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Replay 1970

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Research phase 1, by the Lubumbashi Working Group

The Lubumbashi Working Group for Another Roadmap for Arts Education will work on three stories that express the political, intellectual and social context of the 1970s, the first decade after independence that saw the installation of dictatorial regimes. How emancipatory ideas of the previous decade have developed into propaganda and what it influences artistic creation and art education, what challenges are still present today.


Story 1: 3D (Decolonization - Democratization - Decentralisation) vs Authenticity

The first university to be established in the Congo in 1954, towards the end of colonisation, is a Catholic university based in Kinshasa. It was initiated by the Catholic University of Louvain and took the Latin version of the name of this city "Lovanium".

In the late 1960s, the university suffered the shock news of the turbulent international (social movement worldwide) and national (Mobutu seized power and dictatorial excesses of the regime).

On 4 June 1969, the Kinshasa university students rose up against Mobutu. Their claim is based on three points designated 3D: Decolonization - Democratization - Decentralisation. The uprising ended in a bloodbath, the Mobutu’s army fired into the crowd, several dozen students are killed. The exact number is  still not known.

The University Theatre Company staged the play Antigone written by Jean Anouilh during the Resistance in France to decry the abuses of totalitarian nazi power. Among the actors, André Yoka plays the prince Hemon, who died to avenge Antigone . This piece is considered the final step in the preparation of the student protest.

Two years later, in June 1971, students are preparing to celebrate the anniversary of the uprising and to honour their martyrs. The Mobutu’s regime, anxious to see a new protest, decided to close the university and forcibly recruit all students of the University of Kinsahsa into the national military. Some months later, it is the entire university system in the country which will be reformed: the three universities in the country merge into one: the National University of Zaire (UNAZA). Each of the three cities campuses (Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and Kisangani) will specialize in specific fields. The humanities will be deemed sensitive by the government and be placed in Lubumbashi, to keep it away from Kinshasa, the centre of political power.

Almost at the same time, significant changes are made to the country by the movement of "recours à l’authencité." All European names are changed to African names. Later, companies owned by European will be confiscated and entrusted to Zairian. Mobutu has taken over calls to decolonise the institutions, but without creating a more just and democratic society.

Lubumbashi then become, thanks to this reform, one of the most important research centres in humanities in Africa, but threatened by the political power. His literary artistic and intellectual production and his teaching methods can be read back now, 40 years after to reveal the dealings of elite that seeks to define a space between a student revolutionary ideas of the 3D and the policy of authenticité which shields a dictatorship system of predation, backed by neo-colonialist forces.


Story 2: The literary quarrel between Mudimbe and Ngal

Valentin Yves Mudimbe (after authenticité Vumbi Yoka Mudimbe, keeping its original VY intial as a subtle snub to the policy imposed by Mobutu) is Dean of the Faculty of Letters in Lubumbashi between 1972 and 1974. Another researcher present and notorious in Lubumbashi is Georges Ngal (now Ngal Mbwil has Mpaang) who is the chair of literature.

Both are raising similar questions about the place of the African intellectual dealing with the Christian faith, the revolution, the African intellectual production in a system of thought and institutions from the West. They created the Mont Noir publishing house and eschewed the organization that the Mobutu dictatorship intended to put in place (the famous Union of Writers in Zaire).

But a quarrel starts from the rivalry between the two academic figures. It will be expressed by the publication of two novels that could be seen as disguised biographies mingled with mockery of one vis-à-vis the other. In 1973 Mudimbe writes Entre les Eaux, un Prêtre, Dieu, la Révolution, whose hero, a "loser" named Pierre Landu seems a caricature of Ngal. Two years later Ngal retorts by writing Giambattista Viko ou le Viol du discours africain, which depicts a researcher arrogant and disrespectful of African values, which seems to be Mudimbe. The quarrel will even reach the court before the pressures coming convince Mudimbe to withdraw the complaint.

Beyond the anecdote, this quarrel and the books published illustrate the internal tension and the delicate position of the intellectuals of that time. The exile they both went through (Ngal in France and Mudimbe the USA) is another common point between the two fates.


Story 3: The collaboration with artists

Lubumbashi is the city where was founded the Hangar, Atelier d’art indigène, created in 1947 by Pierre Romain-Desfossés.

The desire of Romain Desfossés was to reveal the "African soul" of his followers is in resonance with some ideas behind authenticité and was still present in the intellectual tensions of the 1970s.

1970 will also be a moment of vitality of artistic creation. Many collaborations between researchers and artists will take place during this period in Lubumbashi, especially in the field of popular painting. Some exemples: Tshibumba and Johannes Fabian, Bogumil Jewsiewicki, Jean-Pierre Jacquemin and painters of Mami Wata, etc.

How then read the paternalistic methods of Romain-Desfossés that have left traces in the way European deal with Congolese artists on the one hand and the legacy of Congolese intellectuals questioning their identity between a tension to redefine a relevant system of thoughts and their place in the contemporary world? Who did the Marxist ideas in late 1960s push the consideration of the popular painting as a medium through which a emancipation can be triggered?

