This exhibition by the Belgian Congolese artist David Katshiunga sheds a powerful light on the shadows of the colonial past and its lasting effects.
"I didn't really know any of this," says David Katshiunga (b. 1987), who moved to Belgium when he was six. No stories in family circles. No attention to King Leopold who made Katshiunga's homeland his personal wingnut. The exploitation, the segregation, the murder of freedom fighter Patrice Lumumba. Nothing.
Until, in 2020, the world was rocked by the death of George Floyd, massive protest demonstrations swept through the streets in countless cities and Katshiunga laid eyes on a book published the same year, Daughter of Colonization, by his compatriot Nadia Nsayi, who also emigrated to Belgium.
For Kathsiunga, all this marked the start of a long and comprehensive research project. After which it took shape in a series of artworks in black and white, on wood. Because this material “lives with and through its life experiences 'gives impact'”.
Katshiunga wants to "leave room to imagine," precisely also by showing extremes - an unbridled joy de vivre, on the one hand, a provocation - Leopold in Ku Klux Klan garb -, on the other. But dictating what the viewer should think of it, no. "An artist contributes to the conversation, provides elements."
The exhibition's title, Authenticité, is taken from dictator Mobutu's plea to return to originality. A bas le costume! Down with the costume! But it is inspired by Patrice Lumumba, president of independent Congo, assassinated by the former colonizer.
Kathsiunga's exhibition did not go unnoticed in Belgium. Eventually, it also found shelter in the federal parliament, the centre of power. Katshiunga: "I got a lot of reactions. Some parliamentarians talked shame about the colonial past, others talked shame about the exhibition. But what matters is that doors are finally opening, something activists fought for for years."
It will help, the artist believes, to gain more respect for the continent from which he comes. "If Africa is viewed differently, the breeding ground for racism in Belgium, in Europe, also disappears," he believes.
No doubt this will be an exciting and thought-provoking event! In the words of the organisers: “Immerse yourself in the captivating world of David Katshiunga’s mesmerizing black and white paintings. These artistic masterpieces facilitate a captivating dialogue that transcends time, seamlessly connecting the past with the present.”
Nine artworks will be on display, with a new addition being unveiled during a special discussion. This particular piece is intricately connected to the discussion’s thema and promises to add an enriching dimension to the exhibition.
At the opening night, historian and senior researcher Dr. Esher Captain and author Janice Deul will participate in a talk hosted by Augustina Austin, also known as Ms. Aba. They will bring their unique perspectives to the forefront, shedding light on the complex dynamix of (de)colonization, intricately interwoven between Belgium and the Netherlands.
The exhibition is part of the annual iAfrica film festival and can be seen at Amare, Spuiplein 150 in The Hague. Admission is free.
More information and RSVP here.