In southern Katanga, one of the richest regions in Africa and the economic heart of Congo, cities originated around copper and cobalt mines. The relationship between the mining industry and the population could almost resemble that between parent and child.
For the past ten years Baloji has been capturing the memories, hopes and imaginings of these children of the mines. The historical perspective in the Mémoire series boldly invites the oppressed of yesterday to engage in dialogue with the ruins of today. Far from presenting an impasse, it invites us to rethink society, as if to exorcise its demons, allowing the dead to find peace so they haunt us no more.
The optimism inherent in this process comes out even more clearly in Kolwezi, which presents the image of a ghost town and workers who try to reclaim their own wealth, their dreams of comfort, and most of all their want for dignity.
Sammy Baloji lives and works between Lubumbashi and Brussels. Baloji received a degree in Information and Communication Sciences from the University of Lubumbashi and a degree from the Haute Ecole des Arts du Rhin. In 2019 he started his PhD research at Sint Lucas Antwerpen.
Since 2005, Sammy Baloji has been exploring the memory and history of the Democratic Republic of Congo. His research centers on the cultural, architectural and industrial heritage of the Katanga region, as well as a questioning of the impact of Belgian colonization. His use of photographic archives allows him to manipulate time and space, comparing ancient colonial narratives with contemporary economic imperialism. His video works, installations and photographic series highlight how identities are shaped, transformed, perverted and reinvented. His critical view of contemporary societies is a warning about how cultural clichés continue to shape collective memories and thus allow social and political power games to continue to dictate human behavior.
“I’m not interested in colonialism as nostalgia, or in it as a thing of the past, but in the continuation of that system.”