Short Kasàlà History
Belgium, in the early 1990s
The kasàlà, in its present form, is the development of a PhD thesis submitted at the Free University of Brussels (Kabuta, 1995). As early as 1992, traditional praise poetry was already part of my lectures in African linguistics and literature at the Ghent University. Beside the lectures, it was practiced in numerous workshops. In the meantime, it was evolving and being enriched with new experiences. As I was working in French and Dutch, I didn’t find in those languages any precise equivalents of such complex concepts as “kasàlà” (Cilubà), “izibongo” (Zulu), or “oriki” (Yoruba), etc. So I decided, for the convenience of my audience, to use “kasàlà” as a generic term for all forms of praise poetry in Africa. By the time I retired, in 2010, the kasàlà was used in the department of African Languages and Cultures as a laudatio during thesis defenses. Outside the University, the first participants were mainly therapists and high school teachers.
In 1995, a non-profit organization, named Kasàlà, was created, with the aim of making African thought better known and fostering the encounter between Westerners and Africans.
From that time on, I have been invited by circles of psychiatrists (Paris), philosophers (Antwerp), theologians (Louvain-la-Neuve), neuroscientists (Brussels, Kinshasa), men and women of letters (Ghent, Brussels), etc. Moreover, I gave lectures and read papers at international conferences (France, Gambia, Belgium, South African, DRC, India), while I published books and articles in different languages.
In 2003, a Kasàlà Center was established in Kinshasa, in order to contribute to the mental and material deployment of the people, using the modern kasàlà as a tool inspired by African cultural heritage. Between 2005 and 2012, tens of Belgian volunteers travelled each year to Kinshasa to support the Kasàlà Center by teaching and taking part in activities for the youth.
In collaboration with the Belgian NGO Echos Communication, Kasàlà has organized numerous workshops in Belgium and in different African countries, namely through a project called Harubuntu.
In 2008, I took a leading part in the “10ème Printemps des Poètes” in Kinshasa, whose theme was “The praise of the Other”. A large number of Kinshasa high schools also took part in this event.
In 2009, a one week training took place in Kinshasa, led by the NGO Echos Communication and Kasàlà.
In 2010, a group of Belgians visited the Kasàlà Center in Kinshasa and flew to Mbujimayi, one of the major sources of the kasàlà.
Over the years, a few concepts were developed such as : Damaged Person, Vital Anger, Intimate Dialogue, Poetic Self-Derision and Full Health, the DPMC (Damaged Person’s Magic Chart).
Meanwhile, Kasàlà benefited from the financial support of the Belgian cooperation, the province of West Flanders, the HeidelbergCement company and the University of Ghent.
From January to September 2013, Kasàlà conducted a major project within the Belgian company Colruyt, for the initiation to the kasàlà of 1000 workers.
Canada, June 2010
The first workshops were held at the Saint-Paul University in Ottawa (by myself in June 2010 and by a collaborator, P. Snoeck, before 2010).
Since August 2012, the kasàlà has made its entrance to the Department of psychosociology of UQAR, where it is, since then, intensely practiced and associated with some courses (family novel, meaning and project of life, autobiography...).
At the same time, many workshops are regularly held in Rimouski and other cities in the province, while papers are read at international conferences (Canterbury, Montreal, Trois-Rivières) and events such as the Black History Month.
Rimouski has almost become the Mecca of the Kasàlà, due to the intense practice of the kasàlà under different forms. It attracts people who wish to have a flavour of the contemporary kasàlà in practice.
As early as January 2019, a bilingual Canadian website was created, under the name KASÀLACTION.
Since February 2019, a student of the BAC is doing her internship on the kasàlà as a method of intervention in psychosociology, while the kasàlà is being introduced in primary schools and colleges.