The Beautiful Time: Photography by Sammy Baloji
Sammy Baloji creates large photomontages by inserting black and white archival images of mine laborers and colonial administrators taken in Lubumbashi in the 1930s and '40s into his own recent photographs of abandoned factories. The stark juxtapositions in the collages highlight the mingling of past and present in the contemporary Lubumbashi landscape.
In the middle of the twentieth century Katanga was the site of one of the most productive mining complexes in Africa and the world's second largest producer of copper. Today, life in Lubumbashi is shadowed by the paradox between the halting, undependable copper production and the physical presence of once-lucrative mines which loom large in the landscape and in historical memory. Recollections of this mid-century period as "the beautiful time" provoke the artist's explorations.
For Baloji and others of his generation, who were born after the country's independence from Belgium in 1960, the colonial period was a time when hard work transformed a sparsely inhabited area into a modern city. In contrast, Baloji's photographs portray an industrial environment haunted by the physical absence of humanity: no one is inside the buildings, machines are rusting and idle, and train tracks sit without trains. In The Beautiful Time, the artist's arresting images connect two strikingly different eras.
A catalogue, The Beautiful Time: Photography by Sammy Baloji, with an essay by Bogumil Jewsiewicki, professor of history at Laval University, Quebec, accompanies the exhibition.
The Beautiful Time: Photography by Sammy Baloji is organized by the Museum for African Art, New York.
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