Congolese artists, academics, and CATPC members gather for ‘The Matter of Critique’

11 September 2015

The second instalment of The Matter of Critique took place from 11-12 September 2015. It gathered leading Congolese artists and academics, local communities, and plantation workers. Speakers included Professor Mayombo of the University of Kikwit and , Katrien Pype of the University of Leuven. It also included Professor Sikitele of the University of Kinshasa who talked at length on the revolt of the BaPende in 1931: ‘‘While commonly described as an ethnic conflict, it was an uprising against forced labor recruitment for Unilever. The colonial government broke down the BaPende resistance, not just by killing the entire BaPende leadership, but also by forbidding art production — a remarkable fact, as museums all over Europe and the US had by then stockpiled BaPende artefacts.’’
That situation is not too different from what happened in these last years: the BaPende and their peers still work for 200 [EH1] USD per person per year for a full time job on plantations producing Unilever products, while Tate Modern shows Tino Sehgal's rendition of the impact of changing labour conditions, sponsored by Unilever.

Equally important at the seminar were interventions by some key Congolese artists: opera singer Serge Kakudji, artist Mega Mingiedi, critic and Congolese AICA representative Tumba Charles, artists Pathy Tshindele, Jean Katambayi, Maitre Shongo and the members of the Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantations Congolaises. Gathered on the plantation they discussed art, inequality, and the ways to somehow bypass the conditions of critical artistic production and the capital accumulation associated with it in places like London and Venice.