The 6th edition of the Lubumbashi Biennale, entitled Future Genealogies, probes the possibilities of repurposing the cartography of the world. One of the seven African countries crossed by the Equator, the Congo claims the longest segment of the parallel on the continent. This places the region not only at the heart of Africa, but also at the bisecting line of the globe, at the zone of intersection between southern and northern hemispheres. By asserting this position, Future Genealogies repeals the modern fantasy of the Congo as “irrelevant locale on the periphery of cultural history” to reclaim its profound entanglement with the world and its globally central position, both past and present. The concept of the biennale is to take the Equator’s imaginary line not as one of demarcation—the majestic Congo River disregards it by straddling it twice—but rather of imbrication. Taking its cue from the philosopher Achille Mbembe’s notion of “décloisonnement” (“decompartmentalization”, Ecrire l’Afrique-Monde, 2017), the biennale pries open the equatorial line to collapse paradigms of center and periphery, of “North” versus “South.”
The 2019 edition of the Lubumbashi Biennale is curated by Sandrine Colard, a scholar of modern and contemporary African art history, writer, and independent curator. Sandrine is an international lecturer and author of multiple publications. Her work focuses on postcolonial art and images, and the archival turn in contemporary art.
Future Genealogies will take place throughout the city in various venues: the Lubumbashi National Museum, Institute of Fine Arts, Complexe La Plage, Halle de l’Etoile/Institut Français, Wallonie-Bruxelles House, Zoo de Lubumbashi, Lycée Tuendele, Golf de Lubumbashi, Lubumbashi Station, and other alternative spaces.
Pro Helvetia Johannesburg will be supporting projects and points of engagement at the Lubumbashi Biennale from both our Swiss and Regional contexts.
During the course of 2019, Swiss artist Uriel Orlow has been developing a new multi-disciplinary work for the biennale which continues his investigation into the botanical world as a stage for politics and history which started with his project Theatrum Botanicum in South Africa (2014-2018), which was supported through our office. This research considers plants as both witnesses and active agents, linking nature and humans in essential yet complex ways across different geographies, histories and systems of knowledge with curative, spiritual and economic powers. The project explores different notions of resistance, the suppression of knowledge, and forms of non-extractive ‘collaborations’ with plants.
Uriel has conducted two separate research trips to both Lubumbashi and Brussels to consult archives, conduct site visits and most importantly, interview and speak with people to gain an understanding of the complexities of both the historical and present context. Working with a women’s cooperative from Lumata, south of Lubumbashi, Uriel has planted a small artemisia garden (an indigenous medicinal plant used to treat malaria) at Picha in Lubumbashi. This garden will form part of the biennale installation together with other works produced during his research.
Uriel Orlow, new production for Lubumbashi Biennale 2019, courtesy the artist
Portia Zvavahera: Artist in residence
Zimbabwean artist Portia Zvavahera has been invited by the biennale curator to participate in a residency in Lubumbashi from 20 September to 7 October 2019, and we support her presence through our Regional Arts Programme financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Her work, which takes the form of large-scale mixed oil media paintings, explores themes of spirituality and religion through a visual lexicon informed by dreams and folklore.
Born in 1985 in Harare where she currently lives and works, Portia studied at the BAT Visual Arts Studio under the auspices of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe between 2003 and 2005, after which she obtained a Diploma in Visual Arts from Harare Polytechnic in 2006. Portia has had six solo exhibitions at Stevenson Cape Town and Johannesburg (2014-19), and one at Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles (2017). She held a solo exhibition, Under My Skin, at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare, in 2010 and has taken part in numerous group exhibitions in that country. She represented Zimbabwe at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013 as part of the exhibition Dudziro: Interrogating the Visions of Religious Beliefs at the Zimbabwean Pavilion.
Portia has completed residencies at No.1 Shanti Road Studio Gallery, Bangalore (2018); Gasworks, London (2017) and was an artist-in-residence at Greatmore Studios, Cape Town, in 2009. In 2013 she was the recipient of the 10th Tollman Award for the Visual Arts, and in 2014 won the FNB Art Prize, awarded at the Joburg Art Fair.
Images courtesy Stevenson.