Five years ago a group of individuals put their heads together to see if they could create an environment to promote peace in the area and in the culture. The people of Goma have a great desire to use their talents to create a better future. They decided to use art and music as a way to build awareness for peace. They named the event Amani Festival, Amani in Swahili means peace. This weekend of music and art was an opportunity for those attending to forget their troubles and hardships and instead focus on peace and what living in harmony with each other could mean. The organizers worked to invite famous musicians to help draw a crowd. The event has been a major success with over 30,000 people attending in 2017. Each year the festival grows, which is a major encouragement to the future of Goma.
The festival organizers have 4 main values that they hope to communicate through their event. Building together is a major piece as a better future depends on everyone taking part. The entry fee is a $1 per person per day in order to make sure as many people as possible can attend the event. There are musicians, dancers, and performers from different countries that come to perform. The Amani festival also donates money to performers selected by the local population. This allows up and coming performers the chance to perform in front of thousands and get technical and financial support (see quote below). Entrepreneurship has a key role in the development and prosperity of eastern Congo. Weeks before the festival they hold a competition where 4 finalists receive training sessions, personalized coaching, office space for 6-12 months with permanent wifi, and a no-interest loan of $1350. The well-being of the individual and community depends on people’s commitment to protect and care for the environment. Amani Festival raises awareness on efficient waste management and ways towards a sustainable future by turning waste into art, using trash and recycling receptacles, and the festival itself only uses recyclable materials in the restaurants and lounges. This weekend thousands will gather to celebrate and work to build a new way forward together.
“I believe that where politics has failed, music can succeed. Because music transforms, music heals. Music has a strength that some people do not know. It is our responsibility as artists to tell the people that everyone must participate in the advent of peace, that it is not a work of some, and that everyone must do their part. Our responsibility is also to tell the people that we must not lose hope, because if we lose hope, we will not go to work. But if we have faith, we will continue to fight for the return of an effective peace.
At the Amani festival, I also told the young people that we must continue to show a positive image of our country so that we stop demonizing it. Outside, we think we live in hell, but I think we are in paradise despite the difficulties. That’s what I sang in my song Nyemiré at the Amani festival. Yes Africa is crying, but also Africa is smiling. There is one thing that makes Africa strong, is living together, fraternity, African solidarity. We have to show this to the world.”