Gesture and Power: Religion, Nationalism, and Everyday Performance in Congo
Dancing with the Invisible: Everyday Performances under Mobutu Sese Seko
This chapter considers the relationship between performance and authority during the postcolonial period under the dictatorial regime of Mobutu Sese Seko. State-scripted dancing and singing, most commonly known as animation politique, became part and parcel of daily life for average citizens of Zaire. The adoration of Mobutu became a civil religion as the ideologies of his regime were reinforced through the everyday performances of the citizens, and through Mobutu’s own attempts to supplant everyday religious practice with performances in his own honor. This chapter examines yet another shift in the relationship of embodied cultural performances to political authority, in particular from the early 1970s to the 1990s. Using interviews and archival documents, this chapter examines the impact of animation politique in three major areas of everyday life in rural Luozi territory: schools, businesses, and churches.