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.

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Gervais Tomadiatunga
Democratic Republic of Congo / France
Performing Artist

The artist

Gervais is a Franco-Congolese choreographer born in Brazzaville, Congo. He describes his childhood as good, growing up with his parents and siblings, and of course dance. It was his older sister who introduced him to dancing. Little did she know that dancing would later save her younger brother's life.

At the age of 14, Gervais was kidnapped by rebel groups and was forced to live as a child soldier for four years. He describes this part of his life as horrible: "You are cut off from everything, you don't even exist anymore, you become a killing machine". Luckily, he managed to escape to the DRC. Believing that 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".

Gervais made his first professional experiences in dance and theater at the Ballet National et au Théâtre National du Congo from 2004 and 2008. He then went on tour in Africa, Europe and the United States to convey Congolese dance and develop in traditional dances, contemporary dance, modern jazz and hip-hop. In 2008, he was selected by Florent Mahoukou to participate in his show "On the Steps", which won 1st prize at the Afrique Danse in Bamako, organized by Culture France in 2010.

While developing as a choreographer and dancer, he understood that he had to express the realities and the stories of his life, of his country, and the richness of Congolese culture. In 2006, he established his own dance company called Tumamana, which means "obedience" in Kikongo. After one of his solos gave him the opportunity to perform in France, he decided to settle in the country. He moved to Maine et Loire and continued his work with this dance company. In 2017, Tumamana became Danseincolore. For Gervais, dance was no longer the expression of obedience, but of art, as dance expresses a language that unites us. Thus, "obedience" became "colorless dance".

Inspired by his experiences, his surroundings and history, freedom and expressions of social and political life are always at the heart of his choreographic work. His creations involve a process of cultural action to raise awareness, defend people's rights and bear witness to the stories and experiences of 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".

Selected works

Réalité (s) (2021)

This creation brings together all the realities encountered in the life of Gervais himself, from his adolescence stolen in Brazzaville in the rebel camps, to his work in the Coltan mines. In an impressive scenography of a sand-strewn arena resembling an open-pit mine, four dancers throw their bodies into the 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 the Gervais' story of resistance and hope in which 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".

Déstockage Humain (2021)

A testimony to the reality faced by young Malagasy, Comorians and other foreigners in Mayoette.

On va rien lâcher! (2020)

Solo of Gervais Tomadiatunga. This creation represents the frustration and the suffering of being locked up due to Covid-19. Through dancing in repetitive and jerky movements, Tomadiatunga 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 body the audience sees is a suffering and tired body - tired of the Covid situation, tired of violence, tired of running away, tired of having to justify oneself constantly. What is humanity? How to find it?

See more

  • Video of Tomadiatunga performing his solo "Tributeur"
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