BÊTE NOIRE

/ VARIATION I & II

CONCEPT

Congolese history must to be reconstructed and recounted by Congolese subjects. 

The museum of Central Africa in Tervuren on the outskirts of Brussels (Belgium), a world-renowned museum and scientific research institute, used to be a memorial glorifying the colonisation of Congo by Belgium. This institute, once an instrument of colonial propaganda, is now being transformed into a museum for Central Africa that gives more importance to African voices. These walls contain one of the biggest collection of African objects in the world. Amongst these objects we find human and animal remains from the Democratic Republic of Congo. These Congolese subjects (objects, humans and animal remains) are frozen and imprisoned behind glass cases and dioramas at the museum – a realm between life and death – awaiting a chance to share their stories, colonial stories and colonial history, before some of them are locked away and silenced to death in the storage rooms of the museum. 

These subjects are containers of stories, first witnesses of Congolese history and Belgian colonial history. To prevent the loss of these stories, of Congolese history, I created a video mantra that was projected in loop at the museum. The video evokes the encounter between a dark warlord named Lusinga and the Congolese subjects (taxidermied animals exhibited at the museum) in the world of the Congolese spirits and forefathers, a parallel world to reality. This video mantra, inspired by the museum's dioramas, awakens the ghost of that forgotten political leader and colonial warlord, who was feared by European colonists and Congolese people for his political, military and mystical power. Lusinga was known for his super-natural capacity to transform into a lion, a crocodile, a monster, a black beast. The collective memory of the exhibited subjects comes to life in the appearance of this dark warlord. This once-feared leader becomes the container and the guardian of these stories. A warlord who will claim ownership of colonial history so that their collective history earns recognition.

Through the reenactment of a scene from the life of these Congolese subjects in their natural habitat, the Congolese savanna -- using some of their remains -- they are freed from the frozen life of dioramas. Life shouldn't be contained in boxes. The performance sets history in motion and propagates it.  

Black Beast is a tableau vivant from a feature documentary offering an opportunity to review and rewrite a part of the pre-colonial history of Congo. At the centre of this experiment is the encounter in 1885 between the Congolese political chief Lusinga and the Belgian army Lieutenant Emile Storms at the shores of lake Tanganyika (DRC). A confrontation that ended with the murder of chief Lusinga by Storms’s army battalion. A historical act to take control of Lusinga's economical and political position in the region and to facilitate the start of the commercial exploitation of the Congo region by Belgium. To reconstruct this historical event we need Congolese and Belgian versions / point of views of this historical event. History can only be understood in it's complexity if different versions of an historical event are opposed to each other in a debate. Truth is complex... Reality and truth have many versions because each story teller has his own motivation to tell a certain version. Congolese subjects from the world of the living and from the world of the dead (forefathers and other spiritual entities) will tell their versions of the story. All these versions must be heard and recognized as historical recounts.

 

The Congolese tradition of oral transmission of history has a central role in this project.    

WORK

Black Beast Variation I, video installation  (7' 15'')

Black Beast Variation II, video installation  (6' 16'') 

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