This event featured a screening of the film ‘Cemetery State’ followed by commentary by geographer and urban theorist Jennifer Robinson and discussion with Filip De Boeck, urban anthropologist and the film’s director.
In ‘Cemetery State’, De Boeck invites us on a bewildering tour of the cemetery of Kintambo, one of the oldest and largest cemeteries in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over the years, the city has increasingly invaded the cemetery, and shanty towns have sprung up alongside it. One of these is the populated slum area of Camp Luka (also known as ‘the State’). Here, the living and dead live in close proximity.
Although the cemetery was officially closed by the urban authorities two decades ago, the people from Camp Luka continue to bury their dead there. This astonishing film follows Papa Mayaula and his small group of grave-diggers. Through an intimate portrait of their daily dealings with the dead, the film also introduces us to the ‘children of the State’, the youth of Camp Luka. For them, mourning rituals and funerals have become moments of upheaval and contestation of official social and political orders. For this urban youth, burials have become occasions to criticise elders, politicians and preachers who are blamed for the pitiful state of affairs in the city and the country. ‘Cemetery State’ observes how these young gravediggers, singers and drummers use the body of the dead as an alternative platform to attack and challenge their elders, to create their own (dis)order, and to appropriate the urban site.