10 April 2021

ICC & ‘(Pas) Mon Pays’

Enough Room for Space, BE

Date: Saturday 10th of April 2021

Time:
10:00 - 15:00  Conversation in relation to ICC
15:00 - 18:00  Open for public
18:00 - 20:00 Conversation between Bie Michels, Anne Wetsi Mpoma and Lucas Catherine

Location: Enough Room for Space
Sterstraat 10 Rue de l'Etoile
1620 Drogenbos, Belgium


Initiated by:
Maarten Vanden Eynde in collaboration with Bie Michels, Anne Wetsi Mpoma, Lucas Catherine
Participants: to be confirmed

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ICC  is an institute, existing separately but hosted in DR Congo by the National Museum in Lubumbashi and in Belgium by Enough Room for Space (ERforS), that creates a permanent archive of objects, clothes, letters, photo's, audio and video recordings, books and documents representing colonial culture.

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Directions from Brussels South Station:
Tram 82: stop Grote Baan / Grand Route
Metro 4: stop Stalle (P)  (10 min. walk)

Note: there are two number 10's in our street, one in the commune of Ukkel/Uccle and ERforS in Drogenbos!

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Lucas Catherine
, author's name of Lucas C.L. Vereertbrugghen, is a Brussels-based author who publishes on colonisation, the relationship of European civilisation with other world civilizations and Islam. He approaches religions from an atheistic perspective. Among other things he wrote about the colonization of Palestine: The Palestinians, one people too many? And Palestine, the last colony? About the colonization of Congo: Manyiema, the only war that Belgium won, Building with black money and Walking to Congo.

Anne Wetsi Mpoma is an activist and an artistic and cultural researcher based in Brussels. She graduated in History of Art at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 2007. She is enthusiastic about visual arts and performing arts. After a short experience in an art gallery in New York she set up the association Nouveau Système Artistique in 2008 and Wetsi Art Gallery (WAG) in 2019. WAG aims to contribute to the promotion, diffusion and realisation of projects by artists of African descent.

Bie Michels is an artist living and working in Antwerp. In her work, Bie Michels focuses on observing, registering and questioning the representation of the ‘other’. Her work has been shown in Belgium and internationally, at venues including the 9th Contour Biennale (Belgium), Argos (Belgium), MHKA (Belgium), Netwerk Aalst (Belgium), Fei Contemporary Art Centre (Shanghai, China), Dunkerque 2013 in Dunkirk (France) and Hastings (UK) and Lokaal 01 (Breda, the Netherlands). She is a member of the project 'Performing Objects' at Enough Room for Space.

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For '(Pas) Mon Pays' Bie Michels collaborated with: Lieven Miguel Kandolo, Anne Wetsi Mpoma, Georgine Dibua, Jessy Ohanu, Michel Witanga, Joël Ndombe, Nadia Nsayi, Rina Rabau, Stella Okemwa, Don Pandzou, Floribert Beloko, Michel Mongambo and Sarah Bekambo.

Duration film: (Pas) Mon Pays, Part I  and  II:  video, colour, 2019, 65'

(Pas) Mon Pays, Part I  and  II & The Copy were commissioned by the Contour Biennale 9, Mechelen, BE (2019)

 

film still of (Pas) Mon Pays, Part I by Bie Michels, 2019

A presentation of the film ‘(Pas) Mon Pays, Part I and II’ together with the installation ‘The Copy’ that is currently on view at Enough Room for Space, will be followed by a conversation between Bie Michels, Anne Wetsi Mpoma and Lucas Catherine.

In the evening the archive of ICC will be officially publicly opened for the public coinciding with a seminar focusing on existing archival methodologies and possible alternative representations of historical artifacts and documents. A variety of specialists and experts from different backgrounds will come together to discuss the possibilities of analysing complex and contested colonial perspectives that are embedded within the items that are part the collection of ICC. Recontextualising them is urgent and extremely relevant for the understanding of who writes history and to what end.

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About '(Pas) Mon Pays' by Bie Michels:

Bie Michels was born and raised in Congo, in a house on the campus of the current University of Kinshasa (former Lovanium, the first university in the country, 1954-1971). The film ‘(Pas) Mon Pays, Part I and II’, together with the installation ‘The Copy’, are shown at Enough Room for Space. The exhibition will also present archival material in relation to the history of the colonial monument in Mechelen and the proposed new inscription.

As the title indicates, ‘(Pas) Mon Pays, Part I and II’, is in two parts. The first deals with a colonial monument in Mechelen and Michels’ efforts to decolonize this statue with a group of Belgian citizens with Congolese roots. The second shows the artist’s visit to DR Congo and is based on her personal history. The film is an attempt to let the past encounter the present and see further into the future of the postcolonial situation, in both DR Congo and Mechelen.

screen-shot-2020-01-08-at-14-54-38

The monument in Mechelen, Lode Eyckermans, 1953 / right: 'The Copy' with the proposed new text, Bie Michels, 2019

In Mechelen, the colonial monument by Lode Eyckermans in the Schuttersvest pays homage to thirty one “pioneers who died for the civilisation in Congo” as it is inscribed on the statue. One of them is Van Kerckhoven, who was a notoriously cruel commander during the reign of king Leopold II of Belgium. The statue is very intriguing, with two stylised Congolese heads, a male and a female, as a Janus image. It aestheticises what is problematically called the African race and thus could be seen as a tribute to it. However, this is in stark contrast to the inscription on the plinth, since the inscriptions only tells one side of the story, the Belgian one.

