Memory of Congo, in the past and now, in Congo and Mechelen (working title)
For my filminstallation I will take my personal history as a starting point and try to let the past encounter the present, and see further to the future, of the post colonial situation, in Congo and in Mechelen.
I am born and raised in Lovanium, university of Kinshasa. When I was 6/7 years old, I was very sick and would never have survived if I wouldn’t have been a Belgian girl, being in the possibility to be cured in Belgium.
Till now I never had the strength to combine this personal history to the colonial question, which was always a dark shadow while growing up.
I will visit the university and the house in Lovanium where I lived and where is now living a Congolese professor and his family. Of this encounter I will make a kind of reportage, together with two filmmakers in Kinshasa.
In the film those images will be confronted with some of my old photos and with photos and texts of Alice Seeley, who took the famous photo of Boali, and her husband, the English missionary John Harris.
In Mechelen, the colonial monument of Lode Eyckermans at Schuttersvest pays homage to 31 people from Mechelen , ‘pioneers of civilization in Congo’. One of them is Van Kerchoven. A local party has proposed to change the name of the Van Kerckhovenstraat in the Boali van Ekolongo straat. Van Kerckhoven was a commander during the reign of Leopold II and Boali was one of the witnesses against this regime. But nothing has changed yet… I am convinced that something has to happen with those two symbols of the cruel colonization of Congo, not to forget or to hide it, but on the contrary to memorize it.
The monument is a very intriguing statue, and in fact beautiful, not necessarily readable as colonial, with two nicely stylized heads, a male and a female, as a Janus image. It reminds me to a Greek vase from Thespiai (about 490 BC), but in which one head is a black woman and the other a white.
Janus was the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. Since he looks to the past and to the future, Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence over war and peace and exchange.
So my idea is to make a copy in a small scale (by Raf Vergauwen) of the monument. The copy will be provided with another inscription. For this new text, I will cooperate with Congolese people living in Mechelen. We will try to define other names , of Congolese people, victims or heroes, known or unknown, that can be memorized, and why. The making of the copy and the debates about the inscription will be recorded and also play a role in the film. This new sculpture will also be an opportunity to confront rule makers in Mechelen and open the debate about the matter. Maybe this will result in a real proposal : this new inscription on another surface that can be placed near the existing monument.