For a few years, the Congolese government has banned military-related games for children. The »plains game« is an organized war game involving children ages 6 to 18, which take place every year during the school holidays.
The ban emphasized the link between children wanting to »play war« and
the recruitment of child soldiers in various armed conflicts in The Democratic Republic of Congo. This desire has been largely provoked and sustained by these games. On the other hand, the violence perpetrated by the different armed groups, whose virulence is based on the malleability of these children, continues to make headlines. Many trials are ongoing in the International Criminal Court.
The main purpose of the plains game is to occupy young people and deflect other social activities.These young people are organizing to represent their social reality. Children who live next to the military camps are especially influenced by morning meetings that the real military calls »Parade.« This influence has extended over the entire city with the arrival of »AFDL« and the »kadogos« child soldiers.
Under this influence, they like to dress up as soldiers and compete with each other. This confrontation is not violated, but it’s in the dress, dance, and choreography that one sees a difference. Toward 1997, I personally witnessed actual child soldiers in the city of Lubumbashi, and some years later, I still see kids playing war games to receive a bonus after the holidays. It is true that there are actual child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo but the game allows children to enact war a second time.
I decided to take portraits of these children who want to appropriate an identity based on influence in the game atmosphere. Their story is really an illusion, because in their new identities, they cannot imagine child soldiers, but adult soldiers, and they brought me to have a vision of reality that I and other children lived in 1997 with real child soldiers.
The portraits of these children started to scroll in my head and make me think about the true stories of a child soldier named Serge Amisi, who has been recruited by force. Deprived of his rights, he decided to tell his own story to be remembered for it. In confrontational portraits of children who play soldier and the true story of a child soldier, I want to support his written testimony by choosing a few paragraphs in the book and visual proof of what I experienced in 1997, to show in a fictional diptych. It is a reality that is still happening in Congo until today, one that raises the question … what does it mean to the future Congolese to take a child?