From the 20th October to the 31st January 2021, the award-winning and internationally celebrated artist Sammy Baloji presents at the entrance of the‘Grand Palais’ two vast sculptures as part of the project “Africa 2020”.
Two lacerated brass instruments are placed on each side of the museum stairs to raise awareness on the forgotten stories of colonization.
Integrating these two artworks at the ‘Grand Palais’ northern façade is a strategic move by the artist. Constructed in 1900, the renown French institution has been the stage of the Universal Exhibition. Yet, it is often forgotten that the latter,quintessential display of the rapid industrialization of Europe, was driven to a large part by the products of colonization.
That’s not all. Brass and copper are not randomly chosen as subject matter but rather highlight subtle references. In the first instance, the two artworks are inspired by the brasses discarded by the French colonial army fanfare in Saint-Domingue. After the defeat of the French Expeditionary Corps in the 19th century, these instruments were retrieved by former slaves to create their own Brass Band. In the second instance, copper is the symbol of Congo’s mining exploitation under Belgian colonization.
Born in Lubumbashi in 1978, the artist grew up in an area governed by the extraction of copper - still administrated since the colonial era by the same mining company. Thus, resonating with Sammy Baloji’s personal history, these two sculptures act as a true awakening call on an era removed from history schoolbooks.
Hence,symbols of repossession by Africa of its history and identity, these two exceptional sculptures aim to question and highlight the underlying colonial stories wiped from collective consciousness but written under the neat surface of European architectural heritage.
Confined since spring in the Villa Medici, Sammy Baloji prepares his next exhibition for the Beaux-Arts Museum of Paris. This new display will focus on drawings inspired by Congolese fabric patterns. Planned for the 4th of December, the exhibition has ultimately been delayed due to the coronavirus measures.
In the meanwhile,you can take a look at Sammy Baloji’s photography book “Memoire/Kolwezi”published by Africalia Editions which focuses on copper and cobalt miners reclaiming their wealth and dignity.
Sammy Baloji & Chris Dercon au Grand Palais - “Johari - Brass Band” on https://vimeo.com/471314938(English subtitled)
Sammy Baloji – “Mémoire/Kolwezi” (2014) published by Africalia Editions(€39,00).