In August 2015, photographer Rebecca Fertinel (° 1991) was invited by a friend to a wedding. Fertinel thus became acquainted with the warm, free attitude of the Congolese community in Belgium and with the Bantu concept of 'Ubuntu': that you become a human being through a connection with everything and everyone. Ubuntu lives on even after death.
This concept seems to merge in this photographic documentary with the desire to belong to a group and to maintain a kind of group identity in a changing environment. The photographed scenes seem to take place in an indefinable era, in an indefinable place. Not by the black-and-white photography, but by the 'classic' clothes and hairstyles that are worn, which become timeless in the absence of a time-bound colorite. Only when we look at the 'decors', for certain architectural elements or spatial accessories, do we understand that we are not in the United States in the 1950s, or in the seventies in Kinshasa, but in Flemish cultural centers and parish homes in 2017.
"It is true that migration is of all times. People keep looking for something new or something better and always lose a part of themselves because they have to leave something behind. But this series of photographs is specifically about the Congolese community in Belgium. Without the colonization and the scramble for Africa, that community would not be that big. Traumas pass from generation to generation and are still relevant, even if it is already the third generation born in Belgium.
Congolese culture has fascinated me more and more. Different tribes were in essence matriarchal. There were forms of patriarchy, but the power structures as we know them now have only come under the influence of the Western colonizers. However, the underlying matriarchal structure has been preserved, for example in their respect for the parent and wiser woman, which contrasts sharply with the Western approach of a woman who supposedly decays when she gets older.
Ancient traditions from before colonization, such as Ubuntu, still live on, fused with Christian influences. Ubuntu also applies after your death, for example: if you lead a sincere, dignified life, you will become an ancestor who is worthy of respect. Life and death go hand in hand and run together. Congolese culture is also an oral culture. People from the African diaspora are very attached to certain cultural practices, because they have never been recorded in texts, and are preserved by experiencing them.
Making this series of photos made me feel like part of a group, feeling the same joy and happiness together. That was a valuable feeling that I did not know about my own life, where the images tell me who I am. "
Montagne de Miel, 6 July 2018
(Extracts from a text by Hans Theys)