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Praying Man.jpg

Praying Man

Unknown. This photograph formed part of the Harris Lantern Slide Collection. Under King Leopold II the Congo Free State used mass forced labour to extract rubber from the jungle for the European market. As consumer demand grew King Leopold II's private army - the Force Publique - used violent means to coerce the population into meeting quotas, including murder, mutilation, rape, village burning, starvation and hostage taking. Alice Seeley Harris and her husband Reverend John H. Harris were missionaries in the Congo Free State from the late 1890s. Alice produced a collection of images documenting the horrific abuses of the African rubber labourers. Her photographs are considered to be an important development in the history of humanitarian campaigning. The images were used in a number of publications. The Harrises also used the photographs to develop the Congo Atrocity Lantern Lecture which toured Britain and the the USA raising awareness of the issue of colonial abuses under King Leopold II's regime.Source: Antislavery International.

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Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

The museum was established by Dr. Charles Wright, an obstetrician and gynaecologist who envisioned an institution to preserve Black history after visiting a memorial to Danish World War II heroes in Denmark. It opened in 1965 as Detroit’s first international Afro-American museum. After expansions in 1978 and 1992, the museum was finally named the Charles H. Wright museum after its founder in 1998. It has since received monetary support from individuals, foundations, corporations, and government sources. The mission statement of the museum is to open minds and change lives through the exploration and celebration of African American history and culture.

Current exhibitions on display in the museum include a large 22,000 square-foot exhibition that examines Ancient and Early Modern African history and the experiences of the enslaved during the Middle Passage, alongside the experiences of those who resisted the horrors of bondage and self-emancipation. Throughout this exhibition, entitled ‘And Still We Rise: Our Journey Through African American History and Culture,’ there is a clear emphasis on the efforts of the everyday African American people who built families, businesses, educational institutions, and civic organisations in Detroit, past and present. The museum also offers exhibitions that look at the contributions of African Americans in science and technology, as well as showcasing examples of stained glass art by Samuel A. Hodge.

The museum has a busy events programme that includes community health and fitness programs, as well as lectures and education sessions for both children and adults. There are group tours for all ages, as well as led workshops for pre-school children. All of these workshops aim to highlight the lessons portrayed in the ‘And We Rise’ exhibition, prompting reflection and discussion from visitors.

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Gilt of Cain

Gilt of Cain was unveiled by the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in Fen Court, City of London, in September 2008. The artwork, a collaboration by sculptor Michael Visocchi and poet Lemn Sissay, commemorates the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The granite sculpture is composed of a group of columns surrounding a podium – suggesting an ecclesiastical pulpit or slave auctioneer’s block. Extracts from Lemn Sissay’s poem, ‘Gilt of Cain’, are engraved into the granite.

Fen Court is the site of a churchyard formerly of St Gabriel’s Fenchurch St and now in the Parish of St Edmund the King and St Mary Woolnoth, Lombard St. The latter has a strong historical connection with the British abolitionist movement of the 18th and 19th centuries: Reverend John Newton, a slave-trader turned preacher and abolitionist, was rector of St Mary Woolnoth between 1780 – 1807. This project was initiated by Black British Heritage and the Parish of St Mary Woolnoth and was commissioned by the City of London Corporation in partnership with the British Land Company.

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House Slave - Field Slave: A Portrait of Contemporary Slavery

'House Slave - Field Slave: A Portrait of Contemporary Slavery' was created in 2007 by Nicola Green in collaboration with Anti-Slavery International and first exhibited at Dulwich Picture Gallery. The artwork explored the concept of contemporary slavery and the stories of those still enslaved. The exhibition consisted of a large 'altarpiece' scale triptych set alongside artefacts of contemporary slavery from the International Slavery Museum and photos and text from Anti-Slavery International. It was later exhibited as part of Haringey's Black History Month at Bruce Castle Museum in 2010. The triptych is now in the permanent collection at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool. Workshops were held at Dulwich Picture Gallery, The Prince’s Drawing Clubs, and International Slavery Museum in which students developed their skills in reading a work of art as a narrative, and responded by creating artworks that told their own personal story.

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The Freedom! sculpture

The Freedom! sculpture was created by a group of Haitian artists to represent Haiti's struggle for freedom and human rights. It was commissioned in 2007 by a collaboration of the international development charity Christian Aid and National Museums Liverpool to mark the bicentenary. The Freedom! sculpture is made from recycled objects such as metal car parts and junk found in the slums of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. It was created by sculptors Eugène, Céleur and Guyodo from Atis Rezistans in collaboration with the Haitian artist Mario Benjamin. The sculpture was first displayed at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in 2007 before touring to Stratford Circus Arts Centre in London, the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol and the Eden Project in Cornwall. It became a permanent exhibit in the International Slavery Museum when the venue opened on 23 August 2007 (Slavery Remembrance Day).

