“One of the things that we wanted to do was raise awareness in the Carolina community that for all of us who have portable electronic devices, for all of us who engage in the modern world in any way, the conflict in Congo has everything to do with us,” Ndaliko said.
While festival events did focus on advocacy and responsible consumer choices, they incorporated vibrant music and live entertainment as well.
“We decided to call it ‘Celebrating Congo’ because that’s exactly what we want to do,” Ndaliko said. “We want to celebrate the vibrancy of the culture, the people, the food, the fashion, the music and the film traditions.”
At the “Celebrating Congo” fashion show on Saturday, music was blasted from the speakers of the Stone Center while energetic models strutted their African-inspired designs.
Mamafrica, included in the fashion show, is a clothing line featuring the work of Congolese women with all proceeds going toward providing healing arts programs, education and economic opportunity to the women of Congo, according to the line’s website.
“Through the clothing we’re able to create awareness here in the United States and have the conversation about being conscious of where your clothing comes from,” said Ashley Nemiro, the non-profit’s founder. “We want to buy clothing that has a story, that has a purpose, and speaks up for a woman’s voice.”
Petna Ndaliko, Cherie Ndaliko’s husband, presented his film documentary, “Mabele na Biso,” after a spoken word event Friday.
The documentary focused on a recent self-sufficiency movement in Congo started by community director Samuel Yagase.
Yagase was on the panel for the Q-and-A session and was translated from his native French to English. He said charity groups should ask locals what needs to be done in their region instead of just bringing money and executing their own agenda.
Yagase’s work, which encourages people to engage in activities like growing their own food and operating a community radio station, has made it possible for more than 6,000 Congolese people to function independent of foreign aid.
“It is an invitation for a different conversation around international aid and an opportunity for people interested in Congo to see a different image of the Congolese,” Petna Nadliko said.