Photography: Carl De Keyzer
Text: compiled by David Van Reybrouck
Design: Luc Dereycke
Book of the month - December 2021
For 'Congo (Belge)', Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer traveled through Congo several times, often in extremely dangerous circumstances. De Keyzer looked for traces that recall the period of Belgian colonization (1908-1960). He used a travel guide from 1953 as a guideline.
He was one of the first photographers to visualize the effects of the arrival and departure of a colonizer. The images of daily life with traces of the past evoke an atmosphere of alienation. Images of buildings, mining and infrastructure in decline, images of military display of power and images of religious experience (Catholicism), but also subtle references to the colonial era.
Without any introduction the books starts with photos, often displayed as full page. So the focus is on the images. Texts are printed on a thinner paper type (in colour). David Van Reybrouck collected the texts for the book, including startling quotes from the aforementioned travel guide about tips, recommendations, stigmatizing and generalizing comments that raises questions, but also recent startling messages.
On the text pages we also find the captions of the photos. These captions consist consistently of summary data about location, year and subject in the languages French, Dutch and English. The interpretation of the images is left to the viewer. However, by using names like Léopoldville for Kinshasa, the relationship with the former colonizer becomes clear.
‘Congo (Belge)’ forms a diptych with ‘Congo Belge en images’.
Congo Belge en images
Photography: archives Anciennes Photos KMMA
Text: Johan Lagae, Jacob Sabakinu Kivilu, Patricia Hayes
Design: Studio Luc Dereycke
‘Congo Belge en images’ is compiled by Carl De Keyzer and Johan Lagae. Lagae conducts research into (post)colonial Congo. For the composition they used black and white photos from 1880 to 1930 from the Anciennes Photos collection of the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren. The images depict excesses that took place on a large scale under Leopold II, during his private reign of the Congo-Vrijstaat (Free State) (1885-1908). We see pictures of people chained to forced labor and people with severed hands as a result of a punishment that was carried out if the imposed quota of rubber cultivation was not met.
Photos by Carl De Keyzer from the Congo series can be seen again after the lockdown in the exhibition Congo Connecting at Pennings Foundation. Old and recent literature relating to Congo is available for research on the lecture table. Various photo books by Carl De Keyzer are for sale.
Both volumes 'Congo (Belge)' and 'Congo Belge en images' are published by Lannoo and are in the library of the Pennings Foundation. Both books are sold out.