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Lace and Slavery

During the Industrial Revolution Nottingham was famous for the manufacture of lace. In 2007 British-Ghanaian artist Godfried Donkor, supported by The New Art Exchange and the Centre for Contemporary Art in the city, investigated the often-neglected connections between this luxurious commodity and the cotton picked by enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and American South. The research culminated in an exhibition, ‘Once Upon a Time in the West There Was Lace’, at the Yard Gallery at Wollaton Hall in early 2008. The Elizabethan manor is also home to the Industrial Museum which holds lace-making machinery. A key part of the display were outfits created from brightly coloured lace, now a prized material in West Africa. Donkor's paintings on pages of the Financial Times represented people, culture and goods crossing the Atlantic in different eras. The exhibition was accompanied by a series of public events which looked at the links between the city’s past lace-making industry and slavery, including lectures and a free symposium.

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Museu Afro Brasil

First opened in 2004, the Museu Afro Brasil is a contemporary museum which seeks to showcase the contributions of black communities to Brazil and its culture. There are over six thousand objects in the collection, including paintings, sculpture, photographs, ceramics and textiles. Through all of these items the museum illustrates the creative nature of Brazilian people. The exhibitions grew from the private collection of visual artist Emanoel Araujo who has led the museum as Director since its opening. The site also houses a theatre and a specialised library.

In its permanent exhibition space, which displays around seventy percent of its collections, the Museu Afro Brasil emphasises the rich culture of the African continent from the fifteenth century through to today. There are a variety of art mediums and artefacts on display, including masks, sculpture, jewellery and archival material.

These objects link to social themes, such as celebrations and religions, amongst communities of African descent in Brazil. There is also a section that explores the memory of key figures in the Afro-Brazilian community. Another explores the work done by these communities. Historically, this area examines the work done when many African people in Brazil were enslaved. The display features a model sugar mill, different kinds of tools for use on plantations, and sugar loaf moulds.

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Beauté Congo – 1926-2015 – Congo Kitoko, Fondation Cartier, Paris (11 July 2015 - 10 January 2016)

A place of extraordinary cultural vitality, the creative spirit of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be honored in the exhibition Beauté Congo – 1926-2015 – Congo Kitoko presented at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain with André Magnin, Chief Curator.

Modern painting in the Congo in the 1920s: Taking as its point of departure the birth of modern painting in the Congo in the 1920s, this ambitious exhibition will trace almost a century of the country’s artistic production. While specifically focusing on painting, it will also include music, sculpture, photography, and comics, providing the public with the unique opportunity to discover the diverse and vibrant art scene of the region.

Precursors: As early as the mid-1920s, when the Congo was still a Belgian colony, precursors such as Albert and Antoinette Lubaki and Djilatendo painted the first known Congolese works on paper, anticipating the development of modern and contemporary art. Figurative or geometric in style, their works represent village life, the natural world, dreams and legends with great poetry and imagination. Following World War II, the French painter Pierre Romain-Desfossés moved to the Congo and founded an art workshop called the Atelier du Hangar. In this workshop, active until the death of Desfossés in 1954, painters such as Bela Sara, Mwenze Kibwanga and Pili Pili Mulongoy learned to freely exercize their imaginations, creating colorful and enchanting works in their own highly inventive and distinctive styles.

Popular painters: Twenty years later, the exhibition Art Partout, presented in Kinshasa in 1978, revealed to the public the painters Chéri Samba, Chéri Chérin, and Moke and other artists, many of whom are still active today. Fascinated by their urban environment and collective memory, they would call themselves “popular painters.” They developed a new approach to figurative painting, inspired by daily, political or social events that were easily recognizable by their fellow citizens. Papa Mfumu’eto, known for his independent prolific comic book production and distribution throughout Kinshasa in the 1990s, also explored daily life and common struggles throughout his work. Today younger artists like J.-P. Mika and Monsengo Shula, tuned-in to current events on a global scale, carry on the approach of their elders.

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Urban Now: City Life in Congo, Various Venues (2016-2017)

This exhibition by photographer Sammy Baloji and anthropologist Filip De Boeck offers an exploration of different urban sites in Congo, through the media of photography and video. Focusing upon the “urban now”, a moment suspended between the broken dreams of a colonial past and the promises of neoliberal futures, the exhibition offers an artistic and ethnographic investigation of what living – and living together – might mean in Congo’s urban worlds.

