Artistic encounters
in war and violent conflict

Gervais Tomadiatunga

Gervais Tomadiatunga Performing Artist

Gervais Tomadiatunga is a Franco-Congolese choreographer and dancer. Through engaging creations, inspired by his own personal experiences in Congo and the DRC, he uses dance as an expression of freedom and humanity to restore hope.

Back to all artists
Gervais Tomadiatunga
Democratic Republic of Congo / France
Performing Artist

The artist

Gervais Tomadiatunga made his first experiences in dance and theater at the Ballet National et au Théâtre National in Congo in 2004. Since then, he has toured in Africa, Europe, and the United States. As a former child soldiers, he engages in a committed and free dance to bear witness to his past and to give hope for the future.

Gervais describes his childhood as good and filled with dance. At the age of 14, Gervais was kidnapped by rebel groups and was forced to become a child soldier. 'You are cut off from everything, you do not even exist anymore, you become a killing machine', he says. After for years, he managed to escape to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Believing his parents were dead, he started to work in the Coltan mines to survive. The life in the mines was extremely harsh, but dancing saved his life.

"Dancing gave me back my freedom. It allowed me to rebuild myself, to exist, to cling to life, to believe in myself and to open up the world. I dance to restore hope".

Inspired by his experiences, surroundings, and history, Gervais uses dance to articulate freedom and expressions of social and political life. His choreographies involve a process of cultural action to raise awareness, to defend people's rights and to bear witness to the stories and experiences of his life.

'It's not the talent that interests me, it's the people. It's the humans. How the dancers lived, how they see society, how they see the other. That's what interests me in my job'.

In 2008, he was selected by Florent Mahoukou to participate in the show On the Steps. In 2010, the show won 1st prize at the Afrique Danse in Bamako organised by Culture France. While developing as a choreographer and dancer, Gervais understood that he had to express the richness of Congolese culture and the realities of his life. In 2006, he established his own dance company 'Tumamana', which means 'obedience' in Kikongo. One of his solo performances gave him the opportunity to perform in France, and he decided to move to the country where continued to work with his dance company.

In 2017, Tumamana became Danseincolore. Dance was no longer the expression of obedience for Gervais. Dance was the expression of art, in which dance expresses a language that unites us. Thus, 'obedience' became 'colorless dance'.

Selected works

Réalité(s) (2021)

Réalité(s) brings together all the realities encountered in Gervais' life - from his adolescence stolen from him in the rebel camps in Brazzaville to his work in the Coltan mines. In an impressive scenography of sand-strewn arena resembling an open-pit mine, four dancers throw their bodies into battle to oppose the reality(s) of the dictatorship in Congo.

The mines are a dangerous place for a child. No security measures are taken. You dig your own grave for a dollar or two. Uncertainty dominates. Will they be able to see the sun again? The creation is inspired by Gervais' story of resistance and hope. The dancers are imbued with a sense of rage and revolt.

'I do not wish to do documentary work; this is the work of humanity. Through this conviction, I share the political and social reality of Congo. I want to tell the child soldiers who have taken refuge in the mines to believe in themselves. To believe that one day, everything can change. To tell them that life is not over for them; the most important thing is to be alive. To let them open up to the world, to let them keep on hoping and hang on to life'.

On va rien lâcher! (2020)

The solo performance represents the frustration and suffering of being locked up during the pandemic. Through dancing in repetitive and jerky movements, Gervais wants to show the body's struggles to regain a certain freedom. The techno music takes the dancer into a trance to the point of madness. The audience see a suffering and tired body, tired of the pandemic, violence, running away, and having to constantly justify oneself. What is humanity? How to find it?

See more

  • Video of Tomadiatunga performing his solo "Tributeur"
All images/videos used on this page are copyrighted by the artists, unless stated otherwise.
Back to top Back to all artists