Sammy Baloji Né le 29 décembre 1978. Works and lives in Lubumbashi/Bruxelles

by Monique


– Is your photographic art work committed to dealing with the context in which you live?

My work questions the still existing traces of colonisation in Congolese society. In this approach, it expresses a desire to inform and rewrite a story from the present. A present aware of his past and ready to assume the future.

– How does your photography integrate the evolution of your society

Although colonisation dates back 50 years, I integrate the events of the past in a new context of the contemporary Congolese society. The aim is to create a clash between two periods of the same space.

For example: I took photographs of the skull of King Lusinga (the Tabwa chief who was beheaded by Captain Storms during a mission of territorial conquest on behalf of King Leopold II). In this project I re-appropriated the scientific method used in photography in the end of the19th century to document the history of the head Lusinga. The last of the six pictures only has a background of black fabric. The sixth picture should actually present the lower jaw of the skull, but since it disappeared from the collections of the Museum of Natural History in Brussels, I recreated a scene with only the black fabric and I intentionally dropped the tool measurement of the skull that appears at the bottom right of all five other pictures. The absence of the tool and the disappearance of the skull in the sixth picture questions the deletion of the history of the Other and in this case the history of the chief. Absence or failure of all theories of superiority of race. Failure of anthropological photographic practice wanting to represent the Other.

The second series named “Retracing Charles Lemaire’s expedition”, is part of the “Congo Far West” project. There, I intentionally turn ethnographic pictures into studio photos. There is a questioning of the nature of documentary photographs made by François Michel and watercolors by Léon Dardenne (both part of the scientific expedition conducted in Katanga between 1898 and 1900).This work raises the possibilities of writing the same story depending on its source.

– Are the marks of the past influencing your way of taking photographs? If they do, how do history and collective memory affect your work?

My photographic work is between documentary and fiction. In this sense I need a context (the environment) to create my own story. To do this, I did some research on topics or events of the past and even on the present. I’m using pictures, archives or even sound archives to create a new statement.