13:30 - 18:00 Exhibition Bie Michels open for public
14:00 - 15:30 Conversation with Lucas Catherine, Nelson Makengo, Bie Michels. Hosted by Maarten Vanden Eynde & Anne Wetsi Mpoma
Location: Enough Room for Space
Sterstraat 10 Rue de l'Etoile
1620 Drogenbos, Belgium
‘Calmeyn in the Congo: On Elephants, Missionaries, and a Rubber King’
written by Lucas Catherine at Drogenbos Castle
Location: Drogenbos Castle
Grote Baan 200/202 Grand Route
(final stop of tram 82)
1620 Drogenbos, Belgium
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.
Directions from Brussels South Station:
Tram 82: final stop Kasteel Drogenbos Chateau
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!
Donated Kiswahili bible with 9mm gun, 1960s (in collection of ICC)
Lucas Catherine 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.
Nelson Makengo (b. 1990) lives and works in Kinshasa in DR Congo. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Kinshasa in 2015 and was trained at La Fémis in Paris. He participated in 2017 at Atelier Picha and the Lubumbashi Biennale. Artist in residence at WIELS in Brussels in 2018. He directed 6 short documentaries over 4 years, which have been screened in many festivals. "Tabu" (2016) and "Théâtre Urbain" (2017) were among the official selections of several festivals such as the Short Film Clermont-Ferrand 2018; the Sao Paulo International Short Film Festival, the Sao Paulo International Short Film Festival, the Festival du film documentaire de Saint-Louis Festival, Senegal 2017. His last two short films recently have received the Sharjah Art Foundation Award, Videobrasil 2019 and Best short documentary Award IDFA, Amsterdam 2019. Between 2019 and 2021, he is working on his first feature documentary, which recently received the "Brouillon d'un rêve" grant (SCAM 2019) and was selected at the IDFA Academy 2019.
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.
Anne Wetsi Mpoma is an art historian, independent curator and decolonial thinker. In October 2019, she founded the Wetsi Art Gallery, a space whose starting point is the lack of visibility from which certain categories of artists suffer. The space is entirely dedicated to the revaluation of artistic productions of the African diaspora in a broad sense. From 2014 to 2017, she was part of the group of experts from the African diaspora that the AfricaMuseum consulted to select pieces for the institution's new permanent exhibition. She is also a member of the group of experts who drafted the first report of the federal parliamentary commission in charge of researching the Belgian colonial past.
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)
Flemish Government (Department of Culture)
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 open to the public from 13:30 to 18:00. At 14:00 a conversation between Bie Michels, Lucas Catherine and Nelson Makengo will take place about the representation of colonial heritage, both within monuments and archives, and their specific relation to memory and commemoration, hosted by Anne Wetsi Mpoma and Maarten Vanden Eynde.
Afterwards, starting at 16:00, a new monologue ‘Calmeyn in the Congo: On Elephants, Missionaries, and a Rubber King’, written by Lucas Catherine, will be performed in the historic Castle of Drogenbos, the home of the Calmeyn family for many generations, located on walking distance from Enough Room for Space. In three languages, Calmeyn’s soliloquy will be read by three different actors and performers. In Dutch by Kurt Vandendriessche, in French by Ophélie Mac, and in English by Martin Swabey.
Maurice Calmeyn, on whom the soliloquy is based, was a rare and open critic of King Leopold’s colonial project in the time, and the book (Au Congo Belge, 1912) he wrote after his travels to Congo in 1907 and 1908, caused much uproar and resulted in social exclusion, after which Maurice retreated in De Panne at the Belgian coast where he had a brief political career, founded two co-ops, a bakery, a grocery store and a public, non-catholic school. The book was suppressed severely and the original copy is still rare to find. He was an elephant hunter, but also an ecologist avant la lettre, became a communist and was the only civilian photographer in the trenches in Ieper during the first world war. The revenues as entrepreneur were used to help poor children to get an education and until his death he was a philanthropist, for instance as main producer of the social drama film Misère au Borinage of Joris Ivens and Henri Storck.
The archive of ICC will be open to the public and during the conversation cinematographer Nelson Makengo will introduce the new film ‘Le Vieux Kilo’ (working title) he is working on that is inspired by arguably one of the most iconic and striking objects in the collection of ICC: a hidden 9mm revolver in a bible translated in Kiswahili that was brought back to Belgium from Congo by a former White Father.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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:
LUSINGA IWA NG'OMBE
PAUL PANDA FARNANA
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.