5-9 p.m. February 27, 2015


Come celebrate the opening of Kongo Across the Waters! Co-curator Hein Vanhee will give a lecture on the exhibition, and Bamboula 2000 will perform. Join us!

  • 5-8 p.m.: Art on the Spot
  • 5-6 p.m.: Music by Bamboula 2000
  • 6 p.m.: Lecture: Hein Vanhee, curator, Royal Museum for Central Africa: “True stories from Leopold’s Congo: collections, representations, and history”
  • 7-8 p.m.: Music by Bamboula 2000

About Kongo Across the Waters
Drawn from the collection of the Royal Museum of Central Africa art in Tervuren, Belgium and from collections in the U.S., this exhibition explores connections between the art and culture of the Kongo peoples of western Central Africa and African American art and culture in the United States. The exhibition addresses cultural and artistic themes beginning with the ancient Kongo kingdom that encompassed parts of present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Republic of the Congo and Gabon. Themes include the arts of leadership, religion, and daily life interpreted within historical, archaeological, linguistic, musicological, anthropological and art historical contexts.

About “True stories from Leopold’s Congo: collections, representations, and history”
In the past few decades, several museums with ethnographic collections have looked at the diverse and complex itineraries that objects have followed from their original African owners and users to the showcases or storage facilities of western museums. The agency in this process, however, has mostly been situated on the part of the colonial officer, the missionary or the anthropologist. The conventional approach has indeed tended to obliterate the often decisive roles played by Africans. Specific cases of military conquest or thievery aside, we may say that for every object that was “collected” by a European, there were one or several Africans who actually let go the object in question by selling, exchanging, donating or discarding it.

The nature of the colonial relations between Africans and Europeans, marked by a considerable power imbalance and economic inequality, offers a partial explanation for many such transactions. In some cases, however, the “pressure argument” does not suffice to explain African motivations to abandon particular objects. Hein Vanhee will explore this theme with respect to some of the objects that are showcased in Kongo across the Waters. Vanhee will look at individual Congolese actors and present some compelling “true stories,” based on their own writings or testimonies. He will invite the public to imagine how Congolese looked at their own changing society, with a progressive insight based on the information available to them. The objects shipped to museums reflected the tastes and anxieties of European collectors, but they equally signaled historical changes and events firmly rooted in local African societies.