Mother and Child: the Death of Democracy

If director Raoul Peck wanted to cater the film “Lumumba” to Western audiences, it probably would have opened with a slight foreshadowing of his eventual assassination. Instead, the film begins with two white men dragging the dead Congolese leader through the dirt and hacking his body to pieces. With Lumumba’s gruesome death already revealed, the film should have been nothing but a biographical account of the events leading up to Lumumba’s death. However, as the film progresses, we see that rather than focusing on the death of a man, Peck chooses to subtly focus on the death of a country. One of the best examples is Peck’s portrayal of Lumumba’s wife and daughters.

Throughout the movie, Lumumba’s wife and his daughter seem to play the role of peace, love, and unity. As Lumumba’s family unit, they ground him down in a world of sleepless nights. The wife tells her husband to stop working so hard, scolding him for sleeping at his desk. The young daughter consoles her father as he stresses over maintaining his country, and she is even unaware of what a “president” is. Lumumba’s wife and daughter seem to represent the majority of the Congolese people, normal and detached from the political violence surrounding them.

But as Patrice runs into challenges running an independent Republic of the Congo, so do his wife and new daughter. Later on, his wife becomes very ill after giving birth to a new child. This could be Peck’s representation of the troubles of giving birth to a new nation. Moreover, the baby is taken by the Belgians to Switzerland “for safety” from the DRC’s political turmoil. There, she soon dies, just as Lumumba’s dream of a truly independent Congo slowly dies, being taken away from him by foreign actors and put into the hands of the corrupt Mobutu Sese Seko.

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Posted on September 18, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I find it interesting that you made the connection between mother and child with the death of democracy in Congo. I think ‘hope’ also contributes in Lumumba’s wife and his daughter. As a father and a husband, Lumumba’s presence at home is always be missed. To that extent, this can also be a representation of Lumumba’s hope for Congo’s future sovereignty. It is a hope longing for things can be resolved soon so that the people of Congo (as well as Lumumba’s family) can reunited.

  2. kowlessarchristine

    I really like the connection you made between Lumumba’s wife and daughter and the diminishment of hope for a truly independent Congo. I can definitely see the parallel that can be drawn between Lumumba’s newborn becoming ill and passing away and the troubles being faced in trying to raise the Congo up from Belgian rule and the corruption that it undergoes under Mobutu.
    I agree that Lumumba’s wife and daughter can serve as a representation of the Congolese people. Even though his wife and daughter live amongst all the politics with Lumumba being prime minister, it is still almost foreign to them. I say “foreign” because when one is accustomed to a certain lifestyle and have dealt with, in this case, political violence in a certain way, it is not clear to see the real troubles, to see what side, if any, one should be on. All one sees are people suffering, and if one knows them one tries to guide them to the best of his/her ability. Lumumba’s wife and daughter are rocks for him to lean on, and I found it almost fitting, even if it is not based on fact, to have the narration of the letter to his wife in the film. Words spoken to family during troubled times mean more and are heard better than those yelled through any microphone. And being part of the opening and ending scenes with its soft tone, really contrasts the brutality of Lumumba’s death and the images of people in shackles.

  3. I think it is really interesting how you made the connection between the death of the democracy and Lumumba’s wife and daughter. After reading your post I really realized how much his wife and daughter are a symbol of the dying hope for democracy. I would like to ask you want you mean by the word “normal” when you say that they, “represent the majority of the Congolese people, normal and detached…”. What is the definition of “normal” in society and to whom are you comparing them?

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