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37 min. Without dialogue.

Our history hinges on severed hands. And on photographs taken by missionaries who wanted to abolish slavery even as they believed we were inferior to them. Our history hinges on the world believing that we will forever be hopeless and helpless. That we embody suffering. What we embody, I believe, is elemental. It is water, earth, fire, air. Dance. It is pasts and futures. And it has power. So I rethink the clicks and flashes that have cast us in history. And I flirt with liberation from the colonial gaze.
Matata is told primarily through dance. Rhythm, color, and movements, being more than just the film’s subjects, lead it away from prescribed representations of Africa into a new future. A photo shoot of a young fashion model, Sarah, dressed as a replica of a photograph taken during King Léopold II’s brutal colonial rule of Congo, takes an unexpected turn. It spirals into a series of dance-inspired dreamscapes, fading mind projections of historical fragments, and the external, awakening world. As she struggles to reclaim her identity, she encounters historic, contemporary, and futuristic characters who collectively help her piece together her place in Congo’s past, present, and future.

Petna Ndaliko Katondolo, born in 1974 in Goma, Congo, is a filmmaker, activist, and educator living between his hometown and Chapel Hill, USA. His multi-genre artistic works are known for their decolonial Afrofuturistic artistic style, which engages historical content to address contemporary sociopolitical and cultural issues. In 2000, he founded Yole!Africa, a non-profit organization that serves as a hub of education and social innovation for artists, civil society leaders, and journalists in the east of Congo. In 2005, he founded the Congo International Film Festival (formerly known as the Salaam Kivu International Film Festival). In addition to serving as Artistic Director of both Yole!Africa and the Congo International Film Festival, Ndaliko Katondolo also teaches and consults regularly for international organizations addressing social and political inequity among marginalized groups through culture and education. He is currently the Artist in Residence at the Stone Center for Black History and Culture at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Director’s Note

MATATA is our reflection – as filmmaker, writer, and scholar – on the photographs of Alice Seeley Harris. Harris’s abolitionist activism set a precedent for the use of documentary photography as a tool of social justice advocacy. At the same time, her approach to photographing Congolese subjects – both human and natural – belies her inherent belief in the superiority of Europeans over Africans. In short, Ms. Harris was among the most important advocates for Congolese rights in the early 20th century and, simultaneously, unable to recognize Congolese subjects as her equals. What troubles us is that this contradiction continues – photography remains a popular medium of intervention by international organizations addressing Congo’s many crises but many of the resultant images retain the legacy of domination and exploitation. In response, we have crafted a curriculum for a workshop that we are implementing across Congo in partnership with the University of Nottingham, which holds Harris’s archive. In it, we use Harris’s photographs to teach students to decompose the colonial gaze and compose their own representations of self and other. This process has three primary steps: recreation, contradiction, and creative expression. As a film, MATATA is not only a retrospective on the workshops, but the result of a challenge we posed to ourselves, namely, to imagine what it would mean to fully decompose the colonial gaze? And what might we compose instead? One answer is MATATA – an inquisitive, artistic interrogation of the politics of representation and social justice in documentary and fiction film.

Production Cherie Ndaliko Katondolo, Katie Donington, Ellen Lammers. Production companies Alkebu Film Production (Chapel Hill, USA), Nottingham University (Nottingham, United Kingdom). Written and directed by Petna Ndaliko Katondolo. Cinematography Petna Ndaliko Katondolo. Editing Petna Ndaliko Katondolo. Music Jaja Bashengezi. Sound design Lee Weisert. Sound Jack Muhindo. Production design Ganza Buroko. Costumes Alain Senga. Make-up Mustache Muhanya. Casting Cherie Rivers Ndaliko Katondolo. Production manager Bernadette Vivuya. Executive producer Yole!Africa. With Sarah Mukadi Kadima (Malaika 1), Mustache Muhanya (Christofer), Dorine Mokha (Angel), Malaika Ndaliko Katondolo (Malaika 2), Bienco Hangi (Spirit 1), Meshake Lusolo (Spirit 2), Amanda Wimana (Medium 1), Cathy Cayenne Chibugu (Malaika 3), Olivier Kamara (Dancer), Hadassa Ngamba (Medium 2).


2004: Théâtre Brûlé (10 min.), Lamokowang (13 min.). 2005: Threatened Fate (7 min.), Ma-dia (7 min.), Goma Capitale du Cinéma (21 min.). 2007: Pandisha Bandera (45 min.). 2008: True Story Short (13 min.). 2010: Jazz Mama (32 min.). 2012: Melting Justice (5 min.). 2013: Mabele na Biso (34 min.). 2014: Myth Eyes (3 min.). 2016: The Dead Are Not Dead (10 min.). 2019: Danze (21 min.), Matata. 2020: KAPITA (21 min.).

Photo: © Alkebu Film Production / Nottingham University

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media
  • Logo des Programms NeuStart Kultur