Both the Middelheim Museum and the University of Antwerp are situated where the Colonial College was founded in 1920. More than one hundred years later, the Middelheim Museum confronts and examines the traces of the (post)colonial history of the site. It does so by bringing together new historical research with contemporary artistic views. Congoville invites artists to reimagine the Middelheim terrain as a renewed historical and public space.
Guest curator Sandrine Colard uses Congoville as a collective name for physical and mental vestiges of the colonial past in Belgium. These traces are often hidden in plain sight and continue to have a conscious or unconscious effect in today’s society. They include street names, monuments, and built patrimony; colonial myths and the mentalities that these nurtured, the African presence and the experiences borne by people of African descent. Certainly the Middelheim site, as a former focus point of colonial education, is part of this unseen city. For the exhibition, 15 internationally renowned artists, in the role of “black flâneurs,” take the visitor on a walk in the park. They guide us in a quest to revisit the past and transform the public space into a truly shared one; they present new and different perspectives of a history that is too often told from a single perspective.
“Today, as a free and an open air art museum, the Middelheim has the democratic potential to invite diverse visitors to look at colonial and postcolonial history through the eyes of black flâneurs of the world, and to transform Congoville from being a creation of colonial exploitation to a map for a future postcolonial utopia.” — Sandrine Colard, 2020
The 15 artists who participate in the exhibition are Congolese, African and African descendants, or have developed over the years a longstanding practice and firsthand knowledge about the postcolonial history of the Congo and Belgium. All artists seek to reverse the role of the park as a former training ground for colonial college students, and to take the visitor on a temporal and decolonial walk guided by the gaze of Congolese, South African, Nigerian, and African-American artists, among others.
Curator: Sandrine Colard (Belgium/US)
Artists: Sammy Baloji (Belgium/Democratic Republic of the Congo), Bodys Isek Kingelez (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Maurice Mbikayi (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Jean Katambayi (Democratic Republic of the Congo), KINACT collectief (Democratic Republic of the Congo/France), Simone Leigh (US), Hank Willis Thomas (US), Zahia Rahmani (Algeria), Ibrahim Mahama (Ghana), Angela Ferreira (Portugal/Mozambique), Kapwani Kiwanga (Canada), Sven Augustijnen (Belgium), Pascale Marthine Tayou (Cameroon/Belgium), Elisabetta Benassi (Italy), Pélagie Gbaguidi (Benin).
Publication: together with Leuven University Press, Middelheim Museum is publishing an exhibition catalogue in which, alongside interviews with the artists, numerous authors, academics and experts zoom in and out on the project. With contributions of: Sandrine Colard, Nadia Yala Kisukidi, Sorana Munsya & Léonard Pongo, Filip De Boeck and Bas De Roo, among others.