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Heart of a Mother: Diasporic Performative Engagement with Gender-based Violence in the DRCongo

Marie Godin


For a long time female migrants were not considered as proper political actors in the field of diaspora studies. Looking specifically at the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in particular the East of the country, which has experienced a protracted conflict situation and is home to some of the world’s most horrific documented cases of sexual violence against women, this article explores how this particular form of violence has contributed to the mobilization of Congolese women activists within the diaspora. By focusing on the use of art as a political intervention in addressing sexual violence, this article explores the work of Congolese women in Belgium, the ex-colonial power, and their engagement in several initiatives that promote peace and development processes (Godin and Chideka 2010). The analysis provided is centered on a theatrical performance entitled Heart of a Mother, written and performed since 2003 by Stella Kitoga, which moves away from overused and simplistic phrases such as “DRC, rape capital of the world,†and instead draws on the Congolese cultural production to address the issue of sexual and gender-based violence in a more nuanced and multifaceted way.


Congolese diaspora; Women; Sexual and gender-based violence; Theater; Performance

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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