Refugee Camp, Democratic Republic of the Congo. © UNHCR/John Wessels

  • A refugee from the Central African Republic goes through some moves at a theatre dance class in the Inke Refugee Camp.

    A refugee from the Central African Republic goes through some moves at a theatre dance class in the Inke Refugee Camp.  © UNHCR/John Wessels

  • Central African refugees pose as they go through a HipHop dance routine.

    Central African refugees pose as they go through a HipHop dance routine.  © UNHCR/John Wessels

  • Refugees from the Central African Republic dance and sing as they take part in a choir class in Inke refugee camp, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    Refugees from the Central African Republic dance and sing as they take part in a choir class in Inke refugee camp, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. © UNHCR/John Wessels

The programme is funded by the French non-governmental organization African Artists for Development, in collaboration with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

More than 600 people of all ages, refugees and local Congolese residents, attend a variety of courses including children’s dance, contemporary African dance, hip-hop and traditional dance.

Fabrice began the project in Mole camp in Sud-Ubangi in 2015, where he said there was tension and suspicion among different groups of refugees. Once they started dancing together, the tension began to evaporate and smiles returned to their faces.

“When I look at the effect we are having, how you can manage to restore people’s desire to live, how you can give hope to thousands of people like that, it’s amazing.”

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