As elsewhere on the African continent, Congo’s cities increasingly imagine new futures for themselves. Today, these new urban dreams often only manifest themselves in the form of billboards and advertisements for the city to come, inspired by Dubai and other recent hot spots from the Global South. Ironically, the city model they propose invariably gives rise to new geographies of exclusion that often take the form of gated communities and luxury satellite towns designed for a still somewhat hypothetical local upper middle class.

In sharp contrast with these neoliberal imaginings, the current infrastructure of Congo’s cities is of a rather different kind. The built colonial legacy has largely fallen into disrepair. Its functioning is punctuated by constant breakdown, and the city is replete with disconnected fragments, reminders and echoes of a former modernity that continues to exist in a shattered form. These failing material infrastructures greatly impact upon the quality of the city’s social life, and push it to the limit of what is livable. Yet Congo’s urban residents constantly engage in inventing new social spaces to bypass or overcome breakdown, exclusion, poverty and violence. Exploring these spaces, the exhibition captures a more inhabitable and inclusive urban world, where the possibilities of collective action and dreams of a shared future continue to be explored.

Curator: Devrim Bayar

The exhibition is organized in collaboration with and will travel to Galerias Municipais/EGEAC, Lisbon, and The Power Plant, Toronto.

With the support of the Research Fund of KU Leuven and Imane Farès Gallery, Paris.

In collaboration with Kunstenfestivaldesarts & Summer of Photography 2016.

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I Dream of Congo, Touring Exhibition, Congo Connect

‘I Dream of Congo: Narratives from The Great Lakes’ is a unique exhibition combining words and images from renowned international creatives alongside a groundbreaking exhibition of photos taken by women in eastern Congo. The exhibition celebrates the hope and optimism that pervades in the region despite years of war. It poses hard questions around the international community’s inaction in the face of the conflict, the continuing illicit trade in minerals from Congo and the failure to stem the tide of sexual violence.

During the February 2013 exhibition launch, The Frontline Club, Women for Women International, One Billion Rising and Save the Congo held events in the space that related to the theme. The exhibition was first shown in February 2013 at Conway Hall London, before moving on to other venues in the UK, including a conference on the Democratic Republic of Congo at St Andrews University in April 2013. In 2014, 'I Dream of Congo' formed part of the 'Brutal Exposure' exhibition at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool. Most recently, the exhibition appeared at the June Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London's Excel Centre, spearheaded by William Hague and Angelina Jolie. At this Summit we hosted an exclusive event and film screening with Dr Denis Mukwege.

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Women of the Congo: Photography of Isabel Muñoz and Concha Casajús, Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Madrid (17 March - 18 June 2017)

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been plagued by conflicts over control, extraction and distribution of natural resources such as coltan, diamonds and oil. In this exhibition, photographers Isabel Muñoz, National Photography Award 2016, and Concha Casajús present the struggle of Congolese women in the face of the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. The show is a series of portraits and testimonies of women from Bukavu, in the province of South Kivu, in the east of the country. The exhibition aims to make the situation of these women visible, as well as the violence they suffer. But at the same time, it invites us to reflect on the way in which these women face such suffering, rejecting in many cases the status of victims and trying to survive with dignity. Many have managed to get rid of this stigma and have struggled collectively to become activists and successful women. All a song to those women who have broken the silence and, from mutual support and sorority, have become true heroines of this twenty-first century.

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Carriers of Culture: Women, Food and Power from the Congo Basin, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge University (October 2016 – March 2017)

Exploring the role of women and food from the Congo basin in the past and today, MAA’s first exhibition in our rebranded spotlight gallery is co-curated with the Congo Great Lakes Initiative.

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Keeping the Past Alive, UCL Anthropology Foyer (October 2015 - December 2015)

Keeping the Past Alive is a partnership between University College London's Ethnography Collection and Congo Great Lakes Initiative. The exhibition reflects the stories that Congolese community members share as and how they interact with objects, either personal, provocative or relational. It is divided into three topics: traditional power objects, sacred rituals and medicine, and everyday life. The objects on display tell stories, sometimes with a metaphor of their own, which will, we hope, make visitors internalize and discuss the messages they bring. This exhibition is the final step of our collaboration with Congo Great Lakes which started one year ago. During the project, an interactive platform which can host online exhibitions has been developed. The platform collects archives and documentation and shares the data with Horniman and UCL Congolese collections and members of CGLI.

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53 echoes of Zaire: Popular Painting from Lubumbashi Democratic Republic of Congo, Sulger-Buel Lovell Gallery, London (27 May – 30 June 2015)

Popular Painting is a genre traceable to the 1920s, which chronicles contemporary social and political realities in Congo (then Zaïre). This art movement remains very little known outside the continent. Scholars have dedicated their research activities to Popular Painting. They often knew the main actors of the movement in the early 1970s, and shared this knowledge by publishing articles, books and exhibition catalogues. “ During a brief period between the late sixties and the late seventies, popular genre painting bloomed in the urban and industrial Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Artists, most of them self-educated, produced paintings (acrylics or oils on canvas reclaimed from flour sacking) for local use. Through a limited number of recurrent topics, they articulated a system of shared memories.

