If the master plan succeeds, Mbongwana Star could become the Trojan Horse that penetrates the bastion of the world’s indifference (and revulsion and paranoia) and lifts the curse to bring that creative power out of rue Kato, the Beaux Arts, and other parts of Kinshasa. “The Beaux Arts is like a town within a town,” says Renaud. “Mbongwana Star has started rehearsing there and there’s a correlation with visual artists, stylists, people working on logos etc. It’s this kind of electric movement, this new vibe in Kinshasa that we’re trying to mix in with the music and the image.”
What I find extraordinary about a camera, is that you can film people that seem to be so far from you, culturally speaking, and thanks to the emotion that your work expresses, you can relive certain emotions through them and make them appear extremely close. And it’s clear that you need time to do that. If you want to understand a culture, you need to understand the language; you need to live in that culture.
Once a guitarist himself, Socklo now makes about 2 to 3 instruments per week, with the help of a couple assistants, in a clapboard shed in the Lembas district of this enormous teeming city. Tools are rudimentary; no workbench, no electric jigsaws, drills or shape cutters, just a heap of hammers, chisels, planes, saws and anvils made from recycled ordnance, all lying at the feet of the kind-faced Socklo while he sits and patiently fashions his artisanal wonders on his lap.
Long ago, Staff Benda Bilili understood that any real handicap exists only in the mind, rather than in the legs. Stricken by polio whilst still young, abandoned to their fate in one of the toughest and most dysfunctional cities in the world, forced to survive by courage and wit alone, Ricky, Coco, Roger and the crew have always known that life’s path clings to a vertical cliff face which towers above them. The only way has been up.