Untitled 21 (Primary Title)
from the suite Mémoire (Series Title)
Sammy Baloji, Congolese, born 1978 (Artist)
Sammy Baloji's Untitled 21 centers on the enormous copper-smelting complex established a century earlier by the UMHK Corporation at Lubumboshi in the Congo. Baloji's father was among the thousands of Congolese once employed there. Although the compant's income benefitted colonials more than natives, in comparison to the subhuman treatment of indigenous workers elsewhere, such as the Pende (see adjacent works), UMHK took relatively good care of its employees by providing housing and schools. Baloji has noted that while far from ideal this system allowed himt o study locally and internationally.
After independence, the factory was taken over by the state and allowed to decay. Within this derelict setting, Belgians and Congolese, whose images have been taken from archival photos, interact--three black, three white; threee subservient, three in charge. Baloji notes, "My photographic work is between documentary and fiction . . . I did some research on topics or events of the past and even on the present . . . To superimpose past and even on the present reveals the will to denounce past and present abuses."
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