“The Devil is in the Rumba Text.” Commenting on Digital Depth

  • Katrien Pype


One Sunday at around noon one day in 2014, Maman Thérèse (a fictive name) arrived in the compound where I live when I carry out fieldwork. She often dropped by to greet my host mother. That day, I noticed that she was carrying a DVD, which, as I learned, she had received from one of her girlfriends at church. She wanted to hear my host brother’s opinion about the content. This married woman with four children is in her late thirties and works as a nanny in the school that one of her daughters attends. Since I first met her in 2003, I have always known her to visit the Church of the Awakening (a type of Pentecostal-charismatic church). With a smile that seemed to beg for apologies, Maman Thérèse told me that the DVD contained a clip in which some of Fally Ipupa’s music video clips—he is one of Congo’s most successful rumba musicians—are interpreted as “genre Illuminati,” a secret society in the imagination of Kinois (inhabitants of Kinshasa) intimately connected with the world of Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism. I had already noticed various posts on my Congolese friends’ Facebook walls about the possible connections between Congolese musicians and this secret society. Now I was shown that these accusations also circulate on other media carriers and among people who do not remediate such messages on their Facebook accounts.


Acknowledgements The data for this chapter have been collected during field visits in Kinshasa, financed by a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship (PIOF-GA-2009-252331) and an ERC-Runner Up Budget (FWO G.A005.14N) and supported by funding from the Research Council of Norway (FRIPRO program, “New Media Practices in a Changing Africa”). I am grateful to all institutions for financing these trips. In addition, my gratitude goes to the research participants and interlocutors who have helped me to make sense of these digital texts. Some initial ideas of this chapter have been presented at the “Religion as Creativity” symposium organized by James Bielo and John Cinnamon 2–3 October 2015, Miami University (Oxford, Ohio), where fellow participants’ comments have been very inspiring. Isabelle de Rezende has done the language editing.


  1. Barber, K. (1987). Popular arts in Africa. African Studies Review, 30(3), 1–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barber, K. (2007). The anthropology of texts, persons and publics: Oral and written cultures in Africa and beyond (New Departures in Anthropology, No. 5). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Deger, J. (2016). Thick photography. Journal of Material Culture, 21(1), 111–132. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Eickelman, D. F. (1999). Communication and control in the Middle East: Publication and its discontents. In D. F. Eickelman & J. W. Anderson (Eds.), New media in the Muslim world. The emerging public sphere (pp. 33–44). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Englund, H. (2011). Human rights and African airwaves. Mediating equality on the Chichewa radio. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Fabian, J. (2008). Ethnography as commentary. Writing from the virtual archive. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Graetz, T. (2011). Introduction. Journal of African Media Studies—special issue Contemporary African mediascapes: New actors, genres and communication space, 3(2), 151–160. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Jedlowski, A., Oloko, P., Roeschenthaler, U., & Wane, I. (2015). Across media: Mobility and transformation of cultural materials in the digital age. Journal of African Media Studies, 7(1), 3–9. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Lomborg, S. (2014). Social media, social genres: Making sense of the ordinary. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Meyer, B. (2004). “Praise the Lord”: Popular cinema and Pentecostalite style in Ghana’s new public sphere. American Ethnologist, 31(1), 92–110. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Meyer, B. (2006). Religious revelation, secrecy and the limits of visual representation. Anthropological Theory, 6(4), 431–453. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Meyer, B. (2010). Aesthetics of persuasion. Global Christianity and Pentecostalism’s sensational forms. South Atlantic Quarterly., Special issue on Global Christianity, Global Critique, 9, 741–763.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Meyer, B. (2015). Sensational movies: Video, vision, and Christianity in Ghana. Berkeley: California University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Newell, S. (2013). The power to name: A history of anonymity in colonial West Africa. Athens: Ohio University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Pype, K. (2011). Visual media and political communication: Reporting about suffering in Kinshasa. Journal of Modern African Studies, 49(4), 625–645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Pype, K. (2012). The making of the Pentecostal melodrama. Religion, media, and gender in Kinshasa. New York, NY and Oxford: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  17. Pype, K. (2013). Scripting Kinshasa’s teleserials reflections on authorship, creativity and ownership. In J. Gray & D. Johnson (Eds.), A companion to media authorship., Chap. 27 (pp. 525–543). Malden, MA: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Pype, K. (2015a). The liveliness of Pentecostals/charismatic popular culture in Africa. In M. Lindhardt (Ed.), Pentecostalism in Africa. Presence and impact of pneumatic Christianity in postcolonial societies (pp. 345–378). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill Publishers.Google Scholar
  19. Pype, K. (2015b). Remediations of Congolese urban dance music in Kinshasa. Journal of African Media Studies, 7(1), 25–36. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. White, B. W. (2004). The elusive lupemba: Rumours about fame and (mis)fortune in Kinshasa. In T. Trefon (Ed.), Reinventing order in the Congo: How people respond to state failure in Kinshasa (pp. 174–191). Kampala, Uganda and London: Fountain and Zed Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katrien Pype
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa, KU Leuven UniversityLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Department of African Studies & Anthropology, University of BirminghamBirminghamUK

Personalised recommendations