#artismylife | MOMO

Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow

“Here, when you want to succeed, and when you have a lot of ideas, people support you and encourage you. On the contrary, in Congo people hold you back”

Momo is 26 years old, and he is coming from far away, from Congo. He has studied Mass Communications, he had his own rap band, he worked as a graphic designer, he is a video maker, he paints and designs his own clothes. “Who are you?”, we ask him spontaneously. “I’m all these things”, he replies smiling.

We met Momo at the Thessaloniki Solidarity Center. He sits comfortably on the sofa and without any hesitation and inhibitions spoke to us about his dreams, his goals, his past, his beloved homeland, and Greece. He has been in our country since April 2017. “I left Congo for political reasons”, he says. In particular, he worked as a graphic designer at an advertising company, which was in collaboration with the government. Momo had to create a political campaign that would promote the positive image of the government. “I had to ignore everything and state that all were good and that the government is doing a good job, but at the same time many people were suffering. So, I decided to stop and leave from this company”, he confesses.

Momo didn’t want to abandon his dream to change the things in his country. So, with one of his friends they decided to create a movement-organization, in order to inform the young people of his country that they have the right to study and succeed in their lives. “We wanted to do something political. However, because I was working for the government, they knew me, and that would cause me problems and that’s why I left from Congo”, he explains us.

Momo was studying Communications, but due to the situation in his country he couldn’t complete his studies. “I chose these studies because I wanted to become a journalist”, he says. Prior to his studies, along with a friend, they had their own rap band. “I was very passionate about music and especially with rap”, he tells us. Momo sang and made the band’s videos and his friend wrote the music. “Through our rhymes, we wanted to express the social difficulties in Africa and in Congo”, he notes. According to Momo, in Congo there are no record labels, “and so we decided to make music for us”.

During uur conversation about the past, he recalls a fond memory of home. “I miss many things from Congo. I would like to go back, but it is not possible at the moment”, he points out. Momo is a self-taught graphic designer and video maker, he has many talents and many ideas. His skills in combination with his personality have given him the opportunity to have a good job, and to do the things he loves. “I was lucky, I could help other people, who were not lucky like me, I could help the young people”.  There is a cultural gap between Greece and Congo regarding the concept of success, Momo explains us. “Here, when you want to succeed, and when you have a lot of ideas, people support you and encourage you. On the contrary, in Congo people hold you back. I will bring you an example as to understand better, what I am saying. In my job I was much more creative and productive than my boss. I was an asset for the company. But if I wanted to go to another company, my boss would prefer to see me to be arrested by the government rather than see me in another company”, he states.

For one-year Momo lived at Volvi Accommodation Scheme, which is located many kilometers away from Thessaloniki. He is a person who has many interests and ideas, so he could not stay for a long time there, without doing something. In his attempt to express his creativity he started painting and making things. In the past, his father in his village created wooden masks and other sculptures. Momo inherited his father’s charisma. When he was a child he painted, but when he started working he was using only his pc. In Volvi, he didn’t have his pc, but he had a sketchbook and a pencil, so he began making sketches. He created the portraits of his friends, like Moria, he made the logo of Umoja -the Forum that was created by the Congolese community of Volvi- and like his father, he made his tribes’ masks. “Painting is a way of expressing myself. When I have an idea, I have a strong inner need to express it”, he states. His life, his experiences, are the source of his inspiration. As he shows us his drawings, we see a painting that depicts the Ctrl and Z symbols. “If we had the ability to press Ctrl and Z in real life, maybe we could erase all the bad moments of our life and keep only the good ones”, he underlines.

For the last month Momo lives in Thessaloniki. His life has changed completely. As he tells us, he feels free as he can go wherever he wants and he can meet and talk to other people, “a new world has opened up to me with many new ideas”. His goal now is to find a job and to finish his studies. “I have many dreams. I have a lot of ideas and plans; maybe I do not have the means to pursuit them, but I have a lot in my mind”, he tells us.

Momo would like to take his diploma and work for an advertising company. Beyond that, his dream is to create his own men’s clothing line, which will be called Shashengi Concept. “This is my logo. Shashengi means the leader of the tribe”, he informs us. “My tribe has a tradition in the making of fabrics. The best fabrics are given to the leader of the tribe”, he adds. Although he has not studied fashion design, he would also like to take some seminars. When he was a student, he was designing clothes and his girl-friends were knitting them. At the moment, Momo continues to create, to make videos and dream about his life.  

*Momo is a beneficiary of the Child and Family Support Hubs program, which is implemented by SolidarityNow, supported by UNICEF, with funding from the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO).

**The Organisation Internationale De La Francophonie (OIF) finances French language courses for asylum seekers in Athens and Thessaloniki.

*** Iliaktida as UNHCR’s partner has the management of Volvi Accommodation Scheme, through IATAP.