Baloji’s photo montage depicts a post-colonial Belgian Congo slave, shackled and prison-clothed, presented in front of abandoned modern-day Katanga infrastructure. This work by Sammy Baloji is a representation of the conquest of nature. If representation is the process by which we construct the meaning of things (Sturken & Cartwright 12), then Baloji’s work all at once aims to construct a view of the past, present, and future of Katanga, and how the conquest of nature have defined them. In 1920, Belgian colonists began heavily exploiting the region of Katanga for its rich mineral deposits, particularly copper, and often using slave labour (Mirzoeff 246). Modern-day Lubumbashi was built on the wealth of this mining industry, and in a way the ‘conquest of nature’ (Mirzoeff 220), but the mines now sit abandoned. Baloji’s use of landscapes in the background harks back to Mirzoeff’s idea that landscapes are a representation of the conquest of nature (Mirzoeff 220); they show man’s destructive use of the landscape, but also the consequent collapse of the industry. The figure in the foreground is a Belgian Congo slave, one of many exploited during that time. Within the relationship between the figure and the landscape Baloji shows the Congolese peoples’ connections and disconnections with the recent past.
- “Representation” 13-16. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. “Images, Power and Politics”. Practices Of Looking: An Introduction To Visual Culture.: New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 9-48. Print.
- “The Changing World” Mirzoeff, Nicholas. How to See the World. London, Pelican. 2015. 215-252. Print