Project Title: Photographic Journey II – Lubumbashi
Artist(s): Sammy Baloji
Date(s): January 2009
Location: Lubumbashi | DRC
Situated at the Southern tip of DRC, Lubumbashi is a gateway for people, objects and practices moving into/from East and Southern Africa. Located in Katanga, DRC’s wealthiest province, Lubumbashi attracts investors from across the globe (China, the USA, South Africa, India, Lebanon), interested in the region’s mineral riches, most notably copper and cobalt (which despite consistent harvest since colonial days are far from exhausted). A booming market in clothes brings local traders to Dubai on a monthly basis, to purchase supplies for their businesses.
That Lubumbashi is a hub of commercial activity is, however, not reflected in a building boom. There are no skyscrapers, no international brand-name shops, none of the flashy “newness” that typically identify a city in b(l)oom. What one finds, instead, are unpaved roads, quaint colonial architecture and, generally speaking, rather basic infrastructure. Yet money – in quite significant amounts – is flowing in and out of Lubumbashi, in currents often difficult to identify for the untrained eye.
Globetrotting photographer Sammy Baloji, a rising star from DRC, spent a month working full-time in and around Lubumbashi, creating a photo-essay on political economies of the deal in this complex, booming and porous trans-national urban space. He focused his attention on spaces and practices associated with off-the-books mining: work done, in dangerous and constantly shifting conditions, by men seeking to earn a living in the face of multinationals rabidly exploiting the mineral wealth of Katanga province. The result is a series of massive photomontage friezes titled “Kolwezi”, in which the artist explores spatial iterations of post-colonial relationships: the paternalism and exploitation inherent in what he identifies as post- and neo-colonial economies.
Sammy Baloji is represented by Axis Gallery, (New York) and Galerie Imane Farès (Paris):
Selected works from the Kolwezi series
Sammy Baloji’s Kolwezi series is prominently featured in a book titled Mémoire/Kolwezi (Brussels: Africala & Stichting Kunstboek, 2016):
For an analysis of Sammy Baloji’s Kolwezi series, see this article by Thomas Hendriks and Dominique Malaquais, or the conference below by Dominique Malaquais: