Emmanuela Yogolelo is our Assistant Creative Producer working on our Children and Young People’s programme. She is also a nationally and internationally acclaimed singer/songwriter, and musician. Emmanuela is the co-founder and leader of Amani Creatives the Manchester-based organisation, which develops and promotes African artists.
Emmanuela took an inspirational journey back to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she was born, this summer.
The visit, funded by Arts Council England, was a research and development project exploring the Central African and Congolese roots of her musical practice. Emmanuela’s research took her deep into the archives of the National Museum of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa, and field recordings of the many musical traditions of Congo and Central Africa. Emmanuela interviewed museum curators, experts, and local musicians to uncover Congo and Central Africa’s rich musical heritage.
Now back in Manchester, Emmanuela is developing an EP together with multi-instrumentalist and producer Jaydev Mistry. The forthcoming project will feature musicians and people from Greater Manchester’s Black and Asian communities. Her research will also leave a legacy of resource materials about Congo’s music.
Emmanuela used her research trip to explore the issue of climate change in central Africa. This became the inspiration for her family-friendly performance piece Tales from the Congo Basin, which she performed at HOME during its PUSH Festival 2021 during the October half-term. This interactive performance, developed as part of Horizons Festival in association with us, used the Congo Basin peoples’ traditions of song, harmonies, and storytelling to gently explore climate change and its links to colonialism, race, and migration.
Audience members joined in with traditional songs featuring call and response, clapping and body percussion. Tales from the Congo Basin highlighted the rich ecology of the Congo Basin, which spans six countries and is home to the second-largest rainforest on Earth, the world’s deepest river and rich wildlife including gorillas, forest elephants, hippos, bonobos, and okapis.
“Many rains/moons ago, where I come from people use to come together most evenings and before bedtime, under a tree or around a fire, to listen to adults’ telling stories and learn.”
“Some evenings, a grandmother would be the storyteller. She could start her story with a song, and where I come from, music is communal and participative, so everyone would join in with singing, percussion, or dance.”
“I can tell you straight away something is happening with Mother Nature, something has been done to the environment. Just like those people in the past, you can hear our personal experiences of climate change from a justice point of view and join in the story.”
Emmanuela created a powerful film with artist/activist Kooj Chuhan of Crossing Footprints about deforestation and climate change’s impact on the wildlife and people of Congo.
Emmanuela is growing her practice to include storytelling. You can also hear her use of the storytelling techniques she discovered during her visit to Congo in a podcast that explores climate justice.
Photo by Kooj Chuhan.
I have a blog page on my website where I talk about my practice, projects, etc