The IHA and the Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC) developed the Critical Curriculum together at the former Unilever plantation in Congo. The CATPC now leads the Critical Curriculum.
The Critical Curriculum is constituted by the plantation workers Mathieu Kasiama, Mbuku Kimpala, Emery Mohamba, Daniel Manenga, Cedrick Tamasala, Djonga Bismar, Jérémie Mabiala, and Thomas Leba, all affiliated with the Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC). They work under the guidance of Kinshasa-based artists, such as Mega Mingiedi, Éleonore Hellio, and Michel Ekeba.
As a first case study, the IHA and the plantation workers have created a unique business model: they add their emotions to the product they produce for global markets – chocolate. They create sculptures and portraits in river clay. The original sculptures, too fragile for transport, are three-dimensionally scanned and transmitted digitally to Amsterdam, the biggest cocoa port in the world, where they are reproduced in the very chocolate these plantation workers produce. The result: small chocolate self-portraits, reproducible on a large scale, and sold worldwide. A unique moment in history: for the first time we pay for the feelings of these plantation workers. With this tiny intervention in the value chain, the workers themselves add content to the chocolate they make, rather than advertisement agencies in NYC or London, generating a 7000% mark-up in their income per gram of chocolate. All profit made from the sales of the chocolate self-portraits go to the CATPC and plantation workers.
The chocolate of these sculptures is sponsored by Barry-Callebaut, the world’s leading Franco-Belgian manufacturer of high-end cacao and chocolate.
The IHA exhibits large chocolate sculptures in prestigious art institutions around the world. These generate visibility at the highest level. Some of the large sculptures have already been purchased for private and public collections.
In 2015, already 2.500 small chocolate self-portraits have been sold. With the proceeds on the chocolate self-portraits, plantation workers invest in their own development, new community-based projects, and the Research Centre, so that ultimately the production of self-expression leads to economic equality.
Lecture series, Research Centre IHA Congo, January 2015
In the framework of IHA’s Curriculum, public lectures have been organized. Among others, plantation worker and artist Jérémie Mabiala talked about the artist’s responsibilities, Eléonore Hellio and Michel Ekeba presented their on-going project ‘Kongo Astronauts’, and art critic Laurens Otto gave a lecture on the history of the white cube.
Van Abbemuseum Collection Presentation, Research Centre IHA Congo, 2014
As a first of a series of exhibitions from the Van Abbemuseum Collection, the IHA exhibited video works by Bruce Nauman, John Baldessari and Dan Graham, exploring the Institute’s indebtedness to minimalism, the transition of minimalism into early institutional critique—the notion of art as a construct between its means of production and the role it fulfills for its audiences.