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Sammy Baloji

Sammy Baloji

The Long Hand

The Antwerp public art collection (Kunst in de Stad) proudly presents a new permanent commission by artist Sammy Baloji. Invited to create a work for Antwerp’s public space, the artist was immediately drawn to the river Scheldt, acknowledging it as the gateway between ‘here’ and ‘there’, the city and the world, but also, more poignantly, between Belgium and Baloji’s native Congo.

Friday 3 June 2022, 15:00

Inauguration: Don’t miss the festive inauguration of this new artwork by Alderman for Culture Nabilla Ait Daoud and artist Sammy Baloji! Followed by a kasàlà – a traditional eulogy to mark a special event or person – written and performed for the occasion by Jean Kabuta. Join us on Friday 3 June, 15:00 at the Cockerillkaai near the Zuidersluis.

 

One important reference in the conception of the artwork is Paul Panda Farnana (1888-1930), who as a young child was brought to Belgium from Congo, became the first Congolese to graduate from a Belgian higher education institute, and went on to be a leading voice in the pan-African movement and the fight against European colonial rule.

Another reference of import is a quote by former mayor of Antwerp, Lode Craeybeckx, who said: “A citizen of Antwerp need only put their hand in de river to be connected to the world.”

The bronze sculpture takes its shape from the ‘lukasa’ (meaning “the long hand”), a cultural device used in the Luba culture of Southern Congo. Lukasa are memory boards and a vital part of the oral tradition of historiography and storytelling of the Luba people. Traditionally, they are made out of wood and ornately embellished with abstract carvings and inlayed with stones, shells or pieces of metal. The lukasa is used in ceremonies where Luba political history and mythology is orally transmitted by a so-called “man of memory” who would hold the lukasa in one hand, and trace the lines and encrusted jewels with the other, using them as nodes of information.

Sammy Baloji’s work introduces the act of remembering and (hi)story telling into our shared public space. But is not all (monumental) public art at the service of memory and commemoration? In line with the ambiguous nature of traditional lukasa, Baloji’s contemporary reinterpretation holds no fixed narrative. It is an invitation to convene and converse, to recall, to remember, and to remember differently.

The large colourful ‘beads’ that are visible on the surface of the sculpture are made out of recycled plastics, and form a line that mimics the sea route leading from Antwerp to Muanda, Congo’s main port city. The platform the sculpture stands on is intended as a space for social gathering and exchange.

 

Supported by the Flemish government.

 

About Sammy Baloji

Sammy Baloji (1978) was born and raised in Lubumbashi, DRC, and lives and works between Brussels (Belgium) and his hometown. He studied computer and information science and communication at the University of Lubumbashi, and continued with photography and video at Ecole Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, in Strasbourg. A visual artist and a photographer, Baloji has been exploring the memory and history of the Democratic Republic of Congo. His work is a perpetual investigation into the cultural, architectural, and industrial heritage of the Katanga region, as well as an inquiry into the effects of Belgian colonization. His most recent solo shows include Sammy Baloji, Other Tales, Lund Konsthall and Aarhus Kunsthal (2020); Congo, Fragments d’une histoire, Le Point du Jour, Cherbourg (2019); A Blueprint for Toads and Snakes, Framer Framed, Amsterdam (2018); Urban Now: City Life in Congo, Sammy Baloji and Filip de Boeck, The Power Plant, Toronto, and WIELS, Brussels (2016-2017). Among other venues, his work has been shown in collective exhibitions such as the Fotofest Biennial 2020, Houston; the Palais de Tokyo, France (2020); the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial; the 22nd Sydney Biennale (2020); the Kassel/Athens documenta 14 (2017); The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2017); the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC (2017); the Venice Biennale (2015). A Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, Baloji has received numerous prizes and was a 2019-2020 resident at the French Academy of Rome-Villa Medicis. In 2008 Sammy Baloji co-founded the Biennale de Lubumbashi.

 

Practical

  • Location: Waterfront, Scheldekaai Zuid – Cockerillkaai (next to the Zuidersluis), 2000 Antwerp
  • Festive inauguration: 3 June 2022 at 3 p.m. 
  • Supported by the Flemish government.