Community Voices and Context 2: DRCongo

The visuals I chose for my second set of creative translations are from stories already composed by farmers in two role plays – one by women and one by men – from a GALS gender training for Muungano Fair Trade coffee cooperative from DRC. I chose these images for in depth analysis because the role play narratives were very powerful and highlighted different things about women and men’s perceptions – echoing many of the issues about gender inequalities in the coffee sector from Uganda.

This was also the only clear set of visuals I have of farmers’ complete stories, as opposed to vignettes from drawings that I then interpret from interviews and other contextual information. The photos are of variable technical quality as they were taken in difficult bright lighting while I was focusing on facilitation and documenting the narrative. But many are very expressive and dynamic when edited as the basis for sketching and further development for animation. Importantly the photos provided a basis for developing my ability to draw local expressions and body language so that animations could abstract and clarify without resorting to stereotypes and potentially racist tropes. They also highlighted both the ways in which women and men perceive their own and the opposite gender – both seriously and as comedy.

These stories and effects of men’s control of coffee money, alcoholism and adultery and corruption of officials are common across all the coffee sector in East Africa, including Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. So these role play stories have wider implications as advocacy in the coffee sector – Fair Trade as well as private sector companies.

The Role Plays

The workshop itself was held in Rwanda because there was too much bombing in the area the farmers came from. Also to link them with women and men in Rwanda who were doing the same methodology.

The role plays were to look at differences and similarities between women and men in how they perceived women and men’s roles in coffee production and benefits from coffee. Participants were divided into one men’s group and one women’s group and given props so that women could play men and men could play women – adding a lot of laughter to the proceedings.

The idea was to combine the two role play stories into one, experimenting with different ways of sequencing of the storyline – as in Matt Madden’s 99 Ways to Tell a Story. Although I did not have good drawings or audio from this workshop, I did have some relevant media I could edit and add to increase the power and clarity of narrative.

The photos straight from the camera were of variable quality as I was taking them in difficult very bright light and shadow, and having to concentrate on facilitating and understanding translation of the role plays themselves for the job I was paid to do. Some of the most interesting images in terms of story were not always of the highest technical quality.

My first task was therefore to edit them in Lightroom to get more consistent colour and tone. And to make a selection for a narrative.

Women’s Theatre original photos: women do all the work, men get the coffee money and spend it on alcohol and women in town. But fight the woman, not the man.

Men’s theatre original photos: men use coffee money for drinking and gambling. This leads to fight and involvement of police. All the money – include mortgage of land – goes to paying off corrupt lawyers and police chiefs to get the men released from jail.

For the details of Creative Translation and animation of these voices, please see:
2: ‘Tupa Tupa’, DRCongo