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22 October 2015

Djia Mambu : journalist and film critic, a committed writer at the service of Africulture | journaliste et critique de cinéma, une plume engagée au service d’Africulture

Djia Mambu:  journalist and film critic: A committed writer at the service of Africulture | Djia Mambu : journaliste et critique de cinéma : Une plume engagée au service d’Africulture 

SOURCE: - Gilles Arsene Tchedji - 02 Oct 2015 Photo: Translation from French by Beti Ellerson

[English] Français ci-après

Belgian-Congolese Djia Mambu, a journalist and film critic based in Brussels, writes for Africultures, Africiné, Images francophones and the Revue Cinéma Belge. Also film columnist for Radio Africa No. 1, this year she travelled to discover the African Film Festival of Khouribga. Le Quotidien has the opportunity to present to the public this committed writer at the service of culture.

She has been at many African film festivals on the continent and beyond. But the 18th edition of the African Film Festival of Khouribga will remain for her one of the most memorable encounters with the 7th art. While participating for the first time, the journalist Djia Mambu was also awarded a certificate of recognition. As evidence of her commitment to African cinema, at the film workshop in Khouribga, the organisers wanted to recognise her achievements.

"What I find very interesting at festivals, like this one for example, are the parallel activities. In addition to film screenings, the festival provides an opportunity to engage in workshops and conferences that add genuine value to the festivalgoers’ experience, "she commented after the certificate granting ceremony. Djia Mambou was recognised at the workshop for her work in film analysis. "I am first a journalist and have gradually become a critic. I think it's always important to have the perspectives of people of other countries, other cultures. How they analyse cinema, even if the tenets are basically the same for everyone. We have almost the same references, the same schools of thought, but there are sometimes certain nuances, a specific sensitivity," she said, also stating how interesting it was to share the film criticism class with Professor Majid and other Moroccan students. "It allowed me to see how they perceive films and what the differences are." Noting that she has not always been a film buff, "I do not pretend to have seen all the films ...five years ago African cinema was still completely unknown to me. I think my passion for cinema came at a moment when I wanted to contribute to the sharing of our culture by us, for us but also for others. It could have been a passion for literature, music or the plastic arts, but I chose cinema because it includes all artistic disciplines and is the easiest means of communication" she said, before continuing with satisfaction, "for me, cinema is not just touching a person, but many. And then it affords the possibility to meet many people and make a great deal of connections. "

Her advocacy: Being a recent arrival to this milieu does not limit her ability to critique of the 7th African art. Djia Mambu is a true advocate for African youth who, she thinks, should be cultivated in cinema culture. "We cannot blame the youth and future generations for not being interested of our cinema. We must be the ones to create the processes that will get them interested. Today there is no denying the power of our cinema and the wealth that we have. The present generations are the ones who are losing out, for not having been taught to appreciate films and encouraged to watch them, "notes Djia Mambu in the Africa 1 journal. She also observes that African youth have not had the same opportunity as their elders who experienced the cinema-house and film-club culture. That is why she advocates a return to these foundational values. "When participating in this festival, it is evident that many experts had the opportunity to experience the film-clubs. In the village they went every night to the screenings where they critiqued the films. When you hear them talk about films it is amazing. Today, when I listen to my generation, I do not hear the journalists talk about cinema like the elders do. I think this is a model worthy of emulation. So there is a duty to educate, to get people to appreciate cinema,"she said.

As a favourite pastime Djia Mambu has a great interest in the cinema of the diaspora. "I appreciate the work of Africans on the continent on the one hand, and those living abroad on the other; because they can measure the feelings of those who live abroad and encourage them to create a bridge with our cinemas here”. This sentiment is to be expected as she is a product of several cultures and embraces this identity wholeheartedly. "I'm from a diversity of cultures. I was born in Brussels, but I am Congolese. I lived in the Congo, Montreal, Paris, and Switzerland. I have learned from many cultures. But even having lived in North America and as a child of the diaspora, as they call it, I did not grow up with our films. I grew up with Western films. Hence for me, this was an important step to take, this return, in order to start to deconstruct and appreciate our films. It is a process to follow, and now I think that cinema also must take on that role" she says, convinced that being a cultural journalist and film critic is not an end in itself. "Really, if you find me in five years no longer a film journalist do not be surprised. For me it is not my purpose, but my contribution, to the cultural producers, to this industry—which is a difficult one, to creativity and especially to the instrument of our cultures," she said.

Her journey. With a passion for journalism, Djia Mambu has worked three years with Africulture. It has also been three years that she began to specialise and become interested in themes around cinema, especially African cinema. Her work is not unknown to the Africiné readership. In addition to her articles on African films, she is also interested in Belgian cinema. Though, she notes, "Our press is very closed. Because when one talks about film critics one thinks of Africiné, Africultures. It is always more or less the same network, the same thing. And I find that unfortunate." Her wish in this regard is to see European journalists writing about African films and African journalists writing about Western films.

Djia Mumba’s studies did not predestine her towards an interest in culture, or a passion for cinema. She studied humanities at the Free University of Brussels where there were a lot of African students, but it was politics that was in fashion. "When you became a journalist, it was to be a political journalist. Oddly, because that is what the African press focus on the most: Politics. When you analyse all of our media today, on the front page, you will always see either the King or the Prime Minister or the President. Issues on culture are on the last pages," she notes with regret—either in the West or in Africa.

Her convictions. What really pushed Djia Mambu to take the path of cultural journalism? "Gradually, as I learned more about African politics I realised that it is not the policies that will get us out of our condition of underdevelopment... It is not possible to develop a country if culture is not taken into consideration. It is of crucial importance. And it concerns culture and all its disciplines. Moreover, cinema is a good example because it includes many things at once and can reach a wider audience". Positive, very genial, Djia is also generous. Networking is one of her passions. For her, the appeal of the work of a journalist lies in the wonderful encounters she has made throughout the world. "Going to festivals and viewing films, is like reading a book. This allows one to travel... All these history lessons that you did not learn because of the imposition of colonial history—the history in the eyes of the coloniser. You end up learning it through encounters and above all, through the films. That is what the films of today give you. They inform you, educate you and fill you with passion."

For Djia Mambu, "it is immeasurable because it is treated by Africans themselves. A continuous wealth on a daily basis. I find that African films are the best ambassadors of our country.”


Djia Mambu est une Belgo-congolaise. Journaliste et critique de cinéma, elle est basée à Bruxelles et écrit pour Africulture, Africiné, Images francophones et la Revue Cinéma Belge. Egalement chroniqueuse de cinéma à la radio Africa N°1, elle est allée découvrir cette année le Festival de film africain de Khouribga. Le Quotidien en a profité pour faire découvrir au public cette plume engagée au service de la culture. Lire la suite à : Le


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