The art in Congo?

The Art in Congo?

Patrick Mudekereza

The composite object chosen by Patrick Mudekereza is intriguing:
in the context of which commission or for what reason did a Belgian artist who had never travelled to the Congo produce this hybrid work?
Where did the carved tusks come from, and what artist(s) were involved in carving them?
In fact, the two pieces of ivory seem to have been sculpted by different artists.
Over time these African artists faded into oblivion. Aside from the name of the Belgian sculptor and the donor, we have no information on the context surrounding this object.
The work entiteled L’Art au Congo has no real ‘passport’ and defies the conventional categories within the museum’s collections. Although the bronze and the tusks were given the same inventory number, they were stored in different places.
The fact that it is doubly anonymous appealed to Patrick Mudekereza, as did its twofold hybridity, being both Belgian and African, with African motifs suggesting a European-commissioned work.
From a contemporary prespective, the artist has freely reinterpreted the images carved on the two tusks as a narrative, a sort of silent comic book, bringing it back to life through a literary text.

This reflection on the hybrid nature of the object has elicited new scholarly interest and surfaced the sculpture out of the storage room where it had been slumbering for many years.

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L' Art au Congo (Art in the Congo),
signed by Auguste De Wever, early 20th century
HO.0.1.764 - coll. RMCA
This composite sculpture is a combination of two art forms, one European, the other African, and its title suggests that it represents ‘art in the Congo’.
R. De Luyck donated it to the Museum in 1956, but we know nothing of the context in which it was created. The artist is Belgian sculptor Auguste De Wever (1836-1910), known for his contribution to the Monument au port de mer de Bruxelles.
Converging evidence suggests that it was created early in the 20th century, and might have been commissioned.
The artist connected his own bronze sculpture with two ivory tusks, probably carved by African artists.



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