Confronted with this, Michels asked the sculptor Raf Vergauwen to make a scaled-down copy of the monument. She collaborated with a group of Belgian citizens with Congolese roots living in Mechelen and the surrounding area on a proposal for a new inscription for this copy. Involved in this process were Lieven Miguel Kandolo; Anne Wetsi Mpoma; Georgine Dibua; Jessy Ohanu; Michel Witanga; Joël Ndombe; Nadia Nsayi; Rina Rabau; Stella Okemwa; Don Pandzou; Floribert Beloko; Michel Mongambo and Sarah Bekambo. 

In June 2019, after several months of meetings and working sessions, the group introduced this new inscription to the mayor of Mechelen, with the proposition to also place this text near the original statue. This text discusses both sides of history and focuses on the word civilisation, as well as acknowledging the impact of Belgian rule on Congo. Although critical, this inscription expresses a positive view of the future, a society of equality and respect.

christmas-1966-in-congo

The copy and the process, as well as the meetings and the visit, are the subject of Part I of Michels’ film. For Part II of the film, Michels went back to the campus of the University of Kinshasa (former Lovanium) for the first time since she left it at the age of nine. She visited the house where she grew up, the university buildings, her old school, the church, the swimming pool and the city of Kinshasa. Along with the filmmakers Paul Shemisi and Nisar Saleh from Kinshasa, she made a video report of her encounters with several people.

In the film, her personal history, in the form of old photos and memories, is confronted with the current reality. This offers her the opportunity to take a critical look at the university's origins and the historically grown problems of dealing with images (photo and film) in Congo. Among many encounters, Michels meets the family now living in her childhood home, professors and students of the departments of history and artificial intelligence, a slam poet, people in the street and so on.

The text ‘Civiliser le Congo Belge: de la coercition à la persuasion’ by the Congolese historian Sindani Kiangu was an important source of inspiration for her questions about the influences of colonisation on today’s civilisation.

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The proposed new inscription for the monument:

THE COLONISATION OF CONGO
LED TO A SHOCK
IN THE HISTORY OF HUMANITY.
IN THE NAME OF CIVILISATION,
ATROCITIES WERE COMMITTED,
VILLAGES WERE BURNT DOWN,
KINGDOMS DISAPPEARED.

THE COLONISATION CUT CONGO APART FROM ITS HISTORY,
CONTRIBUTED TO THE PROSPERITY OF BELGIUM
AND WEAKENED CONGOLESE SOCIETY.

THE WORD CIVILISATION SIGNIFIES RESPECT,
EQUALITY AND DIALOGUE,
IN RELATION TO A COMMON FUTURE.

THIS NEW INSCRIPTION
RESTORES AND PAYS HOMAGE
TO THE MILLIONS OF VICTIMS AND HEROES
OF THE COLONIAL TIME,
THOSE WHO ARE KNOWN AND LESS KNOWN.

BAKOKO NA BISO:
NGAKAPI
BOALI
WOTO-A-MBENGA
LUSINGA IWA NG'OMBE
KASONGO NYEMBO
SIMON KIMBANGU
PAUL PANDA FARNANA
PATRICE LUMUMBA
JOSEPH MALULA
PAUL LOMAMI-TSHIBAMBA

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About ICC / Institute of Colonial Culture

ICC consists of a collection of artefacts, documents, books, photographs and films representing colonial presence in Congo, mainly focusing on the period 1884-1960. There is hardly any tangible material left in Congo of that period, due to the hastily departure of most colonisers after the independence in 1960. ICC is an institute, existing separately but hosted in DR Congo by the National Museum in Lubumbashi and in Belgium by Enough Room for Space (ERforS), that creates a permanent archive of objects, clothes, letters, photo's, audio and video recordings, books and documents representing colonial culture. Or put differently, the daily life and work of white European colonists in the colonial period. The Kingdom of Kongo, and later Congo Free State was occupied by and/or traded with the Portuguese, French, Dutch, Belgian, German and English, and covers the entire or part of the currently known countries: Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo Kinshasa), Angola, The Republic of Congo (Congo Brazzaville), Burundi and Rwanda).

The aim is to remedy a void in the collection of the National Museum, but also the public knowledge about the colonial period, both in Belgium and DR Congo, by creating an archive of colonial culture, the first of its kind in DR Congo. By doing so, it facilitates a more egalitarian writing of history, where the dominant ethnographic western view towards colonisation and African cultures in general, is reversed. ICC puts western culture under an 'African microscope' by using material and documentation from both colonisers and colonised.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic travelling to DR Congo and shipping books and artefact became increasingly difficult, and with the huge amounts of archival materials still coming in, the decision was made to install the archive in the project space of Enough Room for Space until further notice. Here, both researchers and artists can work with the material and slowly start with the re-contextualisation of all the material. Several artists already started working with one or more objects or books prior to the official opening, and institutional partners are also connecting to ICC, like MusAfrica in Namen, Belgium, Quai Branly museum in Paris, France, Centre Cerfaux-Lefort in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium and University of Lubumbashi in D.R. Congo.


État Indépendant du Congo bond, 1888