Recently, the UCI Blum Center, in collaboration with the Climate and Urban Sustainability Program (CUSP), and the School of Social Ecology, hosted the award winning filmmakers Michael Uwemedimo and Petna Ndaliko Katondolo. Students, faculty, and non-profit partner organizations attended events featuring our guests and their transformative work. In addition, Uwemedimo and Ndaliko Katondolo were guest panelists at a dinner hosted by DeAna and Michale Colglazier for the School of Social Ecology’s new Climate and Urban Sustainability Program (CUSP), participated in a KUCI podcast, and ran a one-day workshop with Professors Richard Matthew and Mark LeVine on future collaborations.
The 10 day visit was an opportunity to showcase the power of storytelling and art for reimagining and improving urban futures and mobilizing community-based movements for change, as well as an opportunity to further develop a partnership between UCI scholars and the initiatives run by Uwemedimo and Ndaliko Katondolo.
Michael Uwemedimo, who is currently a Blum Center Distinguished Visiting Scholar, is an award winning filmmaker and community activist. He is also the co-founder and director of Collaborative Media Advocacy Platforms (CMAP). CMAP is host to the Chicoco Collective, a collective of radio, cinema, and mapping programs based in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. This organization collaborates with international and local community organizers to give members of the local community a voice and to empower them with the skills to imagine and build the urban future they want to inhabit.
During his visit to UC Irvine, Uwemedimo presented several of Chicoco Collective’s recent programs. Combining emotive photographs, videos, AI renderings, and music produced through Chicoco Radio alongside Uwemedimo’s own dramatic prose, the presentations illustrated the experiences of people living in Port Harcourt, a primarily self-built community, and demonstrated the power that personal agency and storytelling have in making positive changes to communities made vulnerable through extractive and colonial practices. From neighborhood planning and infrastructure projects, to social and political campaigns reframing the local experience for the broader world, all of the projects undertaken by Uwemedimo and the Chicoco Collective emphasize how critical it is for local communities to make themselves and their needs visible. The campaigns further aim to demonstrate the many possibilities for change on the ground grounded in the realities and lived experiences of people existing in Port Harcourt rather than relying on the application of Western and colonial models for urban growth and urban living.
Petna Ndaliko Katondolo is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Yole!Africa. Born in Goma, DR Congo, he is a filmmaker, educator, and ecological activist. His multi-genre artistic works are acclaimed for their decolonial Africanfuturistic style, which engages historical content to address contemporary sociopolitical and cultural issues. In 2000 he co-founded Yole!Africa and in 2005 he founded the ecological conference Ishango Encounter (formerly known as Salaam Kivu International Film Festival). Ndaliko Katondolo teaches and consults regularly for international organizations, addressing social and political inequity among marginalized groups through culture and education.
During his visit to UCI, he appeared as a guest in classes in the humanities and participated in extensive meetings with faculty to discuss a new project–establishing and preserving medicinal plants on an island in the DRC that he has recently been given to manage,. This supplements projects in Goma focused on harnessing music to youth mobilization, filmmaking and sustainable farming, which he shared with students and faculty at UCI.