HISK - Masterclass

Congomania in contemporary visual arts

Julie Djikey, Ozonisation, 2014
Julie Djikey, Ozonisation, 2014
  • Date

    05/05/2020 - 17:00 18:30
  • Online seminar for 1st and 2nd year candidate laureates and HISK laureates 2019

Seminar by Emi Koide that falls under the 'Belgium in Focus' activities but with a shift in perspective. It focus on contemporary artworks by mostly Belgian and Congolese artists that address different aspects of colonial and post-colonial Congo, as well as the neocolonial facet

This seminar aims to understand the practice of historical, archival research, as well as “ethnographic” approach, about the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in contemporary art. Since the 1990s, it is possible to observe a growing number of international artists whose works deal, each in its own way, with different aspects of colonial and post-colonial Congo and its relationship to the present. The set of chosen works addresses the history of the Congo, of a past that does not pass, that reveals the traumas and open wounds of history. I aim to present a partial analysis on how historical and some times “ethnographic” research has been presented in different medias - drawing, photography, video, installation - by artists from different nationalities: Michèle Magema, D.R. Congo (video installation, Oyé Oyé, 2002); Sammy Baloji, D.R. Congo (photography and video, Mémoires, 2006); Renzo Martens, Netherlands (Enjoy Poverty III, 2008); Sven Augutijnen, Belgium (Spectres, 2011); Vincent Meessen, Belgium (Patterns of (re)cognition, 2015); Mega Migiendi, D.R. Congo (Mobutu, 2018). They are the result of what has been considered the returning of the specter of colonialism, traumatic events which have left both physical and psychological traces.

From the 1990s, the examination of memory and Belgium’s colonial past returned as a significant social issue involving different groups - such as Belgian and Congolese refugee – initially concerning the war and conflict in Rwanda, and then of the Congo (DRC), for a contemporary re-examination of the history of colonization and its horrors, and the assassination of Lumumba (cf. Roger, 2008, p. 88). We note that 2010 was 50th anniversary of the independence of the DRC. At first, the theme of the Belgian colonial exploitation, the struggle for independence and the traumatic assassination of Patrice Lumumba were subject to a number of publications. Godderis and Kiangu (2011) call this phenomenon "Congomania" explaining and contextualizing its appearance and highlighting two publications - King Leopold's Ghost (1998) by American journalist Adam Rothschild; and the Assassination of Lumumba (1999/2002) by the Belgian sociologist Ludo de Witte.

Ghosts of colonial and postcolonial past and present, narratives in dispute and different perspectives are in stake in these art works dealing with Congolese history. I intend to analyze how these many colonial and postcolonial historical events and characters are presented in the mentioned artworks.