August - October 2021 — Visual Arts
Joseph Kasau is an artist from Lubumbashi, DR Congo. He is currently in Switzerland on a residency in the context of a tricontinental project bringing together artists from Brazil, DR Congo and Switzerland to research and discuss the topic of quilombo. The «Quilombo» project comprises a three-month residency in two Swiss cities – Lago Mio in Lugano and Atelier Mondial in Basel – an exhibition and a catalogue.
During the residency, Joseph is working with Lubumbashi-based independent curator Stéphane Kabila-Kyowa on a research project titled Edeni (working title). The project name derives from the Swahili word for Eden, and interrogates the idea of a vast and unpopulated “Wild Africa” that should be “protected”. The project hones in on questions around land occupation in the Congo by multinationals and international organizations for the benefit of a so-called “tourist system”. This often results in local communities being driven off their land for the creation of parks with boundaries, impassable barriers and protected by armed eco-guards. This raises questions of environmental justice and entrenched systems of oppression, corruption and exploitation.
The artist pair are centring their research on the example of Kalera, a village located in the territory of Mitwaba outside Lubumbashi. In 2017, the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) merged the two national parks of Upemba and Kundelungu, which Kalera straddles, into a single ecological unit named Upemba- Kundelungu Complex. The Karela village opposed being annexed into the new complex, and was ultimately successful in their resistance, causing the ICCN to dissolve the complex. Joseph explains that “the history of this village offers an interesting perspective of resistance that the Edeni project proposes to observe more closely and whose pattern is very similar to the Quilombo, another form of resistance of the black populations in Brazil and whose figurehead remains Zumbi Dos Palmarès, who would have Kongo origins.”
Joseph and Stéphane look to develop video, sound and performance works that engage with these stories of resistance, legends and myths, as well as the realities of oppression.
Joseph Kasau holds a degree in Information and Communication Sciences with a specialisation in Performing Arts from the University of Lubumbashi. Joseph joined the Lushoise art scene in 2015 and currently defines himself as a visual artist and author. His artistic practice is at the intersection of photography, video art and creative writing. In his work, he addresses the complexity of memory and identity in a postcolonial urban context. His productions are very attentive to social interactions, highlighting power relations and proposing alternatives for change and gathering. Joseph co-founded Nidjekonnexion in 2020 and became its first Artistic Director, launching the Onesha Lubumbashi project as an opportunity to create alternative narratives about the city of Lubumbashi and other cities of Congo.
Stéphane Kabila-Kyowa is an independent curator. He has a degree in philosophy from the Faculty of Letters and Humanities of the University of Lubumbashi. He is interested in the questions of myths and violence in human culture. Stéphane is developing a curatorial project called: Geometry of desire, an “ARTcheology” of knowledge where he creates a space for convivial discussion via an “Abécédaire” device where he creates in a participative way alternative knowledge through conversations on artistic practices in different contexts. Stéphane is a scholarship holder at the University of Bergen where he is doing a Master’s degree in Curatorial studies. He has benefited from the IMPACT Full Spectrum Curatorship mentorship programme. He works as Artistic Director at LoCA (Livingstone Office for Contemporary Art) in Zambia. Stéphane co-founded Nidjekonnexion, and is in charge of the “edukARTion” programme within the platform.
ABOUT THE «QUILOMBO» PROJECT
The «Quilombo» project is jointly developed and realised by SALTS (CH), WAZA Art Centre in Lubumbashi (DR Congo) and Lago Mio Lugano artist residency (CH), in collaboration with Culturescapes 2021 Amazonia. The project forms part of a year-long co-programming collaboration between SALTS and WAZA in order for the organisations to exchange and learn from each other. The foundation of this partnership was established during the Curatorial Intensive at the Lagos Biennial in 2019, where the directors of each organisation, Samuel Leuenberger and Patrick Mudekereza, were participating as facilitators.
The project «Quilombo» attempts to build on the idea of a «Black Atlantic», coined by British-Guyanese historian and writer Paul Gilroy in 1993 as a «Counterculture of Modernity» in the relations between Africa, the Americas, and Europe. Social injustice has its roots in the history of exploitation of natural resources and human labour and continues to this day. The project seeks to ask how this might be undermined by an alternative reading of human relations between the three continents, imagining an ecology that empowers humanism and diversity.