Lemaire's expedition

Retracing Charles Lemaire's expedition

Sammy Baloji

In 1898 the Congo Free State sent a scientific expedition led by Charles Lemaire to Katanga. In 2010, Sammy Baloji and Maarten Couttenier, respectively artist and historian/anthropologist, visited the Lukafu – Bunkeya – Tiamakele – Lofoi – Kyubo area of Katanga, following in the footsteps of the Lemaire expedition.
They collected testimony retained by the collective memory in the region: orally transmitted stories, memories and facts about the expedition. Sammy Baloji proposes a new reading of history by confronting archival images and his present-day photos.
The archive photos were taken by François Michel (1855-1932), photographer and taxidermist for the Lemaire mission.
Sammy Baloji, heir to the contemporary photography tradition embodied by Simon Mukundayi who he views as his mentor, introduces in his diptychs a dialogue between the past and the present, and above all, provides a source of reflection for young people and for the future. Placed in conjunction with the earlier and contemporary photos, quotations from Charles Lemaire and other historical figures provide food for thought.
These quotations reflect the way those speakers regarded Africa and Africans, and the stereotypes they brought with them.
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