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Courage Under Fire

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From David Anthony Hohol…

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-12-19-51-pmKupe Zoe grew up in the city of Goma, population about 1 million, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Located on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, next to the Rwandan city of Gisenyi, the recent history of Goma has been dominated by the volcano and the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, which in turn fueled the First and Second Congo Wars. The aftermath of these events still effects the city as Goma was captured by rebels during the M23 rebellion in late 2012, but in 2015 was retaken by government forces.

It was a cool winter night back in 2007 when Kupe, along with his parents and older brother, lay sound asleep. At 3:00 AM a loud and furious bang hit the door to their tiny home, awakening the entire family. With the country at war, the entire populace never knew what to expect. Immediately, fear gripped them all. Kupe’s elderly father slowly shuffled his tired feet along the cold floor. Upon cautiously opening the door, four men stood in the shadows of the darkened night. Claiming to be police, they forced their way inside. Kupe, his brother and mother stood frozen at the back of the room. One of the four men then asked Kupe’s father to confirm his identity. He did. That man then pulled out a gun and shot Kupe’s father in the head at point blank range.

Before his lifeless body hit the floor, Kupe’s mother yelled at her two boys to run through the bedroom and out the window. As Kupe’s mother threw herself in front of the men, the two boys made a run for it. Kupe’s brother helped him up and through the window. His feet hit the ground outside and he ran as fast as he could. Several shots rang out behind him. That was the last Kupe ever saw of his family. Penniless and with only the clothes on his back, he wandered aimlessly. A man carrying a load of cattle agreed to take Kupe over the border and so, packed in the back of a truck with animals, Kupe found his way out of the Congo and into Uganda. He soon applied for and received refugee status, but opted to be an urban refugee as opposed to living in camp. Urban refugees are granted permission to be in the country, but do not live in a refugee camp, nor do they receive any of the meagre rations that come with doing so. Basically, one must make a go of life on their own, but that was fine with Kupe. He did not want to live in camp, as he felt this was where one simply waited. He joined a church, got work where he could, and began to pursue an unlikely vocation. One might not think of Arnold Schwarzenegger as artistic inspiration, but for Kupe it was watching Arnold movies that inspired him to be a filmmaker. Whenever he could, he would use what little money he earned to buy whatever equipment he could find and soon enough, had a small photography and videography studio. Eventually, his church agreed to pay for half of his education and not long after, Kupe enrolled in Kampala’s Makerere University in Multimedia studies. Over this time, he married, had a child and completed a feature length film – Your Peace is My Peace – seen below.

His wife and daughter came to Canada first and following his graduation, Kupe was sponsored as a refugee to come join them. He has been in Calgary now for just one month and has thus far taken three weeks of Employment workshops at the Centre For Newcomers. He’s only been here a short while, but it’s hard for us not to be proud of him already. There is no doubt, Kupe’s story is one of triumph – but he is not done yet. As his first Canadian fall comes to an end and only a month into his Calgary experience, Kupe wants to get back to his passion – film making. He loves to create and capture and counts it as simply a part of who he is. Something tells this writer – it won’t be long until he is doing so.

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