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Artists in Residence. Sammy Baloji & Patrick Mudekereza,
Congo Far West, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tevuren, Belgium (11 May – 4 September 2011)

In this exhibition the artists Sammy Baloji and Patrick Mudekereza present us with a contemporary take on the colonial past. As artists in residence in the museum they got carte blanche in the museum collections. In dialogue with scientists from the museum they have started working with a few collection pieces dating from the beginning of Congo’s colonial history. These collection pieces exhale the atmosphere of the conquest of Congolese territory by the West. The leitmotif of the exhibition ‘Congo Far West’ refers not only to this territorial conquest, but also to the contemporary Congolese artists who artistically and intellectually recapture the collection pieces conserved in the West.

Patrick Mudekereza is a writer and poet but he also writes texts for comic strips, exhibitions and audiovisual art. During his time in the museum he is working on a hybrid sculpture entitled L’art au Congo which raises a whole host of questions, and treaties signed with a cross which sealed the transfer of land from the local chefs to Leopold II. Photographer Sammy Baloji is working on a series of photographs and watercolours from a colonial exhibition led by Charles Lemaire. He has already exhibited in cities such as Paris, Bamako, Brussels, Cape Town and Bilbao. A Beautiful Time, his first solo exhibition in the United States, taking place in the Museum for African Art in New York, will be on show in in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington in 2012. Sammy Baloji and Patrick Mudekereza both live and work in Lubumbashi in DR Congo. Together they are organising the photography biennale Rencontres Picha in Lubumbashi, the third edition of which will take place in 2012.

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Kongo: Power and Majesty, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (18 September 2015 - January 3 2016)

Central Africa's Kongo civilization is responsible for one of the world's greatest artistic traditions. This international loan exhibition explores the region's history and culture through 146 of the most inspired creations of Kongo masters from the late fifteenth through the early twentieth century.

The earliest of these creations were diplomatic missives sent by Kongo sovereigns to their European counterparts during the Age of Exploration; they took the form of delicately carved ivories and finely woven raffia cloths embellished with abstract geometric patterns. Admired as marvels of human ingenuity, such Kongo works were preserved in princely European Kunstkammer, or cabinets of curiosities, alongside other precious and exotic creations from across the globe.

With works drawn from sixty institutional and private lenders across Europe and the United States, Kongo: Power and Majesty relates the objects on view to specific historical developments and challenges misconceptions of Africa's relationship with the West. In doing so, it offers a radical, new understanding of Kongo art over the last five hundred years.

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The Sounds of Slavery

The Sounds of Slavery was a project by the performance and visual arts group River Niger Arts to research, record and develop a performance-related programme around the musical heritage and legacy of slavery. The project took particular interest in these themes in relation to the City of Liverpool, but also addressed them in global terms. The project created a database of songs and narratives from the period of slavery. Members of the River Niger Orchestra also performed at a Sounds of Slavery performance at Liverpool Hope University. Some of the songs performed included 'The Chase', 'No More Auction Block' and the African American spiritual 'The Jubilee Song'. The project was accompanied by a series of performance and visual arts education workshops with schools.

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Black History Day in North Walsham

Several one-day events to mark the bicentenary and Black History Month were organised by the Griffon Area Partnership, a creative arts group in North Walsham. Totem poles were created and displayed at a community festival, which also featured crafts, mask-making, storytelling, dance and colour therapy healing.

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Liberation Song

Easton Lodge is a historic estate in Essex, with gardens open to the public. The Gardens of Easton Lodge Preservation Trust led two projects to mark the bicentenary. Liberation Song involved three local schools working with Grand Union Orchestra to explore the roots of musical instruments and styles, culminating in a community concert. A visual arts project involving seven local schools examined the history of Easton Lodge and trading links during the 18th century. Children decorated and displayed cotton reusable carrier bags and displayed them on yew hedges in the gardens. Connections were made with the story of the 18th century Ghanaian anti-slavery campaigner Ottobah Cugoano and the modern day Fair trade movement.

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For Love of Sugar

Commissioned by 2007's City of London Festival, artist Satch Hoyt created several sculptures made only of sugar. In St Paul's Cathedral, life-sized portraits of influential black figures - including Olaudah Equiano, Ignatius Sancho and Mary Seacole - were made of painted sugar cubes. Hoyt also created two slave ships from sugar, displayed at Museum of London Docklands.