Artists are gathering at Congo’s largest dance festival, embodying a spirit of perseverance.


Virginie Magumba, a 22-year-old professional dancer from Goma in eastern Congo, finds dancing more than just a career—it’s a means of liberation, emotional management, and a source of profound personal connection. Winning the award for Best Congolese Dancer at Goma’s prestigious dance festival, she reflects on how this annual event, despite the region’s challenges with rebel groups and violence, has shaped her journey.

The Goma dance festival, now in its seventh year, draws dancers from across the globe to the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo, defying the backdrop of ongoing conflict fueled by numerous armed groups vying for control of the region’s resources, including gold. For Magumba, the festival has been transformative, affirming her belief in pursuing her dreams against all odds.

Born into a milieu of dance, Magumba’s exposure to the artistry came from her father’s sports club, where she witnessed dancers practicing for years. However, it wasn’t until she turned 17, just after graduating from high school and preparing to start a degree in humanitarian studies, that she fully embraced dancing herself.

“This festival built me as a dancer,” Magumba reflects. “It showed me I could follow my dreams.”

Her journey into professional dancing was somewhat delayed compared to her peers. Yet, the festival provided her with a platform to showcase her talent and commitment to the art form. Despite the turbulent environment of Goma, where violence often disrupts daily life, Magumba’s dedication to dance has become a form of resilience and hope amidst adversity.

“Dancing helps me forget the troubles my family faces and the ongoing violence,” she says. “It allows me to hold on to hope.”

While her career as a dancer has afforded her opportunities to travel internationally, Magumba remains steadfast in her commitment to her community and her city. Goma, ravaged by conflict and instability, has seen many of its residents leave in search of safer environments and better opportunities. However, Magumba sees her role as pivotal in inspiring other young women in Goma to pursue their passions and dreams.

“There are only two professional female dancers in Goma,” she notes. “If I leave, who will show the other girls that it’s possible?”

The Goma dance festival not only celebrates the artistry of dance but also serves as a beacon of hope and perseverance for the local community. Despite the challenges posed by rebel groups and violence, the festival continues to thrive, showcasing the resilience and creativity of its participants.

Magumba’s personal journey reflects the broader narrative of resilience in the face of adversity—a theme echoed in the stories of many Congolese artists and performers who use their talents to navigate the complexities of life in eastern Congo. Through her dedication to dance, Magumba has not only found personal fulfillment but also strives to make a meaningful impact in her community.

As she looks ahead, Magumba remains optimistic about the future of dance in Goma and hopes to inspire more young women to pursue their dreams against all odds. Her story underscores the transformative power of art and culture in fostering resilience and hope in even the most challenging circumstances.

Virginie Magumba’s journey as a professional dancer in Goma exemplifies the spirit of perseverance amidst adversity. Through her dedication to dance and participation in the Goma dance festival, she not only celebrates her talent but also inspires others to pursue their dreams despite the challenges they face. Her story is a testament to the transformative power of art and the resilience of the human spirit in overcoming obstacles.


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