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French pdf version


Timeline - Lubumbashi


Event/activity Place Comment/quotes Reference
1891 The assassination of Mwami M'siri starts the rule of Congo Free State in the region Bunkeya, Garenganze kingdom    
1902 Publication of the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad     Conrad
1903 Casement report, commissionned by the Foreign Office shows the atrocities in Congo Free State  London Red rubber and hand cut   
1908 The Belgian Parlement vote the annexion of Congo Free State (becoming Belgian Congo) Brussels    
1910 Lubumbashi is founded (then Elisabethville, after the Belgian queen) Lubumbashi    
1929 Aquarelles by Lubaki and Tshela Ntendu named "les imagiers du Congo" are exhibited in Brussels, Geneva and Paris Brussels, Geneva, Paris    
1937 Francis Cabu founded the Cabu museum, then named Leopold II museum, actual Musée Natioanal de Lubumbashi Lubumbashi   Bundjoko
1941 More than 100 workers shot in a strike of Copper plant workers Lubumbashi    
1943 Saint Luc School of Arts is founded by Marc Wallenda, will become in 1957 Académie des Beaux-Arts Kinshasa    
1946 The Centre d'Etudes des Problèmes Sociaux Indigènes (CEPSI) is founded and will later deliver craft workshops Lubumbashi    
1947 Le Hangar, Académie d'art populaire indigène is founded by French amiral Pierre Romain-Désfossés Lubumbashi    
1947 First issue of the journal Jeune Afrique, cahiers de l'Union Africaine des Arts et des Lettres Lubumbashi will continue until 1954  
1951 Académie de Beaux-Arts de Lubumbashi is founded by Belgian painter Laurent Moonens Lubumbashi still exist today  
1951 Congolese prophet and "résistant" Simon Kimbangu die in prison Lubumbashi after 30 years in prison for having announce the end of colonial power  
1955 Lubumbashi University is founded  Lubumbashi first public university in Congo  
1959 Riot against colonial regime Kinshasa    
1960 The independance of Congo  Kinshasa    
1960 Katanga secession Lubumbashi until 1963  
1961 Lumumba assassination Lubumbashi    
1965 Military push by Mobutu Kinshasa for 32 year  
1967 Publication of the Manifeste de la N'sele creating the MPR, the one-party system Kinshasa    
1968 First (and only) Congolese pavilion at the Venice Biennial Venice    
1969 Students protest in Kinshasa, many students die shot by Mobutu police Kinshasa    
1971 Kinshasa university campus is closed students are enroll by force in the army Kinshasa    
1971 Creatoion of one national university gathering 3 sites: Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and Kisangani. The humanities are established in Lubumbashi Kinshasa    
1971 "Recours à l'authenticité"or "nationalisme zaïrois authentique"  and later "mobutisme" is established as national ideology by Mobutu Kinshasa «L'expérience zaïroise s'est forgée à partir d'une philosophie politique que nous appelons l'authenticité. Celle-ci est une prise de conscience du peuple zaïrois de recourir à ses sources propres, de rechercher les valeurs de ses ancêtres afin d'en apprécier celles qui contribuent à son développement harmonieux et naturel. C'est le refus du peuple zaïrois d'épouser les idéologies importées. C'est l'affirmation de l'homme zaïrois ou de l'homme tout court, là où il est, tel qu'il est, avec ses structures mentales et sociales propres. L'authenticité est non seulement une connaissance approfondie de sa propre culture, mais aussi un respect du patrimoine culturel d'autrui» (Discours prononcé le 4 octobre 1973 à New York, lors de la 28e Assemblée générale de l'ONU, in Discours, allocutions..., p. 362-363).  
1973 Mudimbe publish Entre les Eaux Lubumbashi Subtitled God, a Priest, the Revolution translated in 1991 as Between tides 
1974 Zaire 74 Festival and Rumble in the Jungle (Mohammed Ali vs George Foreman) Kinshasa    
1975 Ngal publishes Giambatista Viko ou le viol du discours africain, Lubumbashi    Lubumbashi, Alpha-Omega, 1975 (Paris, Hatier, 1984, coll. « Monde noir poche », L’Harmattan, Paris, 2003)
1975 Lubumbashi literature quarrel between Ngal and Mudimbe Lubumbashi   Maurice Amuri Mpala-Lutebele et Nestor Diansonsisa Mwana Bifwelele
Études littéraires africaines, n° 27, 2009, p. 28-35.
1977 Shaba I war betwen former secession Katanga army (FLNC) with Angolan and Cuban support against Mobutu army with French and Belgian support Kolwezi    
1978 Exhibition Peintres populaires lushois at Centre Culturel Français Lubumbashi    
1978 Exhibition Art Partout curated by Badibanga Ne Mweni and JP Jacquemin at Academie des Beaux Arts Kinshasa During the Congres International des Arts Africains  
1978 Shaba II war Kolwezi    
1980 Lettre des 13 parlementaires is a pamphlet by 13 MPs against Mobutu regime Kinshasa The revolt is led by Etienne Tshisekedi  
1981 New university reform, the 3 sites (Campus) are autonomous universities Kinshasa    
1989 The French Cultural Centre in Lubumbashi launch the "cultural train Lubumbashi    
1990 Mobutu announce the democratic system in Zaïre Kinshasa    
1990 "massacre" of students in Lubumbashi university Lubumbashi controverses around the number and if there were even a "massacre"  
1991 End of cooperation between Zaire and France, Belgium, USA  Kinshasa    
1996 Mobutu is chased by Kabila's army with Rwandan support (after the first Congo war also named the "liberation war") Kinshasa    
1998 Second Congo war with rebel supported by Rwanda and Uganda start in Eastern Congo Kivu region and Eastern Congo    
2001 Kabila is killed by his body guard his son Joseph take the power Kinshasa    
2004 Cooperation restart and French and belgian cultural centres re-open      
2005 Kinshasa wenze wenze exhibition at Académie des Beaux Arts Kinshasa    
2005 Exhibtion Emergence, curated by Badibanga show the librism movement Kinshasa    
2007 Yambi: art event in francophone Belgium Belgium    
2008 Lubumbashi Biennial is launch Lubumbashi    
2012 Yango, Kinshasa Biennial Kinshasa    
2015 Beauté Congo exhibition Paris, France    

Timeline pdf

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